“I have been doing this since I was a little kid,” said cellist, Indianapolis makeup artist and wig master Andrew Elliot in a phone interview regarding his recent posts on Facebook depicting him dressed as both male and female characters from theatre, books and the music world. The first of Elliot’s compelling images I saw was a video and still pictures of him dressed as Rapunzel, the fairy-tale maiden with long, golden hair, who is imprisoned in a tower by a sorceress. Included in the post was a list of chores Rapunzel does to while away her time. Ultimately, the post was Elliot’s clever commentary about the self-isolation that most of America, if not the world, is undergoing during the current Coronavirus pandemic.
“Though I don’t have a problem with the word ‘drag,’ I consider them homages,” said Elliot, adding, “I’m going through books that have been seared in my mind since I was quite young to some more recent ones. These figures and moments inspire me and they are a great excuse to play dress up while housebound.” Besides Rapunzel, some of the other characters Elliot has paid tribute to include Barbra Streisand in “Funny Girl,” Chita Rivera in “The Visit,” David Bowie as Iggy Stardust and Angelina Jolie as the title character in the film “Maleficent.”
“We weren’t destitute, but we didn’t have any money,” Elliot said of growing up on Indy’s Southside, describing his childhood spent with both of his grandmothers. “Both of them sewed, knitted, weaved, dyed and all sorts of things. I was around a lot of creativity when I was a kid. We would go to the Goodwill and purchase cheap clothing and cut them up, sew them back together and repurpose them and make costumes. I would make my little sister put on shows with me,” he laughed. From there, it was a natural progression to the stage. “I started doing theatre when I was nine at Civic (Booth Tarkington) and did shows there until I was 18 or 19 and then I started playing cello there and have played cello there for the last ten years or so. Then I started doing wigs there. It will be two years in May.”
The multi-talented Elliot’s bio reflects how much his work is in demand. It reads “His design and music work can be seen and heard locally at Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre, Actors Theatre of Indiana, Phoenix Theatre, Zach & Zack Productions, Summer Stock Stage, and more. As a makeup artist and stylist, his work can be seen locally and nationally in various publications, commercials, billboards, industrials, and editorials. He sees individual clients regularly, offering makeup applications and lessons, personal shopping, styling, and custom wigs.”
Like countless other performing artists impacted by COVID-19, freelancer Elliot has lost jobs as a result. “Every theatre closed, so I had six productions in the next two months that I was to be designing and/or playing cello for. I had weddings, which is my day job to do makeup for and they have all been postponed or canceled and my commercial work (video and still shoots) has all been delayed or canceled, so I have all this time. I have spent the last couple of years focusing all of my creativity on making people look good, so now I have this time to experiment on myself,” said Elliot, who emphasized, “I love the work I do. I am fortunate that 95 percent of the jobs, I really enjoy, so it was sad for me to lose those I had coming up. Not just for the income. I was excited for the jobs. I was already researching and preparing for them. When I realized I wouldn’t have that work, I just had to keep creating. Even if I can’t have people over to paint their faces or put costumes on them, I do it on myself.”
Elliot’s experience working on commercial shoots is evident in his slick-looking images, which he said he shoots himself using a remote control with his smart phone set up on a tripod. “I worked as a model for many years here and in New York and Chicago. I am constantly around photographers. I do quite a few video and films shoots,” said the photogenic Elliot, who is blessed with a slim build and fine facial features. As far as how long he’ll continue to produce and serve as his own creative director of his solo shoots, Elliot said he has a long list of subjects he can draw upon for inspiration, as well as suggestions from fans of his popular posts.
“I am fully aware that it would be perfectly OK to do nothing. I was speaking with a friend recently and she was just feeling weird and trying to find a way to stay productive during this time and, for me, I have this time to breathe,” Elliot said. “I am very much an introvert and at the end of the day when I spend time by myself, I am recharging and really enjoying it. I am dealing with it in my own way.” As for his friends, he said, “Others are more anxious. I have a lot of friends who are grieving for shows that are not happening and might be delayed or are delayed. Friends who are not in a good financial situation and are in a panic. It’s a giant question mark at this point.”
Expounding on how the pandemic is affecting him personally, Elliot said, “I tend to be a thoughtful, even-keeled person, so I am not feeling overwhelmed or stressed. There is so much that is unknown. I have dealt with anxiety and depression my whole life. I know how to look at the big picture. I am anxious when I don’t know what is happening, but I strangely feel some comfort in that I really have no control. Creativity is a form of meditation for me.”
Elliot said he relies on therapeutic tools to help him cope with the crisis. “Having been in and out of therapy for the last 20 years, I like thinking and sometimes I overthink and over-analyze. I am not afraid to have a conversation or to reflect and this is a trying time for those who do not like to do that.”
Asking if he had any messages for my readers, Elliot replied, “As you sit down to watch movies or read a book or pick up art supplies or watch Broadway or opera streaming or any of that, remember that in this time of a lot of questions, people are turning to art and artists for comfort. So, keep that in mind, once we get through this, I hope people will continue to support that art, more than ever. I wouldn’t ask people to donate money to the arts over other causes because many groups have their own issues right now and need financial support, but just a gentle reminder that everybody is turning to some form of art, whether it is music or theatre.”
Wrapping up our chat, I asked him if he thought a lot of art was being created during the lockdown. Elliot said, “Oh, I think so. I think it will look different in many different ways. With the politics of the past few years and with so many being inspired by current events, there are a lot of stories to tell. I think this is affording people time to tell those stories.”
As someone who is in a position to tell such interesting stories like Elliot’s, I heartily concur.
For more information about Andrew Elliot and his services, go to andrewelliotbeauty.com. Follow him on Facebook at @Andrewjelliot.