Open Forum

Mannequin skin color

  • 1.  Mannequin skin color

    Posted 6 days ago
    We are using a caucasian mannequin head to create the beheaded soldier in Pippin.  Our actor is African American.  We were going to use make-up and a wig to make the head look like our actor.  It was brought to my attention that that would be inappropriate and that we should get a darker mannequin.  Any comments or thoughts on that?  
    Linda Urban
    Music Teacher
    Whittier Technical High School
    115 Amesbury Line Rd
    Haverhill MA 01830
    978-373-4101 *297

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  • 2.  RE: Mannequin skin color

    Posted 5 days ago
    If it were me, I would definitely find the appropriate skin tone.

    Amy Learn
    Ballwin MO

  • 3.  RE: Mannequin skin color

    Posted 5 days ago
    Interesting question. Going with a mannequin head does kind of assume a specific skin tone, and changing that tone cosmetically MIGHT affect some people's feelings.

    Rather than the expense and trouble to find a color-matched mannequin (it would not be an exact match anyway), consider using a foam wig head. Those are race-neutral, so you can shape, paint/makeup, or wig it any way you like without offending anyone. The only consideration is that a wig head is much lighter-weight than an actual severed head (I've heard), but you could weight it or just ask the actors to endow it with the required heft.

    Josh Kauffman
    Teacher, Thespian Society/Drama Club sponsor
    Winfield City Schools
    Winfield, AL

  • 4.  RE: Mannequin skin color

    Posted 5 days ago
    I'm a bit baffled. Changing a mannequin to look more like an actor is completely different from blackface - it's a prop, not a white actor taking a role meant for a black actor, and not done to belittle/demean/dehumanize an entire race. It's just being practical. Of course, you have to have the actors on your side, so if the suggestion is coming from them, maybe you should rethink it.

    Ken Buswell
    Drama Teacher
    Peachtree City, GA

    Theater kills ignorance

  • 5.  RE: Mannequin skin color

    Posted 3 days ago
    I think Ken is right that the most important thing is - if your cast/community are suggesting you rethink your original plan, you should listen to them.  Full stop.

      I would definitely not use make-up to achieve the effect you are going for.  I can easily see how using make-up on it could make some people uncomfortable.  Yes, it is a prop and not a real person, but the act itself could bring to mind unpleasant memories for some, or even set an unintended example for people who don't understand the history of minstrelry etc.

      That being said, perhaps engage in a discussion with your cast/community about what they think would be a good solution.  Allow them to suggest alternatives.  Not only are they given a voice, but also the opportunity to see the many challenges we are faced with as directors/producers and will have some ownership / a stake in whatever method you ultimately decide upon.  If procuring a mannequin with a different skin tone isn't possible, you might be able use paint/permanent artistry to alter the mannequin head to make it look truly accurate and life-like - not something that might be seen as an offensive caricature.  There are surely many different possibilities, and there's nothing wrong with coming up with some options on your own, but I would encourage you to start by listening, and let it come from them if at all possible.

      Have a blast, and break many legs!!  :-)


    Guy Barbato
    Theatre Teacher/Director
    Leonardtown MD