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Making Magic at STC: Petrie Porter and the Art of Wigs and Makeup


Image credit: Petrie Porter 2023

NIDA graduate and hair and make-up artist Petrie Porter (Specialist Make-Up Services, 2022) has been making her mark backstage at Sydney Theatre Company (STC), where she is heading up the team in charge of wigs, hair and make-up and currently working on the compelling production of Julia.

In our conversation, she discusses her journey from studying acting in London through to her time at NIDA, and how her experiences and training have prepared her for a successful career as a hair and make-up specialist.

NIDA: Where did you grow up? Did you always want to pursue a creative/artistic career when you were growing up?

Petrie Porter: I was born in Hobart, went to high school near Byron Bay and went to boarding school in England before completing a three-year Bachelor in Acting at The Oxford School of Drama near London. I’ve always been involved in theatre and performing arts since a young age and love the way wigs, hair and make-up can help to transform the inner life of a character and bring a performance to life.

NIDA: You've done a lot of great work since graduating from NIDA.

Porter 2

Image credit: NIDA 2023

Did you do an internship or work experience for a production company when you were still a student?

PP: I was chosen to do work placement with Pinchgut Opera for their production of Médée at the end of my training, which was great fun and definitely within my comfort zone. It gave me a lot more confidence to apply for jobs and go to interviews with recent work to showcase.

NIDA: Would you say NIDA helped you in getting your foot in the door for Wig Hair and Make-up (WHAM) work?

PP: The tutors were excellent and had lots of great advice regarding how to approach the industry. Particularly Toni Paul and Helen Thatcher who are well known in the industry and were aware of industry standards and trends. I have noticed that NIDA has a broad reach within the industry and there are lots of graduates in all areas of production, especially backstage and in crew positions. There is a certain standard of work and professionalism that comes with being part of the NIDA community, which is definitely why I was so keen to attend NIDA in the first place.

Porter 3

Image credit: Justine Clarke, Julia, Sydney Theatre Company.

NIDA: You mentioned that you were the only one doing WHAM at each show. Can you elaborate further on this?

PP: Big musicals and touring shows need to have several ‘wiggies’ due to large numbers of performers and multiple quick changes throughout the show. Hair and Make-up are also in their own department and as such the scope of work is limited to your department.

At STC, I oversee all aspects of wigs, hair and make-up for the run of the show. My roles include styling, maintenance, application and removal of wigs plus hair and make-up as required. This makes for a fun and busy workday, with lots of responsibility and lots of interaction with other departments such as costume, design and sound.

NIDA: Do you still have time to do freelance work or are you no longer working freelance?

PP: Yes! Still doing freelance work, particularly bridal and corporate hair and make-up (HMU) on days with no matinée or in-between contracts. I love keeping myself busy with lots of different types of jobs and styles of HMU to keep learning and expanding my skills.

NIDA: What are your make-up and hair must-haves? Any personal recommendations for budge-proof make-up for daily life, stage wear or on set?

PP: My make-up must-haves are Go-To by Zoe Foster Blake’s lip saver and face oil —they are nourishing and restorative. Hair must-haves are a sea salt spray and Sparkler Oil Spray by OSIS. I love the way OSIS products work and the smell is gorgeous.

Budge-proof make-up is as much about the prep as it is about the make-up products and finishing sprays. I love MAC or Kryolan for stage make-up and use the Studio Fix range by MAC on myself for everyday make-up, as it looks beautiful and will last all day with no touch ups!


Julia is produced by Sydney Theatre Company and Canberra Theatre Centre and is currently on stage at the Sydney Opera House until 20 May 2023.

Petrie Porter (2022) is a regular at the Sydney Theatre Company. She’s working on JuliaImportance of Being Ernest and Oil for the 2023 Season.

We recognise the many graduates of NIDA also working on Julia:

  • DESIGNER: Renée Mulder (Design, 2008)
  • LIGHTING DESIGNER: Alexander Berlage (Production, 2013/Directing, 2017)
  • VIDEO DESIGNER: Susie Henderson (TTSM, 2017)
  • ASSITANT DIRECTOR: Charley Sanders (Directing, 2016)
  • VOICE COACH: Jennifer White (Voice Studies, 1998)
  • CAST- OBSERVER: Jessica Bentley (Acting, 2022)

NIDA’s Diploma of Screen and Media (Specialist Make-up Services) is a 2023 finalist for Education Business of the Year Award for the Makeup Artist Guild Asia Pacific (MAGAP) Awards.

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