Chapter eight creating the character

You li fe hand"

Anthony Rooley, Performance sssssassE®

Why You Need A Character

,, the way our spouse sees us. We accent different aspects of ourselves in different situations.

The challenge the performer faces is what aspects of himself to accent in his performances for best audience response. A1 Goshman once des-tribed his own performing character as "an overweight, middle ap,d letch." Was Goshman a letch off-stage? Frankly. 1 don t know hut if he was, I'm sure he didn't display it as openly. He found thaU when he performed, lotchery played well for him. By contrast, a good friend of mine, a professional magician and a great one of the biggest letchers in the world. Yet he doesn't "?0"'18 a|,. quality when he performs. Presumably, he has foUnd tll pla>' % contri-but.es nothing to the success of his perforTOa let«W suppresses this characteristic when he is "on." 068 so ^

Despite the impression you may get from some magical w • search for a persona is not some sort of mystical quest Vt''"88' ^ pragmatic matter. What aspects of yourself will w0rk \ . context of the kind of magic you want to do? What aspects of th* will most appeal to an audience? What aspects of yoursplf ^ny°Uri appeal to an audience? What aspects of yourself wil] most conviction to your magic? What nspects of yourself vnd tlle produce the kind of reactions you want to elicit from an .est from an audience?

Finding Your Character magic about developing a performim-e there is tends to make it sound isl!

Very little has been written in character or persona. What little tacic is tioas co mase it sound life the issue has to be settled before you ever perform your first effect for lay people. First you create your character, then you start doing magic. This is the most convenient way to discuss the matter for analytical purposes. That's why much of my later discussion of the subject will take the same approach. But this is only a convenient fiction. You don't create a persona, you evolve a persona over time. It's like painting a picture. You start with broad strokes and get more and more detailed as you go along.

Although developing a persona takes time, that doesn't mean it will happen automatically if you just wait long enough. Just go to any magic meeting and look at all the magicians who've been in magic fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years, and still have no more distinctive an identity when they perform than they did when they performed their first trick. Your persona will evolve with time only if you work at making it happen.

Aldous Huxley once said, "Experience isn't what happens to you, it's what you do with what happens to you." If you do nothing with your performing experiences, that's what you'll end up with. What you need to do is to analyze, question, experiment and, most of all, think. Here are some of the most useful things to think about when asking yourself the question, "Just who am I when I'm performing magic?" Role vs. Raw Material: More than anything else, your persona should grow out of the interaction between your role and the raw materials you as a person bring to that role.

First, it's important to understand the difference between the role and the character. The Amazing Kreskin and Max Maven both per-

Strong Magic wh0 are gifted with psychic powers and arc demon-

a9 men wers for your entertainment; the role is the same, atini the.,r P°ver seen them perform, you know that the two !ir, if y°u've,JC be further apart. One is a boy-next-door type

Bu could not rfnoftn',

0ut' "ters could not be Hfffflli ----------- ^

^Lt happens to be able to read minds and doc^C cZp\Sy *„deSand how h.mself. The other ,a an exotic character whot "n, have led him to explore and dwell in a world very different ^Se one you and I do. They play identical roles but ve^ dSorlm characters.

. exercise I heartily recommend is to watch various films and jy fhows and consider how different actors interpret similar roles. Compare Telly Savalas as Kojak and Clint Eastwood as Dirty Ham-Both are homicide detectives, but the two are very different characters with very different traits. Or consider how two different actors play private detectives: Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon and James Garner in The Rockford Files. Even actors playing the same part can paint very different pictures. Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, and Frank Langella were all very different Draculas. The role was the same, the characters quite different. The point is that a role makes certain demands and imposes certain restrictions, yet any given role can be filled by numerous personality types.

In magic, your role is defined by the kinds of effects you perform. Mental effects, gambling routines, comedic magic, occult effects, and other types of magic each define a role. So a good place for you to start in your quest for a persona is to think about the kinds of tricks you most like to perform and what those tricks suggest about the kind of person who would perform them.

At the other end of our equation we have the raw materials you bring to the role. These include your gender, body type (short or tall, skinny, fat, or muscular), your facial appearance, (handsome or homely, refined or coarse, WASP or ethnic) speech pattern (formal or informal, academic or down-to-earth, any regional accent or speech impediment), personality traits (mercurial, phlegmatic, etc.), your interests, and most everything else that makes you who you are. Pay particular attention to your assets: what people like most about you. Maybe you're very articulate or have an appealingly offbeat sense of humor, or a sunny disposition that everyone warms to quickly. It only makes sense to try to capitalize on these things as you fashion your persona.

No matter what anyone tells you, none of the traits mentioned above need bar you from playing a particular role. Virtually any magician

—. pray virtually any role But ¡1 on your part to figure out how to malie ,, ^ UkB When Peter Falk was asked to play a hom " j ^

he didn-t say. "I can't do it because fin T, " , f' CBnt Eastwood. I'm . short. Z^M * f' «Ct"^ he also didn't mab ,1... ...________ . . u' ratnbhnp ..., I01lrt K

he also didn't make the way Eastwood played Dirty Harr, cSSL'>'»»'0 th"" 8> to create a character that could credibly b° both i' h« C «"« andaperson with Peter Folks physical and ^L^^1» Of course. Falk had the advantage of profes^ ° % Fashion the part to fit his characteris^^ »>» „ , makers will go after a particular big-name 7cL hT®» 8 office value. If the par, isn't really suited .oX ^T5 they just rewrite the part. As a magician you ha ««rili^

scnpt writer. Look at the kind of effects youXT ^ a, the kind of person you are. Think of these eltm^itT ^ S

Audience Input: Chanmng Pollock has been quoted . must look into the mirror and, with the utm™f „K" >

honesty, search for a character we can make Mevabi™^ ™ hie on stage. ' This i, good advice, but we shoulS ^ Mmf reference to a mirror too literally. Locking in the th>

you What kind of physical (ype you are. That «riSX Jf 111 On the lype of character you can play, but it's r difficult things in 17CI SSSas *

serious, L SarW o7 ft * "e ^ ^ « ^ might Le KS'SS. ¿ST^T**- StOIy " WhaI

bizarre magic, comedy magic)? ^^ r°UtmeS' 6ffeSS'

effects Siml f'hing in your personahty that resonates to these th^ oth " mE WHy C"t"in effeas ^ f°r audiences see you^as ieto/T6 inS'ght ,n'° What Uai develop a persona that lear^in that dirertfon ^ " "" "

Srraofl

„ Do audiences s very reveahnr perceptions nSiheei»®me , „all this-"'» to,Urbaracter you can most feedback' yoU

for you-

£rm'Toi oU alt They sLuld still be listed * SSrSSr^S^ erodes of your past that are not

you, and thus who you want to be when you get up to perform m tront of an audience.

Reconciling Character And Daily Life

Finally, if you don't do magic for a living, there is one more factor you have to consider in developing a characterization: the relationship between your on-stage persona and your off-stage personality. When Johnny Thompson is on stage, he is the great Tomsoni, a bumbling magician who is thoroughly clueless. But in his private Life he doesn't

"n have to maintain this characterization k interacting with audience members. Cause ],e.f

But, if you're a non-professional, your fri your magic audience, ffyour performing 8 a°d relati sis tent with the way you behave thl pe' So"a ia Co 'at ves much credibility forthese peo^. ^ °f the persona should grow out of your true 3 g0od rea,n persona, yo^U «yta*. ^e £ 2 S

downplay others. But as long as it's aii « your PeJti'

you best. arac-

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