Define Yourself as a Caricature

Your performance character is the single most important choice you have to make about your show.

One of the most consistent pieces of advice given to new performers is to "be yourself" on stage. You are the most unique thing you have to add to your show. If you do the same tricks as everybody else, it is the way in which you do them that sets you apart. However, the trouble with being yourself is that you are rather complex. You have many moods, different sides to your personality, modified behavior depending on the environment... how is a person supposed to put all that into a magic show?

Create a caricature of yourself.

In a caricature drawing the artist will see the most prominent things about your appearance and emphasize them to cartoonish proportions. You can use this same process to create a caricature of your personality. A simplified version of yourself that is easier to present to an audience, and makes for clearer communication. I'm going to walk you through the process of boiling down your personality into a stage character that you can create a magic show around.

We begin with a brainstorm, writing down things about yourself. This is the raw material you have to work with. Make a list of words that describe your personality and behaviour. For me the list might begin something like this... Easy-going, calm, patient, factual, scientific, spontaneous, relaxed, unfashionable, experimental, practical, logical, thoughtful, procrastinator, perfectionist, musical, dorky, witty, slow-paced, folksy...

Keep writing. When you give up, take a brief walk and come back to it again. Don't judge anything you write as to whether or not it is correct. We will edit and refine the list later. If you want to supplement your list, ask friends and family for some words describing you. Their outside perspective can be very helpful here.

To create your caricature now you want to narrow down your list of descriptors to about five items. As you glance over your words you'll notice themes and related ideas. Pick out the ones you want to emphasize. Don't waste one of your slots on generic words like "funny". Sure, you may want to be funny but the important thing we want to discover is the way in which you are naturally funny. We're looking for words that are unique to you. Take those important ideas and flesh them out with a brief description. Again, I'll show my work.

Hokey - I'm not hip to the times. I accept this without apologies, as the "cool" way seems illogical to me.

Creative Problem Solver - I attempt things with a "let's see if this works" attitude, which does lead to trouble, and I work it out as I go. Sometimes this results in over-thinking complex solutions to simple problems.

Spontaneous - Rather than attempting to control things I let them go as they will and react to it. I embrace tangents.

Thorough - I want to know everything about a subject before moving on. Any job worth doing is worth doing right.

It is interesting for me to see that this list, despite my starting from scratch, bears a striking resemblance to the result I had when I first did this exercise ten years ago. It shows that I'm finding elements which are true to my core personality. My list forms a thumbnail sketch of the version of me that I bring to my performances.

I can think through my recent shows and see the way in which I do things, and how it fits those character traits. Also, and perhaps more importantly, it shows me where I'm falling off course and when I can emphasize these traits more to create a more uniquely personal performance.

Take your time with this process, but also don't attempt to get it "perfect". Your list is not set in stone, and just as you change over the years your character is likely to as well. I'm leaving this for you as homework.

Next time on the blog I will talk about how to use this list to create a living, breathing stage character.

Published: June 14, 2011

Channel: Blog

Access: Public


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