by Lorie Lewis Ham
KRL has been covering Valley theatre for over eight years now and we have profiled local actors, directors, set designers, and more. We know that every piece of a show is vital, from the last bit of paint, to the costumes, the make-up, and the hair. Especially if you are doing a period show, the hair is vital! Lillie Valencia has been molding, designing, and styling hair for Reedley’s River City Theatre Co. shows for many years now so we sat down with her to find out just what that is like! (She has also helped with shows at a few other local theatre companies).
KRL: What is the name of your hair salon and where are you located?
Lillie: The name of the Salon where I rent a space, is called “Spankys and Co.” here in Reedley. I have been working with Ruth Padilla for about 28 years.
KRL: How long have you been a stylist?
Lillie: I have been a hairstylist over 48 years. I can remember as a child always styling my dolls hair. So straight from high school I knew this is what I wanted to do!
KRL: When and how did you first start working on hair and wigs for Opera House shows?
Lillie: I think the first show I started doing wigs or styled hair at the Opera House was for Little Shops of Horrors. I did a few wigs and styled Erik Valencia’s hair for the part of the Dentist. (Erik is Lillie’s son and has done many shows at the Opera House)
KRL: What has been the hardest show for hair?
Lillie: LOL! Now this is easy to answer, because I’ll never forget this show! It was BeeHive, directed by Matt Wiebe. I really can’t say it was hard, but it took the most work! I had to do thirty-two wigs for only nine female actresses. It took place in the sixties, so I needed to think up all the hairstyles from the era. I did have a couple of girls from the shop help roll or tease the wigs to help me out. Along with that, we stayed throughout the whole run of the show, to make sure wigs made it for the following shows! That show I’ll never forget!
KRL: What has been the easiest?
Lillie: I would say the easiest show I have done would be The Drowsy Chaperone, which was at Roger Rocka’s. My job was to Style “Adolfo’s” eccentric hair, which consisted of adding a swirly white streak into his puffy hair, which was done right before each show.
I would say the easiest show I have done at the Opera House would be the show I am doing right now, Smokey Joes Cafe. Here we have five wigs, which I have style before and I’m refreshing them up to fit this era.
KRL: What is harder, working on someone’s real hair or the wigs?
Lillie: Working on a wig is so much easier than working on someone’s hair. Wigs have a complete different texture than human hair. Once it styled it pretty much holds well. Human hair, you would have to be there every night of the show to style it. A wig you remove it, put it on its foam head, and it’s done!
KRL: Do you decide the styles, or are you told what they are looking for?
Lillie: The majority of the time the director or the costumer will have a good idea of what they want the character to look like or we study the hairstyles during that era. Also, we take into consideration what works best for the actor.
KRL: What is the process like from beginning to end?
Lillie: Being that I work with wigs that the theatre already has, I try to do the best I can do with what they have given me to work with–from washing, conditioning to rolling. I call it a form of Art Sculpting. Once these wigs are styled, I spray them enough so they hold throughout the run of the show. I may come in once a week, just to make sure each hair stays in place!
KRL: Do you have any funny stories to share?
Lillie: I’m sure I have a few funny stories from throughout the years. But one that always sticks to me is during the Beehive. This show was so fast as far as these nine women changing garments and changing wigs within one minute or so was just crazy in the back rooms. On one scene, all nine girls were on stage and I kept looking at one of them because something did not look right on her, being that is what I do… I notice her wig looking odd! She had it completely turned around, the bottom nape was at the top and the side bang was on her neck! Not sure whether anyone noticed, but I was dying of within me!
KRL: How many shows have you done?
Lillie: I would say I have styled wigs and done hair for at least fifty to sixty shows… I have also worked for the Selma Arts Center, Roger Rocka’s, and Reedley High School.
KRL: What are some of the most recent shows you have done?
Lillie: The latest shows I have worked on are Reedley High’s The Little Mermaid Jr.. River City Theatre’s Legends Icons, Memphis, Swing, and currently with Smokey Joe’s Cafe.
KRL: Anything else you would like to share?
Lillie: I would like to share one last thought to all… We are all in a busy little world, and we all have a talent or another, but the most satisfying [feeling] you can have is to be able to share and give wholeheartedly your God Given Talent to those who may be in need of it… Volunteer in whatever you can!
If you love local theatre, be sure to check out our new Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. The first several episodes are now up! You can check the podcast out on iTunes and Google Play, and also on podbean. Also check out our other theatre articles and reviews in our Arts and Entertainment section.