Bringing Hollywood Magic to First Stage

by Amanda Corazzi

How do you transform a man into an ogre? That is one of the challenges facing the costume shop at First Stage for the upcoming production of Shrek The Musical. Fiona might have had the witch’s curse to change her into the ogre in the story but First Stage had to find its own magic to transform actor and First Stage Associate Artistic Director John Maclay into Shrek. Luckily, First Stage Costume Designer Brandon Kirkham knows just the right prosthetics wizard, Lauren Wilde to help out with this production. 

Working quickly to apply the alginate:  Costume Shop
Manager Jenny Thurnau, Costume Crafts Artisan Brandon
Kirkham and Prosthetics Artist Lauren Wilde.

Originally from Peachtree City, Georgia, Lauren started her love of the arts while receiving her Bachelor of Music degree from Louisiana State University. She continued her interest by receiving her Master’s degree in Wig and Makeup Design from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, one of the top design schools in the nation. Now based out of Los Angeles, she works as a freelance makeup and special effects artist specializing in prosthetics, makeup design and wig building. 

Brandon met Lauren in Milwaukee at the 2013 conference for the United States Institute of Theater Technology (USITT) in March. He came across Lauren’s booth where she was showcasing her work at the Young Designers/Technicians Forum, an exhibition of 30 handpicked, recent design and tech graduates of Master’s programs from around the country.  Brandon was instantly fascinated by some creature feet she created and started talking about bringing her on board to create all the ogre prosthetics for Shrek The Musical. 

Thanks to the team at First Stage, arrangements were made and Lauren returned to Milwaukee to help produce the prosthetics for the production and show the First Stage costume team how to apply everything for the show. Lauren started designing the prosthetics by following Brandon’s renderings of Shrek which were similar to the Broadway show.

Lauren smooths the layers of plaster. 
Lauren started the process by creating a mold of John’s head, a process that takes around 90 minutes. After covering John’s head in a skull cap, she covered his head and shoulders in a blue paste called prosthetic alginate, the same material used for making dental impressions!  The alginate was then covered in five to six layers in plaster to help set the mold. From these two elements, Lauren constructed casts to build the final ogre creation.

Jenny and Lauren prepare to remove the mold as
John's ordeal nears the end.
In addition to John’s head pieces, she will create eyebrows, a chin, a separate nose, and gloves with latex knuckles and fingernails – the finishing touch to the ogre look. In the end, Lauren will have created two sets of reusable prosthetics for John and the other ogres to use for the run of the show.

According to Brandon, Shrek The Musical is one of the largest projects the costume shop has taken on. The production team started talking about practical and technical aspects in March and designs were completed by the beginning of June. Production started work on the intricate costumes at the end of June. Each costume is very specific in its design and almost every element is built from scratch.

For more behind the scenes magic from First Stage's 2013-2014 season, visit our Facebook and Twitter pages regularly.

Shrek The Musical runs October 11- November 17 at the Todd Wehr Theater.

In the past year, Lauren's work has been nationally and internationally showcased, received the 2013 National Makeup Design Award by Kryolan, and was chosen to be a part of the 2013 USITT Young Designers' Forum and the IMATS Battle of the Brushes International Character Competition. To find out more about Lauren and her amazing work, visit her website

1 comment:

Lindsey H. said...

First of all, I love Shrek. Who doesn't honestly? I haven't heard the soundtrack, but I bet it would make a great musical. I did theatre growing up and through college. We never did anything cool like extensive paint jobs though. I'm so jealous!

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