Thursday, June 23, 2005

Yesterday's Class

Last week, my improv class was given the assignment of coming up with 5 distinct characters for introducing into the class during our exercises. Since I wasn't in class last week, I learned about the assignment via email and it took me, maybe, a day or two to come up with my 5.

First of all, you have to understand that I'm not someone who normally does impersonations of people. I'm someone who normally WATCHES other people do impersonations of people. But I have to admit that I've had about 5 characters inside my head for many years, starting from when I was in college, working at one of the campus radio stations.

I had this pseudonym named DeMar Williams and it was a chance for me to become, via radio, someone else, namely a black man with a deep, sexy voice. Well, DeMar got reintroduced yesterday in class when I was called upon to introduce a character.

It's fun to watch other people transform into someone completely different, especially when it seems natural. I hate forced impersonations and characterizations. But when someone slips into character, everything seems to change, from their mannerisms to their speech patterns and even their vocabulary.

But, oddly enough, I seemed to do this sort of thing pretty well. So well that I decided to try another character who I like to call Jun Cha, a Korean car salesman. Actually, his name is Dennis and he works for the Infinity dealer in Redmond, Washington. But this guy's characteristics struck me so strongly, it was hard for me NOT to remember him.

The one thing that prepares me for this character is his walk, which is sort of a shuffle, like when you're wearing slippers. In fact, he WAS wearing slippers in the dealer showroom when he was selling my friend a car. But the sound of his feet and his posture immediately gives me enough to slip into his voice and demeanor.

It took me a few sentences to get into his rhythm, but once I did, the rest was easy. And let me tell you, doing a Korean characterization is not easy, especially when there is a Korean in your improv class.

I did a redneck named Chuck, named after my old college roommate who was a total ladies' man, not a redneck. But he had an unmistakable twang in his voice, which also comes easy to me. I can't seem to get his mannerisms right though.

I also did an impersonation of a friend of mine, whom I won't name. He is actually an actor originally from Seattle. That should be plenty of clues for anyone who might know him. Don't know if I'm dead-on, but it was recognizable enough for one of my instructors, who also knows him.

My last character is one I'm saving up for the final class. It's actually my strongest, but it's based on a famous person, which is something we were supposed to avoid. Fortunately, I can just use a generic title for him, and if anyone guesses who he is, I'll just evade admitting it. I've been told that I am dead-on, but that's when I am quoting from his movies or interviews. We'll see how it goes when I make up words for him to say.

Had a pretty slow week, audition-wise, but that's okay with me. I'm a little exhausted these days. Frankly, I wouldn't mind a break from auditions for a while. Just don't want to say that too loudly. It might come true.

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