The Art of the Wig by Mathilde Hamel
Founded more than twenty years ago, the Broadway Wig Company crafts wigs for the theater, as well as for cancer patients.
Robert-Charles Vallance started crafting wigs when he was a child. In the early 1970s, a lot of women in his neighborhood were wearing hairpieces. Being fascinated by those and having a background in theater as well, Vallance ended up learning how to make wigs all by himself.
The first time he completed an entire production, it was for the musical ‘1776.’ It was all period wigs of the eighteenth century for men. Vallance designed the different wigs and maintain them throughout the run of the show.
To make a wig can take up to a hundred hours and the prices vary from $1,000 to $3,000 following the nature (human or synthetic), the length of the hair and the time it takes to craft it.
The business of selling wigs is very diverse, he said. From Mark Twain to Santa Claus, the demand can be very different from one person to another. Because, he put his business online, it also opened up new doors.
Although Robert-Charles Vallance make wigs for cancer patients, through the store ‘Angels of New York,’ his main activity remains for the theater and Broadway plays. Among them is ‘Lucky Guy,’ the last play by Nora Ephron, which starred Tom Hanks in the lead role.
Surviving in this economy is tough said Vallance, but he is very fortunate, because after all these years, he still does what he is most passionate about.
The most rewarding moment of wig making it's when the producer's check goes into the bank and in clears. Chasing the money can be a job onto itself.
For whatever reasons, this is the last department considered. A lot of people particularly in theater have great ideas. If I had a dollar for every time somebody said I have a great idea, we really want to use you but we have no money.
To make a wig can take up upwards of a hundred to a hundred and twenty hours. So it’s a long process and you really have to love what you’re doing to get through it all.
We’ve had numerous clients.
When you’re building something let’s say for somebody who is undergoing cancer and chemotherapy, you are replicating their own hair. You are creating something that looks remarkably like themselves.
You start with making a head mold.
You have to have a really good vision to be able to tie hair into fine net and the years took a toll and I don’t have the vision I had. That’s why I like to hire young people with good eyesight. That’s the first thing I ask them when they come in: how’s your vision?
For the theater, what we’re creating is the essence of the character and certain perimeters.
I’ve had actresses for whatever reasons who hate their wig and will go through a process of changes until they become happy with their wigs. But typically we found it’s never the wig’s fault. It’s typically somebody who’s not happy with themselves and then they’re looking for reasons and/or excuses.
We’ve had many situations that an actor hasn’t even found a character until the wig arrives. And then they put the wig on and the transformation is so remarkable for them that all of a sudden they start to see who the person is. And the magic for us.
Crafting a #wig takes time and for the #broadwaywigcompany, they are each different...