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Published July 16 2013

Going green: Ogre prosthetics highlight Trollwood’s ‘Shrek’

MOORHEAD - Walker Degerness is going green.

The recent West Fargo High School graduate, who is playing the title character in Trollwood Performing Arts School’s “Shrek: The Musical,” starting tonight, is getting into the mindset of the famous ogre.

Degerness will certainly look the part, too, thanks to special green prosthetics created by professional makeup artist Christopher Payne.

Payne, based in Chicago, flew to Moorhead in late April and made casts of the five actors who will play ogres in “Shrek.” He took the casts back home with him, and has spent the past few months sculpting and molding everything, and then turning it into foam latex.

The ogre molds were based partly on the character from the “Shrek” films, Payne says, as well as on designs from the “Shrek” Broadway show. Director Michael Walling also contributed some ideas to the process.

“There were some aspects (from the movie) I liked, and some I didn’t care for,” Payne says.

In total, Payne made six full heads, seven or eight pairs of gloves, 20 Shrek faces and more than 80 additional ogre noses.

He returned to Moorhead a week ago, and did a full makeup test on Degerness. He used the opportunity to figure out what needed adjustments and make sure everything fit the actors.

For example, when Degerness first tried on the Shrek head, he realized that due to a lack of earholes in the prosthetics, he couldn’t hear very well.

So, Payne cut holes in the head, and then covered them up with a softer fabric. He also cut additional holes where Degerness’s microphone would go.

“There were some things like that that needed to be tweaked,” Payne says.

Because of the work needed for the prosthetics, as well as the more than 80 wigs needed for other characters, hair and makeup designer Heather Hurner says that preparation for “Shrek” has been quite a bit different than last year’s ogre-less musical “Legally Blonde.”

“I think it’s something totally different, with all these prosthetic pieces,” Hurner says. “We’re having a lot of fun with it, but it’s a lot different.”

GETTING INTO CHARACTER

Though the green ogre suits, colorful wigs and the rest of the play’s costumes will be a highlight of “Shrek,” cast will only have had a handful of rehearsals to get used to it all when they take the stage tonight.

One reason why was because of the recent heat wave – on Tuesday the cast rehearsed without the costumes and prosthetics because it was simply too hot out.

But more importantly, it was because Walling says it was important for the actors to work their way up to that point and have a good understanding of their characters before performing with their full costumes.

“They need to come really well-informed before that,” he says.

The many actors in the cast playing animals, for example, had to have a special vocal rehearsal after wearing their animal noses for the first time to get used to how the costumes affected their performance.

“They could hear how they sounded different,” Walling says. “It made them feel more animal-like.”

Degerness, too, staggered incorporating various costume pieces leading up to the full ogre suit. First, to get accustomed to the girth of his bigger-than-life character, he wore a pillow strapped around his midsection during rehearsals.

“That makes him realize that his circumference is larger,” Walling says.

Early last week, Degerness was given Shrek’s hands to wear during rehearsal – large, bright green gloves that went halfway down his arms.

Those gloves, in addition to special ogre shoes that are part of the costume, gave Degerness a chance to see how the full Shrek outfit would affect his movement, and how he’d need to adapt on stage.

“We slowly layer on individual things to help him get a sense of the character,” Walling says. “The shoes made a big difference, because it made him two or three inches taller.”

Degerness says he was unsure how some additions – the gloves and the prosthetic head, specifically – were going to affect his acting, but he hasn’t experienced too much difficulty adapting.

“It’s been really cool,” he says. “I wasn’t sure how the gloves were going to feel at first, but it hasn’t been that different.”

When he finally had a chance to try on the green Shrek head, Degerness says he really found himself getting into the mind of the big ogre more than ever.

“(The prosthetics) really accentuated the Shrek-ish facial features you see in the movie – the ugly smile, the sarcastic faces,” Degerness says.

“I just became a whole new person – or ogre,” he adds with a laugh.

If you go

WHAT: “Shrek: The Musical”

WHEN: 8:30 p.m. July 17-20, 24-27 and July 31 through Aug. 3

where: Trollwood Performing Arts School’s Imagine Amphitheater, 801 50th Ave. S., Moorhead

tickets: Available online at www.trollwood.org and cost $25.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535