It happens often around the Racine Theatre Guild. A volunteer shows up possessing a talent that is very much needed, so it is a perfect match. Such is the case with Kori Hassler. As a professional hair stylist, she has a gift for doing hair for the stage and styling wigs. Every time the RTG does a period play or needs a character to have a different hair style, someone has to help to fashion that hair or wig.
“I always loved styling hair,” Kori recalls, “and from the age of eight I wanted to be a stylist.” Kori was involved with theatre at Horlick High School, where she helped with makeup and hair. She went on to cosmetology school and attended UW-Parkside, where she concentrated on theatre hair and makeup. With her career taking off, she got busy working, but kept theatre in the back of her mind.
In 2016 Kori walked into the Theatre Guild to volunteer for The Kitchen Witches. It was directed by Mike Clickner, and Kori had known him from his time at UW-Parkside. Kori helped with the hair styling, remembering that one actress wearing a wig had pizza dough dumped on her each performance, so she had to comb out and clean up that wig after each show.
“It didn’t take long before I knew I found a new family,” says Kori. “Everyone embraced me and welcomed my hair styling skills. I met Ginny Mueller, who often works on makeup, and she and I just clicked right away. We make a great team. She excels at makeup, and I do hair. We worked like maniacs for The Iliad, The Odyssey, and All of Greek Mythology in 99 Minutes or Less. There were lots of wigs and multiple fast changes, so costumes and wigs had to be run from one side behind the stage to another where an actor had to make a fast change. I called it ‘wig choreography.’ We had five crew people to work each show just for hair and makeup.”
Kori volunteered her talents for A Christmas Carol: The Musical in both 2017 and 2018, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (2017), Lombardi, 9 to 5 The Musical, and Lost in Yonkers. She calls The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in 2019 her favorite show and her biggest challenge in wigs and makeup.
“I loved that book as a child, and I just had to be part of the play. It took a lot of time, was crazy intense busy, and I had to take off time from work to do the daytime performances. But I loved every minute of it. I was part of the ensemble and played two small roles, and my daughter Keira was in the show too. I designed hair, wigs, headpieces, and did the face and hair for animals like Mrs. Beaver. I did a lot of research and was amazed at what I could find on Pinterest.”
Kori’s two daughters have been on stage, with Keira in Lion…, Joseph, and A Christmas Carol both years. Daughter Indiana was in a Children’s Theatre show and 9 to 5 The Musical. Kori says it is very special to share the theatrical experience with her girls.
For The Mousetrap, Kori has done more research for hairstyles of the 1950s. She wants details like the hair to be accurate, for both the men and the women. Her brother, Kevin Sustachek, is in the cast, which gives another family theatre connection.
Sometimes Kori styles wigs, and other times she comes up with a style for the actor’s real hair, but then they need to be trained on how to do that styling on their own. Kori’s job at Urban Trends in Sturtevant includes evening and weekend hours, so she can’t always get away to work as many shows as she would like. She often designs the show, trains others or the actors how to achieve that hairstyle, and then it’s up to them to maintain the look.
“The first thing I do is talk to the director,” Kori says, “and find out his or her idea of what things need to look like. I enjoy working with different directors. Some say ‘go ahead’ after I describe an idea, and others need to see the exact wig styled and on the actor before they approve. Either way, it’s fun and interesting. I’ve had so many great experiences and love the RTG people. I enjoy the challenge, and I needed a hobby. It’s great that I found that my talents mesh with what the RTG needs.”
And the Racine Theatre Guild is lucky to have volunteers like Kori who share their gifts with us!