Forensic coiffures by Sherilyn Litzkow are a thing of the past
Greg Marsten | Staff writer
ST. CROIX FALLS – Sherilyn Litzkow is known for having a unique set of skills when it comes to hairstyling, and with her retirement, those skills are in jeopardy in a very prominent way.
On a recent Saturday morning in downtown St. Croix Falls, a cadre of representatives of the Festival Theatre Company and other aspects of the city greeted the retiring Litzkow with an honor and a special treat on her last day as a stylist at St. Croix Barbers, and they wanted to point out some of the things she has done after 45 years as a stylist, including 28 of those years on Washington Street in St. Croix Falls, and another three years in Taylors Falls.
While long careers in hair are not new, Litzkow has skills that are literally almost “lost” to history.
She began her styling career as a graduate of the Vera Slater Academy of Hair Design, and was known for attending classes and training to further her trade, leading to credentials in both cosmetology and later in barbering, where she has worked alongside Bruce Bartley and Debi Swanson at St. Croix Barbers for many years.
Most stylists and barbers try to stay ahead of the game, knowing the latest hairstyles, trends and even coloring techniques, but Litzkow’s “special set of skills” also goes the other direction in time. As she has always been aware of the techniques for the latest hairstyles, she is also a bit of an expert in the forensic study of coiffures.
Yes, she is a bit of an expert at studying, analyzing and recreating those unique and often bizarre or “lost” hairstyles, specifically for the stage at Festival Theatre Company.
It is common knowledge when you’re in a play at the Festival Theatre, she will show you how to do your hair from whatever era the style is supposed to represent.
“When they needed a haircut, I gave them a haircut and I taught them how to style their hair of the times,” Litzkow said, noting how the typical procedure was for a director or production assistant to bring over a photo or a reference photo for an upcoming stage production, then Litzkow would analyze and re-create the style, possibly using techniques long gone, using tools often found at garage sales or in attics such as curlers, straightening irons, pins, clips and rollers or the occasional wig.
Litzkow throws out some of the terms and styles that have passed into the history books, from the towering “bouffants” to “love locks” from the 1970s.
“I started out on roller sets, backcombing and all that stuff!” Litzkow said with a smile between customers, noting a recent social media article about how they are trying to re-create the French roll style from decades ago. “I started out doing French rolls!”
Her expertise in the forensics of hair also meant she could re-create a style that may not have an obvious diagram. Some performances might have dozens of players and several unique hairstyles from long-lost eras.
“It really came in handy for the theater over the years,” Litzkow said, as several Festival Theatre representatives sang her praises and presented her with a plaque honoring her dedication to the often painfully tall, large or complicated hair artisanship.
“Sherilyn is one of the quiet contributors in our community,” stated Meg Luhrs of the Festival Theatre Board, who was there to greet her on her last day, that subzero Saturday.
Luhrs presented Litzkow with a framed work of art for her time working with the theater since it first opened in 1990, which means she has been involved in literally hundreds of productions and oftentimes with several players in each said production.
Litzkow’s ability to find that desired “look” from the past, present or wild imagination the production might require is an ability well-known behind the scenes, but her stylings and expertise have also made their way into those actors’ skill sets.
Her ability to study and try to re-create those hairstyles for the stage didn’t just end in her chair, as she would then teach the actors to re-create that unique style on their own for what might be several dozen performances. All of it as a volunteer.
As her final Saturday rolled on, the questions and smiles littered the barbershop as some of the old stage still photos showed examples of her past stage work, which include styles going back over a century.
Several Festival staff members also thanked her for her dedication to the stage, which doesn’t just end at the hairstyle, as she has been an active ambassador for the campaign to save, restore, rehab and reopen the century-old Civic Auditorium.
Litzkow’s dedication to the stage also earned her a special dedicated seat at the Civic, etched in her honor when it reopens, hopefully, in 2019.
“I’m really looking forward to finding that seat!” Litzkow said with a nod. “That’ll be fun to see that when it opens.”
With her retirement, she will have more of a chance to explore a variety of activities, from hiking, biking and kayaking, she also plans to delve into writing, with a plan already in the works.
“It’s historical fiction, based on my great-grandmother,” Litzkow said. “Then hopefully a series that will work down through my grandmother, mother and then … well, down to me!”
Litzkow has always stayed busy, from raising two daughters with her husband to also running a bed-and-breakfast for years.
“But now I want to do some of those things that can’t be done, “ she said with a nod. “You know, like … clean my office! Then just take some time to relax and enjoy it all – do some hiking, biking …”
Litzkow proved to be a popular stylist on her last day, and while the buzzing and chatter of a barbershop continued behind her, the growing crowd fogged the windows on the frozen weekend, and the reality of her final moments continued to be the news of the day.
“Not only did Sherilyn become my hairdresser, but we became friends as well,” said customer of seven years Nanette Del Monaco. “I could always count on two relaxing hours sitting comfortably in a barber’s chair, chatting with Sherilyn about our families, and common interests while watching her work her magic with my curly head of hair. (Her) soft voice, gentle laughter and warm smiles always made my day brighter.”
Litzkow’s last morning as a stylist included some tears, lots of smiles, lots of thank-yous and awards, as well as some repeating of the details over the chatter of the shop.
“Yep, 28 years I’ve been here, 45 years total,” Litzkow repeats to her second-to-