Happy Halloween from the Straz Center: Now Go Out There and Put a Pencil in your Forehead

Straz Center theater professionals share the gruesome details of great horror makeup with step-by-step instructions for creating our favorite look, “Festering Wound with Pencil.” Happy haunting, arts lovers!

pencil in forehead

Guest blogger Audrey Siegler, Straz Center theater department manager. And that’s our other resident make-up magician, Sarah Berland, in the background!

Makeup is magic. It has the power to transform one’s outside and one’s sense of self. Great makeup can help create a great character. With most makeup designs, you can’t even feel the change. Your view is not obstructed, the weight of paint is practically nothing, but with one glance in the mirror you step out of yourself and become something else. You are no longer you. You are confidence, you are bravery, you are anger, you are power. A face, an arm, a neck can all become a canvas. As the artist, you are free to create not only beautiful and unique art but to transfigure a human being–look and personality.

eye wound collage

Gross, gaping eye wound.

Makeup is fun. It is a rewarding and extremely entertaining outlet for a theatrical artist. I love seeing the reaction on a model’s face after her makeup has been applied. Often there’s a moment of shock, then excitement, then the look of “wow, is that really me?” It’s fun to play and explore creativity especially through makeup, and we hope you can take this quick how-to demo and make a great character any time you want to get ghoulish.


pencil in forehead 2


You can find these online and at most theater supply stores.

  • Spirit Gum
  • Nose and Scar Wax
  • Pencil (cut so that the eraser end of the pencil is 1/3 of the pencil’s length)
  • Various cream colored paints
  • Fake Blood
  • Plastic butter knife or a popsicle stick
  • A paint brush



First, you need to building the wound.

  • Begin by shaping a small ball of Nose and Scar Wax.
  • Apply a thin layer of Spirit Gum to the surface of the skin where you would like to create your stab.
  • Allow the Spirit Gum to sit for about 30 seconds or until tacky.
  • Place the ball of Nose and Scar Wax directly on the tacky Spirit Gum.

apply spirit gum

  • Press the wax onto the skin and using the dull end of the knife and your fingers; begin to shape the wax into a mound on your skin smoothing the edges against your skin.
  • Once you have created your desired mound shape, take the pencil and softly press into the middle of the mound and remove.
  • Apply Spirit Gum to the tip of the pencil that you inserted into the wax.
  • Allow the Spirit Gum to sit for about 30 seconds or until tacky.
  • Insert the tacky side of pencil into the hole in the mound.
  • Using your fingers, shape the wax around the base of the pencil.
  • Once secure you can begin painting as desired.

build wound

Then, you paint it!

  • Begin by gently applying foundation to the wax. Match and blend with your skin.
  • Use lighter colors like yellow and reds around the base of the mound and darker reds and purples at the entry point.
  • Apply blood as desired. Use thicker blood at the entry point and thinner blood to drip down.
PR- Mark before & after collage

Before and after a little Halloween-themed stage makeup!

The cool people at the Patel Conservatory often offer workshops in makeup, acting, voice lessons, dance and more. Check out patelconservatory.org to see upcoming workshops you might like.

An Incredible Sound Feeling

The fascinating story of acoustics in Morsani Hall

Acoustics - Morsani Hall 078

“…The curtains hanging up can retract to the attic or come down to dampen the echo for amplified shows. Wood is the best acoustical background for sound, so that is why the seats are wood….” – Mike Chamoun, director of production services at The Straz, on the acoustically-designed elements of Morsani Hall.

Next time you take in a concert or opera in Morsani Hall, also take in the acoustical secrets that hide in plain sight–the doors, the interior chambers between the lobby and the hall, and the cavity at the top of the theater. All of them work in their own orchestra of acoustic perfection that makes an evening in Morsani Hall one of unforgettable, incredible sound.

Take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Straz Center, and you will find design marvels camouflaged as everyday objects: a seat back, a bare floor, a slightly-discolored seam separating Morsani Hall from Ferguson Hall.

These seemingly insignificant – or merely decorative – details belie the meticulous planning that started the moment a world-class performing arts center became a reality for Tampa.

“The people involved in conceiving the Straz Center wanted the best,” says Mike Chamoun, director of production services and veteran of The Straz since the day it opened. “They were very clear in their desire to deliver the very best performing arts center possible. So, they got the best.”


Russell Johnson, part of the original team of planners for our performing arts center in Tampa, revolutionized the quality of sound in hundreds of concert halls all over the world.

In the case of acoustical design, the best was Artec Industries, led by famed acoustician Russell Johnson, whose inspiring creativity forged some of the world’s most celebrated modern performing arts venues. Johnson, who died at 83 in 2007, joined the original team of planners and designers tasked with creating a state-of-the-art modern facility for Tampa.

Johnson and the Artec team planned the sound capabilities of the mainstage concert hall around the classic European design, knowing that the hall would host grand opera and the multi-tonal needs of full symphony orchestras. They included a foam “acoustical seam” to be incorporated in the foundation of the building and running up through the walls between Morsani and Ferguson so that sound would absorb in the foam seam before leaking into the other concert hall, contaminating the performances. This detail explains why audiences at the Carolina Chocolate Drops show in Ferguson Hall cannot hear the thunderous applause of the audience next door in Morsani at the end of the Itzhak Perlman concert.

Producers Back Stage TBPAC -¬Rob Harris

A view from the stage in Morsani Hall. (Photo by Rob Harris)

“Even down to the bricks,” Chamoun adds. “Construction sand was poured into the three holes of every single brick laid to make this hall.” The sand prevents sound from circling inside the holes and dissipating. In fact, the driving concept was to hold the energy of the sound inside the hall, engulfing audiences inside the sound, giving them the sensation of sitting with the musicians or the musicians sitting among them.

“The whole room is the orchestra. There is no typical ‘shell’ on stage that has to be moved, as you find with most multi-purpose halls. The acoustical shell is the hall itself,” Chamoun says. “There is no carpeting to dampen the sound. The curtains hanging up can retract to the attic or come down to dampen the echo for amplified shows. Wood is the best acoustical background for sound, so that is why the seats are wood. As you move up the tiers, the seat backs get taller to capture sound properly and keep patrons in the proper posture for best listening capability.”

Morsani Sound Cloud

The sound canopy – or cloud – suspended above the audience in Morsani Hall.

The crowning glory in Morsani Hall usually goes unnoticed by audiences: the 18-panel acoustical canopy, or cloud, suspended over the audiences’ heads. The panels adjust to fine-tune the hall for the specific performance: opera has different acoustic needs than a cellist and accompanist or a Broadway show. “The canopy changes the sound image,” says Chamoun. “The entire design creates an incredible sound feeling that is rarely matched anywhere else in the world.”

In the professional performing arts world, the acoustical purity of Morsani Hall garnered a reputation that precedes it. “We’re one of the largest theaters in the country,” Chamoun says, “and we hear all the time about how coming to perform here is like going on vacation. It’s a luxury hall but it’s accessible to everyone. The very best seats for music are in the third tier, that’s where the best sound collects thanks to these acoustics.”