Monday, November 17, 2014

Our Lady of Kibeho at Signature Theater

It's been a while since my last post, but that doesn't mean I haven't been busy.

The past few months I have been the makeup department head on a new television series, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. We have some really fun makeup effects that I am looking forward to sharing with you as soon as the episodes air early next year.

In the meantime, I have also taken on some additional freelance projects. The folks over at The Queen Of The Night reordered hands for their lead performer's costume. The previous post is about my process creating the hands. I was also lucky enough to find a much better image showcasing this amazing costume with my life casts attached.

Signature Theaters new play, Our Lady of Kibeho is filled with special effects. The play is about a Rwandan village school girl who has visions of the Virgin Mary. Her schoolmates don't believe her until impossible things start to happen.

Greg Meeh of Jauchem & Meeh Special Effects was the special effects designer for the shows many practical effects. One effect however required a prosthetic in order for it to work.

The actor Nneka Okafor must put her hand over a burning candle. The candle, both for the story line and practically cannot burn her. The candle of course is a real candle, lit on stage with real fire. The audience sees a lot of smoke, and at the end of the effect, Nneka is fine.

Greg and I worked together to achieve this effect.  It needed two things, one to protect the actors hand from the heat and secondly, place to attach the smoking element. The glove was to be fingerless so it could come on and off easily during quick changes.

It was decided that I would make a silicone glove to look like the actors hand and imbed a small magnet into the palm side so that smoking element could be attached.

I went to Signature Theater to do a life cast of Nneka's hand. I cast the life cast in urethane and cut the fingers off at the middle knuckle. Because the glove is fingerless, I didn't need the fingers of the life cast getting in the way of my mold. It left me enough to help with registration, but not enough to make the mold more complicated. (It also made the sculpting much easier too!)

The sculpture had to look like her hand. I kept the top side of the sculpture fairly thin, and added some extra clay palm side to thicken the sculpture for added protection from the heat of the candle. I used Chavant clay in medium for the sculpt.

Once the sculpt was finished, I laid a clay wall around the hand. I used Chavant Le Beau Touché, a much softer clay to do this. Then, I started to brush on epoxy resin for the first half of the mold.  I used Smooth-Ons Shell Shock fast set. After two layers of resin I added chopped fiberglass to my Shell Shock and brushed a few layers on, finishing with a last layer of just resin for a smooth finish.

After the first side set, I cleaned my clay wall off and touched up my sculpt where needed. In order to make sure each side separated, I used Smooth-Ons Sonite Wax as a mold release for the resin.  I did the same layers of resin and fiberglass to the other side. The only difference is that I tinted this resin with Tints-All pigment.  This helps to see each mold half when separating each side.

When both sides were completely cured, I trimmed the edges of the mold off on the band saw. The mold was then opened up and the clay cleaned out.

I cast the hand in two parts, for two reasons. One, Nneka's skin tone is very light palm side and much darker on the top side. I also needed to place the magnet in the correct spot. Smooth-On Dragon Skin 10 was tinted and mixed to the lighter skin tone. A few layers were added and the magnet was placed in the right spot. Before this silicone was totally cured, the darker skin tone was mixed and poured into the palm side on top of the light colored silicone and into the top side of the mold.  The life cast of the hand was then pushed into the palm side of the mold, then, quickly and carefully the silicone filled top side of the mold was flipped onto the life cast as well.

Once the sides were snapped together, mold straps were added and the silicone was left to cure.

An hour and a half later the mold was opened up. The flashing was trimmed and the silicone cleaned with alcohol.

Keeping the prosthetic on the life cast, the hand was seamed and painted.  Now it was ready for Nneka to try on.

I met Greg at the theater where we were able to try the prosthetic on and test the smoking effect. Everything worked perfectly. We took some video of the test, which you can see below.

Our Lady of Kibeho runs until December 7th. You can read more about the show at

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