Building Props

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Posted in Legends, Press, Production Updates

In which Kevin Six, reminiscent of his time as a props buyer and builder at a local regional theatre, describes how he made a very creepy prop for New Play Cafe’s latest production.

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To Do List

Being a theatrical producer is pretty fun.  One of the more fun things is finding, altering or making props.  This is something I did back in the day at the San Diego Repertory Theatre, so the task of finding a Creepy Doll Head fell to me.

In one of the plays we’re producing as part of our upcoming Legends (in ten minutes or less) production is Talbot’s Shadow by Brianna Caraet.  Without giving too much away, the play calls for an antique doll’s head.  Do you know how much a busted porcelain doll’s head, with the hair falling off, costs?  I do.  I looked at one at a thrift store and it was $25.

Besides being cost prohibitive, we needed a doll’s head that looked porcelain but wouldn’t break when… again, we don’t want to give the cool part away.  Suffice it to say my idea was to get a plastic doll, pull its head off, and fiberglass it so it looks all period and shiny — and I did it for $6.

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Clarisse Before

First I needed to buy an old doll in a thrift store, so I went to the Animal Protection and Rescue League thrift store in Clairemont and got a fairly cute old doll.  I’ll call her Clarisse.  Too creepy?

Clarisse had a lovely old dress and fabric slippers and, best of all, no hair. She once was some small child’s pride and joy but today, she was going to be transformed.  But first I had to make another trip, to the surf shop because my fiberglass resin had gone bad.

I bought a $5 tube of SolaRez, which is a very cool product designed to repair surfboards quickly and easily.  It is made with fiberglass flakes, resin and a catalyst that is photo-active.  All I had to do now was coat Clarisse’s head with SolaRez.

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Don’t go losing your head

But first I had to separate Clarisse’s head from her torso.  I chose to hang it from a garden implement and balance it with a pot.  That way I could brush the resin on her head and not my hands.  When it came time to dry, I only had to take Clarisse (actually her head) out into the sun for five minutes.

The tube of SolaRez gave me three applications so Clarisse got three five-minute sun tans.  And, yes, my neighbors think I am absolutely crazy.

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Clarisse in the Sun

Here’s a photo of the doll’s head with the first coat of fiberglass resin.  SolaRez dries to the touch after five minutes in the sun, and hardens totally after 12 hours.  This makes it a perfect product for surfers who need a quick repair or props people looking to turn plastic into porcelain.

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Just a little off the top

The hair proved a little difficult.  There wasn’t much but what was there caused the resin to clump.  A brief sanding between coats smoothed out most of the bumps.

The more resin I applied, the shinier Clarisse’s face and head became.  The uneven application was actually a godsend, making the doll’s head look aged, which it needs to be believable in Talbot’s Shadow.  It turns out that SolaRez is best applied to surfboards with a plastic bag.

You squeeze a dollop of SolaRez into the crack or “ding” in your surfboard.  Then you take a plastic bag and cover the area while it cures in the sun.  Just after it hardens, but not before it dries, you remove the plastic bag, which leaves the surface relatively smooth.

I never thought of doing that to Clarisse.  Partly because I wanted the resin to go on rough for aging but also partly because of the creep factor.  It’s one thing to pull a doll’s head off and quite another to place it in a plastic bag with its eyes open.

No, my way was far less creepy. In fact, you could say that the process wasn’t creepy at all… Until I took this last picture…

Yes. That's creepy all right.

Yep. That’s creepy all right.

(Visit our ticket page to find out more about this and six other great plays by San Diego Writers.)

About

Kevin Six is a co-founder of New Play Cafe. He works as an actor and writer.