One of the most difficult challenges for actors, especially those who perform live on stage, is physically producing genuine tears. Actors employ a variety of techniques to elicit tears.
Different actors achieve tears in different ways, and the same actor may use one or a combination of methods depending on where they are in their performance and what they are attempting to bring to it.
A tear stick, also known as a menthol stick, is a product. It’s a stick of wax packaged in a standard lipstick tube with the key ingredient of menthol — the same thing that makes cough drops and breath mints feel cold. When the actor or makeup artist places a streak of wax near the eye, it causes the eyes to water, resulting in a flood of tears that the actor can then use as part of the performance.
A tear puffer, also known as a tear blower, is a small, hand-held cylinder that shoots a single puff of menthol-laden air into the actor’s eye. The clear plastic tube is spring-loaded and held cocked until the actor activates it.
The puff causes immediate tears in the affected eye. This illusion requires the ability to conceal the device from the camera or audience while puffing both eyes at the same time.
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