Being Real While Being Fake

November 3, 2011

I‘ve been doing magic for a long time.  Almost twenty years now.  For the majority of that time, I have always performed as myself, that is, I never really had a “character.”  This is the way I prefer it.  My artistic goal for my performance is to genuinely express myself to my audience and share a real connection with them.  It always seemed to me that that goal would be hindered by some sort of facade of costuming and different than normal speech that would be needed to create a different character.

Now, as some of you my know, last weekend, I performed in our city’s Renaissance fair.  There was no way I was getting out of doing a character for that.  I have so much respect for people who can really create a persona on stage and totally get lost in it.  It is very difficult for me.  I’m not a great actor by any means (See examples here and here) and maybe I never will be, but I did learn something important: even when you’re playing a part, you can still be real.  “But, Eric,” you say, “how can that be?”  Well, I’ll tell you if you promise to stop using your brain keyboard to type questions on my blog. “Ok.  Sorry.”  Thanks.

You see, even though I had a made-up persona on, it wasn’t really a block for my real personality like I imagined it would be.  Because I was able to create the character myself, it was, in a way, just a different part of me that I was bringing forward.  I was still open to connection with the audience and able to have real interaction with them.  I could still be myself while being someone else.

My favorite performers (in any media) are the ones who after I see them, I feel like I know them better.  There’s a kind of real courage evident in going in front of people as yourself and figuratively (maybe literally, I haven’t seen your act)  exposing yourself  to them for their judgement.  And when they judge you, they are really judging YOU.  It’s amazing, it’s vulnerable, it’s beautiful.  Now, don’t get my wrong, people who perform in character need to be brave too.  If you can’t sell it, if it doesn’t FEEL real, they’ll tear you apart.  While it might be easy to blame the character if things go wrong, you have to take with that the fact that when things go well, the character gets the credit, not you.  I don’t think I’ll ever do a lot of character work (I don’t think my ego would allow the credit to go to someone else, even if it is still technically  me) but, I will do the fair again next year, so I’ve got some time to work on it.

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