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Sculpting the Dragon Head for Shrek the Musical

By Pam Vale Branch

Building a dragon head was something new for me. I knew that the dragon needed to have a personality and it was a real treat to watch that unfold as she came to life.

First, I created an armature with the basic shape, using a wide variety of materials to build this — paper and plastic grocery bags, Styrofoam, cardboard, foam craft sheets, aluminum foil, pipe insulation and of course lots of duck tape.

I didn’t really have a plan…I just kept adding as I went and did it by “feel”. I did look at many pictures of other dragons for the basic silhouette. Once I had most of the armature done I covered it with duck tape so that I could see what it would look like when it was finished — and to secure everything.

For this project, I knew it needed to be really durable and last, so I worked with a very special material called Wonderfelt — a pliable plastic sheet that can be cut with scissors.  When it is heated with a heat gun it becomes very flexible and can be molded into any shape or formed over armatures. It also sticks to itself. So awesome! The most amazing part is when it cools it becomes a hard plastic that can be sanded and painted. I was able to cut it into shapes and apply it to my base. Not only will it protect the prop, it also created texture.

Once the plastic layer was done, we spray painted the entire thing with a flat black paint. Then the fun began. I decoratively painted her “skin”…and added some hot pink lipstick. She is sassy!

Our dragon project required a collaborative team approach. Jon Cardone built the steel structure, Pam Vale Branch created the head and fire, and Leslie Pritchard designed and constructed the fabric body, wings, and tail.

The RIYT production of Shrek the Musical is playing this Friday, July19th, at  7 pm & Saturday, July 20that 7 pm.at North Kingstown High School,150 Fairway Drive, North Kingstown, RI (air-conditioned). Tickets are $12 in advance (cash or check only) and $14.00 at the door or online (Paypal account or major credit card); www.riyt.org). All ticket prices include a $2.00 convenience fee (per ticket) when purchased online or at the door on the night of the performance.

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