Harrisburg Stagecraft, Part 3

Diane Rothrock, Volunteer

by M. Diane McCormick, Photography by Kelly Ann Shuler

Harrisburg Community Theatre needed a wigmaster for a current production, Diane Rothrock learned from a client at her Capital Cuts salon.

Rothrock agreed, even though she had no theater experience. “No clue,” she says now. “None. I was in a show in the eighth grade. Walk on, walk off. Two lines.”

That first show was The Heidi Chronicles, where the tempo backstage ran “at whiplash speed” as characters aged. The production led to countless others over the last 20-plus years. She threw out the theater’s single box of ratty wigs and gradually built a respectable arsenal of hair. As a mainstay at what is now Theatre Harrisburg, she has fashioned wigs and hairstyles for “just about everything but the nuns.”

Rothrock works from a tiny studio she helped design in Theatre Harrisburg’s Krevsky Production Center. Before every performance, whether at Krevsky or Whitaker Center, she is backstage, freshening up wigs and styling actors’ hair.

Once, Rothrock was a cocktail waitress, a Williamsport native making good money until pneumonia knocked her down. A single mother with a young daughter to support, she learned about a state program that covered rent and utilities while participants pursued their education. Rothrock had always been the one cutting people’s hair, so she followed her mother’s advice and studied hairstyling.

Later, after moving to Harrisburg with her husband, Gary “Rocky” Rothrock, she found a shop for sale in downtown Harrisburg, across from the Capitol. Capital Cuts was born. Theater involvement, including serving on Theatre Harrisburg’s board, is Rothrock’s way of giving back to the state and the community that helped her establish a successful business.

She prepares for every show by reading the script and researching period hairstyles. Collaborating with costume designer Paul Foltz, she learned how costumes and hair can complement or oppose each other. She makes sure that wigs stay on heads – not always a guarantee in the heat and action of a live production.

“This isn’t Hollywood where, if a wig falls off, they can shoot a scene again,” she says. In fact, with theater’s unpredictability and in-the-moment vibe, she doesn’t understand “why people don’t come to live shows more often.” Even her grandchildren, who wriggle throughout movies, sit in rapt attention for live theater, understanding that “these are real people.”

Theatre Harrisburg’s 2016-17 season, plus its Harrisburg New Works Theater Festival this September, will connect audiences with fresh, topical and unfamiliar, entertaining shows, she says.

Through theater, Rothrock learned that she is “a lot more confident than I thought I was. And the friendship is just amazing.”

Undergoing treatment in 2009 for B-cell mantle non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, her theater friends sent cards and emails every day – all this in a town where she was once a stranger.

“I started having my own place to be,” she says.

This article appears in the September 2016 issue of Harrisburg Magazine