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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » Developing a character/persona (3 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Big Daddy Cool
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This is a post I originally posted in the Time After Time Forum, but thought it might edify those who frequent this forum as well.

The post is in answer to Steven Barney's question about how to develop personality. The thread eventually came down to character. Here is my reply...

Actually developing a character or performance persona is really not as difficult as you think. But it is a lot of work. (I know a lot of you just tuned out...)

In a nutshell, you must make a conscious decision about who you are going to be on
stage and commit to it. I call this "Creating a Character."
  1. You must figure out who you are first. "But BDC I know who I am, I live my life everyday don't I?" Nope, sorry. Most people never give thought one to who they are as people. So you need to do a self inventory and learn stuff about yourself. There is no right or wrong way to do this, but I have developed a worksheet for my students if anyone is interested.
  2. After you've done that, you must decide which three traits you will emphasis. This will be the basis of your character. For me it was a love of jazz and swing music, comic books and 1940s pop culture. Again, I have a great essay by Ryan Pilling on this step. E-mail me for a copy.
  3. Make a choice. Will my character now be an amplified version of myself or a separate
    persona built upon those traits?
  4. Make another choice. Will I be the Killer, The Victim and the Witness? In other words will your character create the magic, be a victim of the magic or be a witness to the magic? Think about that and let that hang on the clothesline of your mind...
  5. What presentational style will you chose? Storyteller? Educator? Mad Scientist?
    Gambler? There are almost limitless offshoots and combinations. For example once you've decided that you are going to be the killer, are you going to be a gambling killer who exposes his cons to educate? Lots of fun possibilities here. Big Daddy Cool is an entertainer who kills.
  6. Write your character's bio. The character's history. Including who his parents were, where he went to school (if at all), how he became an entertainer, or gambler, or mad scientist. And if you are playing an amplified version of yourself, write your bio, your history. Make it as long or as short as need be.

    Now, that you've done that it's time to really go to work...
  7. What is your character's time, space and weight. Boy, this is complex, but it deals with specifically how your character moves. Largely this will be determined by what you've done so far, but there is still a lot of discovery to be done here. Every part of your character's body has a specific speed (time), space (size) and weight (light or heavy). Start with the head, move to the arms and then the feet. Experiment. Walk around with these attributes. Think about how this character should be physically. Once, you've figured out the head, arms and feet, move to the waist, knees, thighs, finger tips and so on, until every part of your body has a specific time, space & weight. This is not easy and will take hours and hours of work.
  8. Decide how your character will speak. Slowly, quickly, with an accent? Not at all? And why? Go back to the bio and figure it out.
  9. Clothes. You've heard it said that clothes make the man? It's true. Although the costume is near the end it is one of the most important elements. The audience must know what you are about from the second they lay eyes on you. Part of that is your time space and weight, but a BIG part is your costume. For Big Daddy Cool I needed to create an image that was the flashy showman and entertainer but conveyed ties to the Mafia circa 1940s. By combining styles associated (by the general public) with the time period I've done just that. Before I open my mouth or bob my head, they already have an idea of what I'm all about.
  10. Now, the hardest part. Examine your repertoire. Does every thing you perform fit the character you've created? If not throw it out. Your character dictates your repeater, not the other way around. This will be the hardest part, because more than likely you've been performing routines that you shouldn't.
  11. Write a script. First write a script for each routine you've kept so far. Then decide what story you want to tell the audience. It could be a true theatrical narrative (in the case of BDC) or the story could just be, "Hey I came here tonight to show you some really amazing things." But whatever it is write it out from beginning to end. Write stage directions, prop placements most important, segues! Write a script. Just do it.
  12. More than likely you are going to run into a snag in step 11. Some of the magic that you kept, doesn't move your story along. It may fit the character, but it doesn't fit the script. Lose it.
  13. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! And do it with a director. Or if you have the resources
    with a theatrical director, a magical director and a choreographer working in tandem.
If you follow these principles I promise you will see the results from the lay audience that you desire.

And I didn't even mention that if you work with an assistant or larger cast, every person in the cast must follow these steps through the time, space and weight stage as well.

And, as you are examining your repertoire you are also going to eliminate any magic that isn't commercial and appealing to a lay audience. Screw the magic guys and the judges. Think about the audience.

Gosh, I hope this helps. There are a lot of other resources available as well. One good source is Rich Tenance's column at http://www.Online-Visions.com and this is a regular topic on the Kevin James Forum at www.kjmagic.com.
Swing hard, swing often, and we'll catch ya on the Flip-Side!
John Pyka
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Richard Allen
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Great post! I'll take some of these things into consideration.
Dennis Michael
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What you write is really brief in understanding the complexity of self and the character you protray.

As I read each line, one could write a chapter (maybe a small book) on the topic (13 chapters or books).

Thanks, it is put together well and requires a lot of DEEP thought!
Dennis Michael
Paul Romhany
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Check out Marvyn Roy's (Mr. Electric) lecture notes on developing a character and that type of act. Worth searching for.
"life is like a movie ... you write your own ending" - Kermit the Frog

http://extrememagicmakeover.com

http://www.paulromhany.com
ColinB
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BDC, this is one of the most excellent, pertinent and useful posts I've seen regarding magic—stuff so often overlooked or simply not considered, worth so much more than simply chasing the next "killer" trick in the hope that it will finally make one a magician.
Mike Wild
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I hate to be a drag Big Daddy, but sometimes character and persona are just that, your personality and your presence. I didn't spend anytime figuring myself out, or what parts I wanted emphasis put on. I just started doing magic at about 10 years old... poorly scripted, under rehearsed, and typical for a 10-year-old. Over time my personality matured, my performance abilities matured, and one day I found myself bartending and prestidigitating for pay.

I've tried to put a game face together, but just being myself seems to suffice. May not pull it together for a stage act though... In that situation getting "into character" is part of the gig. No one wants to sit in a chair 30 feet away and try to watch me being me, however, put them in a bar stool, three feet away, and I'm a big big hit. Smile

Best to the Cool One from the Wild One,
Mike
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watchdog
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There is a wonderful piece in the new MAGIC about characters.
Big Daddy Cool
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Quote:
On 2004-07-06 19:55, DenDowhy wrote:
What you write is really brief in understanding the complexity of self and the character you protray.

As I read each line, one could write a chapter (maybe a small book) on the topic (13 chapters or books).


Exactly! But we don't have that kind of room or time here, do we? Smile

Quote:
On 2004-07-06 22:18, WildStone wrote:
I hate to be a drag Big Daddy, but sometimes character and persona are just that, your personality and your presence. I didn't spend anytime figuring myself out, or what parts I wanted emphasis put on. I just started doing magic at about 10 years old... poorly scripted, under rehearsed, and typical for a 10-year-old. Over time my personality matured, my performance abilities matured, and one day I found myself bartending and prestidigitating for pay.


Mike,

Part of what I wrote addressed just being yourself. That is actually an intentional character choice. What I recommend here is that even if one is just being themselves, that they make all of the choices intentional and not random.

You've done well to this point, but I can guarantee you that if you actually put this process to work, that you will go even further!
Swing hard, swing often, and we'll catch ya on the Flip-Side!
John Pyka
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Mike Wild
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I'm never "intentionally" me... When I am me, it's usually as a result of some horrible mistake! Smile

I hear ya B.D., just having some fun, and being me... whoops! There it goes again.

Best,
Anyone but Mike
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prettylady1990
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Bravo Bravo big Daddy Cool
I think this post is FANTASTIC. I'll use this advise.
And once again I think that this post is one of the best I have read
Big Daddy Cool
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Hey thanks for all of the great feedack. This is the stuff I really get into. For those who have requested the essays and additional info I mentioned... Sorry to take so long getting it out. I've not been able to locate the disc with all of my archives on it. I have everyone's info and promise that as soon as I locate it I'll send it out.
Swing hard, swing often, and we'll catch ya on the Flip-Side!
John Pyka
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Neale Bacon
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BDC, thanks for the great ideas and thoughts on charcter.

Murray (Sawchuck) was at our recent magic weekend and in his lecture also talked about not only a charcter but a "look"

I am refining my charcter and am now in search of costuming.

The character is sort of a cartoon me or exagerated me (who can spell!). When I started in magic many years ago, I tried to be the Copperfield-style performer and it just wasn't me.

With my look now (shaved head etc) I have become that funny Uncle who tells funny stories and shows tricks and does ventriloquism (I do kids shows) and it works, but costuming is my biggest puzzle.

I guess costuming should be another thread tho...
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Big Daddy Cool
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No, costuming is an intregal part of character development.

Here is how you determine what your costume should be...

Write a character bio - Step # 6

Once you figure out who this character is, where he has been, and what he's done, and when he lives, costuming will become more clear.

At first glance I would guess that loud, mismatched, oversized clothes may be a suitable choice. Or if the "uncle" is more of a Mister Rogers type, then a shirt tie and cardigan sweater may be the way to go. There is no right or wrong way to go, but you must decide how the character would dress!
Swing hard, swing often, and we'll catch ya on the Flip-Side!
John Pyka
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PinkGlove
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Thanks, this has been an excellent help to me, helping my get my feet on the ground.
Trust anyone who has gone through it.
Doug Higley
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Ok...BD...I did the above and came up with a real bummer. My character is homeless and works out of a shopping cart.

Wait a minute...I put number 9 first. Hmmm
back to the drawing board.



Doug
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JimMaloney
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Actually, that sounds like a perfectly viable character! Didn't Tina Lenert have a cleaning lady act?

-Jim
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Big Daddy Cool
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One of the best acts I've ever seen.

And think about the emotional, social, and psychological issues that could be addressed by such a character. Whoopi Goldberg's "Fantima" character was a homeless crack addict that was really impactful.
Swing hard, swing often, and we'll catch ya on the Flip-Side!
John Pyka
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JimMaloney
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BDC -- Going back to the crime scene analogy: Do you think that a person can be a killer in one effect and a victim in another? Or do you think it's better to consistently be one of the three for each effect in the act?

Or perhaps you're a killer most of the time, but maybe once during the course of the act you'll witness some of the magic?

-Jim
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Big Daddy Cool
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Jim, don't know why I didn't respond earlier - But great question. You could do either actually. However, I would never recommend switch hitting to a new performer. An experienced one could do it though. But, personally, I think that it is better to maintain consistency.
Swing hard, swing often, and we'll catch ya on the Flip-Side!
John Pyka
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Danny T.
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"Mastering the Art of Magic" Eugene Burger
"Maximum Entertainment" Ken Werber
"Showmanship for Magicians" Dariel Fitskee
"Strong Magic" Darwin Ortiz
"Magic in Theory" Peter Lamont and Richard Wiseman
"Magic by Misdirection" Dariel Fitskee
"The Books of Wonder" Tommy Wonder and Steven Minch
"Theatrical Magic" Eugene Goyle

Read this and that will be the end of this post and 90% of the posts in the entire Café. By the way this is probably my last post. good luck everyone.
Magic is a dream in which we put ourselves in the fantasy of the reality that surrounds us. It's a wishful thinking that all human kind posses. It's life itself. And I for one believe in it.
Danny T.
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