Walking A Mile In Their Shoes

Let your character show in every action

Your performance character is about the way in which you do things. How you walk across the stage to pick up a deck of cards should reveal as much about your character as your jokes and material. Let's get to work on discovering your character's behavior.

This article builds on your homework from the previous article, "Define Yourself". I recommend you complete that excersize before continuing with this part of the character development process.

You should have your list of five descriptive words that summarize your caricature personality. The goal is to bring those to life in such a way that you can communicate the ideas in your performance without saying "look at me, I'm hokey!". (which is one of my words) This is done through your behaviour. The physical way in which you move and speak, how you approach and solve problems, the way you dress. All your choices should ultimately reflect your character.

So we need to figure out how to bring your five words to life. This is largely an experimental process that you have to go through. I can only suggest some excersizes, then leave the work up to you. A good place to start is with your entrance, as you make the all-important first impression.

Your Walk

All we're doing here is walking from the side curtain to your mark at center stage. By the time you arrive the audience will have made certain assumptions about you. Your success in character development is a matter of how much you are in control of those assumptions. How should you walk? At what pace? With what temperament? Is there a bounce in your step, or refined stiffness?

Walk around the room. Look at your words, and one at a time, adjust your gait to emphasize each characteristic. Dial it up to 10. Over-emphasize while you're exploring the options. Embody the personality trait to a clownish degree. You may not want such strongly characterized movement in the end, but understanding what 100% feels like will help you play that characteristic in smaller doses. Notice how each word can affect your style of walking.

Your Speech

Try the same process with your speech, letting each descriptive word take full control of your speaking style. Let it vary the pace, volume, tone, pitch, enunciation. Practice saying a simple poem or phrase in each unique style.

I eat my peas with honey, I've done so all my life. It makes them taste quite funny, but it keeps them on my knife.

Think about exclamations that fit your character. What would you shout if your deck of cards suddenly caught on fire? Different personalities react differently.

Everything Else

I've spoken about how your show is the sum total of your choices. Your character should be the driving force behind the unique choices you make. The question to ask is "how would my character do this?".

  • How to enter the stage
  • What to say to introduce a trick
  • What tricks to perform
  • What costuming to wear
  • Which music is most appropriate

When your choices consistently ring true to your semi-fictional character, it becomes a believable personality. Run everything past your five word list to determine if it's a good match, how it can be made better, or whether it belongs in your show at all. Begin exploring your character and how you can inject your caricaturized personality into everything you do. It's just a matter of asking good questions, and taking action on your answers.

Observing Characters In The Wild

Over at Ye Olde Magick Blogge, Andrew Musgrave had made some astute observations of a few characters as presented by professional magicians. Unfortunately, that blog has since vanished, so you're left to do the work on your own. Every time you watch a magician, or any performer, try to pick out the way people are expressing their unique personality, without saying it out loud. Think how much has been communicated when that guy walks out in a plaid suit and says "Howdy!"

Published: June 21, 2011

Channel: Blog

Access: Public


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