Very often I am asked how does one “find” the character they are playing. Being a chameleon and a true character man myself I find this not only challenging, but rather enticing. I have played everything from a “Carrot” in the Robert Altman film “Health,” a lounge lizard in commercials, a Scarecrow, a “bucket head” for a TV series, and much more. I often don’t use makeup to change my looks, so my work has to be organic from the inside out. I tell my students that you can find a “thread” of a character from a “squeaky drawer” in order to find the voice or the persona of a cartoon character. Just visualize the pacing and patter of how your character might speak. Most of all, I do my homework! I study whoever originated the role, using Youtube, original cast recordings, or seeing other performer’s versions. I have an ear for mimicry, so I “suggest” the original interpretation and delivery, but I put my own spin on it. While working on the TV series “Grace Under Fire” as the on-set dialogue coach, the great actor Tom Poston and I talked about this. He squinted his eyes, and as if he were telling me a close-knit secret, said, between his teeth in a whisper, “Kristopher, everybody steals from everybody.” I chuckled and kept thinking about this. Indeed, Mr. Poston was correct. Some of the greats emulated other performers from yesteryear and still do. So find that one “thread”…and go from there.
Kristopher Kyer is a regular columnist for VC On Stage. He will be appearing in ARTS’ production of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” this fall. Check VC On Stage’s Calendar of Events for dates and times.