In our current show, Time Stands Still, actress Susan McKey plays Sarah, a photojournalist who is terribly scarred by a roadside bomb on assignment in Iraq. The bomb blast throws her body 40 yards, injuring her right arm and left leg and causing disfiguring shrapnel scars across her face, neck, arms and legs. The make-up process to create these realistic scars is quite extensive, as you might imagine. I had the pleasure of meeting with the costume designer for this production (and DTC’s resident costume shop manager), Brian Strachan, as he worked with Susan on creating the realistic make-up for her character.

Mindy Hall, the make-up artist for the Broadway production in 2010 starring Laura Linney designed the scars that were made for Ms. Linney herself. These designs were then traced and sent to a lab in California called Tinsley Transfers to create temporary tattoo-like adhesives (seen left). Brian used Mindy’s original Broadway “scar-tattoo” design from Tinsley Transfers, then developed his own pattern and process specific to Susan’s face for our show here at DTC.

Brian applied the scar transfers with a combination of Aquatone and eyeliner pencil, painting them directly on Susan’s face. He then used an opaque powder, and finally sprayed a Ben Nye fixative to set them (much like applying hairspray to set). A paint palette is also used when needed, to add shadowing and depth, on Susan’s face and neck.

He patterned the scars to fit Susan’s face and to appear as if the bomb had exploded on her right side and thrown her onto the left. One of these scars (left) is a tattoo and one was created with only Brian’s make-up wizardry. Can you tell which is which?

Susan’s leg scars are applied with a special effects adhesive called Pros-Aide® and stay on about eight days (she is still able to shower without washing them away). She typically leaves the neck and shoulder scars on for multiple days as well.Brian did significant research into shrapnel injuries and the scarring process, to make the scars appear as realistic as possible. One of the challenges for this process is that Susan’s character Sarah gradually heals throughout the show, so some of her scars need to be removed at intermission. The idea of revealing and healing is ever present in this extremely thought-provoking show, both in terms of the production process and the greater themes of the show. Intrigued? Time Stands Still runs here at DTC until February 5th, and then moves to Act II playhouse in Ambler, PA where it will run from February 14-March 11.