TCU theater professor shaves head for 3-week role

TCU theater professor shaves head for 3-week role

It started as any other hair appointment at the Burt Grant Salon in Arlington, only this time, TCU theatre professor Krista Scott sat in the stylist chair and waited for what she now calls “the shearing.”

Scott stroked her light brown hair and seemed at ease with what was about to happen.

In January, Scott was casted by Theater Arlington to play Vivian Bearing in a 3-week-long play called "Wit." She would play the role of an English professor who taught John Donne’s metaphysical sonnets and was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer.

In order to fully embrace and portray her character, Scott made the difficult decision to shave her head completely rather than wear a bald cap.

That day at the salon, both the director of "Wit" and a Theatre Arlington representative came to support Scott and witness “the shearing.” Everyone in the room seemed more anxious than Scott was, as she sat with a big smile on her face.

“Oh boy, oh boy,” Scott said as she heard the clippers approach her head.

Throughout “the shearing,” Scott acted positively and even cracked a few jokes.

“Well this way I don’t need to touch up my roots,” Scott joked. “I was in need of that, it was about time.”

After 20 minutes of clipping and shaving, Scott asked for her chair to be turned around to face the mirror so she could see "the new her." 

As Scott sat there silently smiling and taking in her new look, "Wit" director Emily Banks shared some reassuring words.

“You look great,” said Banks.

“OK, if you say so,” Scott said with a smile on her face.

Scott then patted herself on the head a bit, grabbed some of her shaved hair from the floor and put it in an envelope.

Before auditioning, Scott said she knew it was a possibility that she would be required to shave her head to play a cancer patient.

“Well, it was a requirement on the audition form, and all the actresses who were called back agreed to it,” Banks said. “However, I will admit the reality of it on the day made me nervous. I felt slightly queasy over requiring it in that moment.”

While studying at the University of Minnesota, Scott and her husband founded The New Tradition Theatre in St. Cloud, Minn. Her husband, Brian Martison, knew that his wife would possibly have to shave her head. He said his main concern was the reaction of his children.

“Even though they understand the requirements of acting and theater, a shaved head on women is the international symbol for cancer treatment,” Martison said. “I was hoping they would not have difficulty seeing Krista that way.”

Scott’s son, Duncan Martison, said he prefers his mother with hair because that "is normal." He also said her decision to shave it off was very brave.

“I freaked out when my parents said my mom had to shave her head. She had very long and nice hair, I didn't really want her to get rid of it,” Duncan said. “But since I knew it wasn't really my choice, and it was for her part, I coped pretty well.”

Scott’s daughter, Sadie Martison, didn’t agree with her mother’s decision at first but was able to come to terms with it after a while. She admitted, however, there are still mornings where she is sometimes startled by seeing her mother bald.

“My initial reaction was 'No you're not.' It took me a little while to get used to it,” Sadie said. “I'm always happy and proud when she gets cast in shows. It was important to the role to shave her head, and she's so dedicated, so if she was OK with being bald, then I would get over it.”

Scott said she applied a bald cap for a publicity photo before shaving her head knowing that any problems could be edited later. She said the experience  reassured her that shaving her head was the right thing to do to honor the role. 

“What solidified it for me was putting on the bald cap for the publicity photos and having the sense that there’s a seam back there,” Scott said. “There’s glue. What if the glue comes off or what if it starts separating away?”

Scott watched online videos about how to apply a bald cap and the appropriate makeup and could not come to terms with doing this for every show without the help of a makeup artist on staff. She also considered the expense of the supplies that she would have to pay out of pocket.

“It was just the hassle factor as well as the expense,” Scott said. “This seems like it would be a huge hassle, but it will grow back.”

Martison agreed with his wife and knew shaving her head would not only look better for the role but would also be more realistic and take less time.

“Without hair she spends less time getting ready for work in the morning,” Martison said jokingly.

Shaving her head allowed Scott to connect with her character on a level that she feels she never would have if she had only used the bald cap.

“What trumps all of that is the feeling of the character and the feeling of this,” Scott said as she took off her hat and rubbed her newly shaved head. “That gives a much stronger sense of character in the play than if I was applying something and masking it. This is a little more real."

Scott said she expects people to stare, but that the role is more important.

“If people stare at me that’s fine, because that is not the issue right now. I’m so blessed that I get to simulate only,” Scott said. “That stripping away that is something part of your ego, and certainly that was part of my ego. And I don’t feel like I’m fully there or that I am as pretty. But for me, it’s a temporary stage so it’s fine, actors do crazy things.”