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Look at me, I’m a clown!

April 8, 2013

With all my forays into stage management, house management, writing and wardrobe crew, it’s been a long while since I’ve been the one up onstage. So I’m kicking off 2013 with TWO shows and it’s almost time for the show!

At the beginning of September, I auditioned for my school’s mainstage shows—the big productions, Chicago, The Piano Lesson, Stop the World I Want to Get Off!, Dance Ensemble and The Diary of Anne Frank. And amazingly, I was cast—I’m a clown in Stop the World, I Want to Get Off! The director noticed during the audition that my special skills included tarot reading and was intrigued. For those unfamiliar with the musical, the show is set in a circus and the director decided that a circus needs entertainers. He created a group of performers, henceforth known as the Universal Life Circus Troupe, whose mission is to entertain the audience, like with tarot reading. We had a meeting at the end of last semester to discuss the show’s concept and we were given the task of spending the break between then and when we returned to school focused on creating our characters.

Some requirements for our characters:

  • The show is set in a circus and we are clowns. The theatre is going to be transformed into a circus. Think bright colors and spotlights!
  • Still, we are keeping the (dated) references to it’s post-World War II time period and keeping it British and Cockney. So that’s two more accents I’ll have under my belt (plus, I’m learning Irish right now as well, although that has absolutely nothing to do with the show).
  • Tarot reading. We all have to come up with our own special act, a talent or skill we possess. The director decided though, that he wanted me to do tarot as my act.
  • Aside from our act, members of the Universal Life Circus Troupe will be responsible for creating their own costume and makeup, further developing our character creation.

With a month off from school and before rehearsals began, I turned to the internet for ideas. Pinterest is probably my most-frequented website (Thanks Mom…just what I needed, another internet addiction) but actually is really useful when creating a character: I was able to save makeup ideas, costume possibilities, pictures from the original Stop the World production. As we got closer to rehearsals and the designers began to finalize their ideas, my concept has both narrowed down and gotten new inspiration. I went through my wardrobe to come up with a costume and we’ve all been brushing up on our Cockney.

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photo credit: pinterest

Once the cast for the ULCT came together to start rehearsals, inspiration really started to strike. We were sharing our skills and ideas: we’ve got a juggling nun, a trapeze artist, clowns galore…and me, the circus’ resident fortune-teller. During our rehearsals, I’ve been practicing my skills in palmistry, astrology and tarot reading galore. While the rest of the ULCT has a set act with jokes and acrobatics, I am solely doing audience improv while everything else is going on. Talk about leaving the comfort zone! Luckily, the cast has been really great about picking cards for me to practice with.

I haven’t had the opportunity to develop a character this much since high school (but hopefully with much more depth than I was capable of then) and never with improv or audience participation! So, this is what I’ve been working on since my last blog post. What do you think? What are your way of creating a character from scratch? Have you had the opportunity?

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