I’m not an actor, never will be. That said, the notion of pre-performance rituals* enacted in order to get one into the right head-space to be on stage really interests me.
No, I’m not talking about never changing my socks or whatever it is that sportsball players do when things are going their way, but it’s not all that far removed, either.
I’ve talked about this a fair bit in my LARP Advice piece Preparing to Perform. The point is that you can’t just walk off onto the street and into Willy Loman. Athletes stretch and warm up before they hit the field, and so do actors. I have to remind myself that LARPers are not actors and that one shouldn’t overreach. That said, I don’t see any harm in trying to get oneself into the absolutely optimum space for playing a character consistently and convincingly.
All too often, LARP characters are just our everyday selves in a different outfit. Our speech patterns remain largely unchanged, ditto ethics and political attitudes. Because LARP is essentially a form of improv and because we’re not trained actors, when we’re forced to decide our character’s our politics on the fly – for example – it’s more likely than not that we’ll just default to our ground state of being. It’s quick, it’s easy and we’re unlikely to contradict ourselves later on. Too much of that piles up and we’re not longer playing a new character, just a slightly different version of ourselves. That can be fun for a while, but I find it boring, eventually. Isn’t part of the appeal of roleplaying that we get to be something unlike ourselves?
I’ve already explored the other well-established avenues of character development. I’ve answered questionnaires created by the GMs, written fiction of dubious quality, assembled wardrobe items that only my character would wear and even put together in-character soundtracks for their antics. And yet I still find myself sliding into Johanna-lite. Hm. Not very interesting. So I find myself turning to the notion of extensive pre-game “performance prep”.
At the moment, my pre-game prep consists of running around my small flat in a dither, fussing about clothes, wondering if I should change now and ride the bus to game in my costume or wait until I get there and whether I should bring seltzer or soda for the snack table. Get me into my character’s head-space, it does not.
What would I do if I had the time? Take a shower, do my hair and makeup, think out loud about the character’s current goals as I fiddle with powder and blush. Physically stretch and loosen up as I change clothes. Plug into my music player and listen to my character’s soundtrack while going out for coffee or otherwise walk around somewhere. People watch with an in-character POV in mind (a version of a game a friend of mine calls “That Girl” – listen to “your” songs and imagine you’re in a movie. It’ll totally change the way you walk, guaranteed.). Jot some IC thoughts if the soundtrack runs out while I’m at the coffee shop. Head to game just in time to avoid the pre-game blather and chit-chat to re-read my character’s manifesto** and do a few more stretches. Check in with my body and see how I’m feeling physically and emotionally. Then head into the in-game area.
No running to the store for snacks. No “Oh god, where did I put those shoes?”. No interruptions, essentially.
Is it realistic? I don’t know. I depend on public transit to get around. I have a class on weekends and a boyfriend who, not unreasonably, would like to have some quality time. Currently, I only have a single monthly LARP taking up my time, but that Saturday is packed awfully tight. So it’ll be a challenge finding the time for extensive prep to that degree. I’m keen to try, though, and report back on results. I’m tired of playing Johanna-lite and sliding in and out of character like a fried egg on teflon…
*ritual in the secular sense, of course
**Yeah, I have one of those. Short and sweet, and it’s the core of the character in about 200 words.