Thursday, March 08, 2012

The Fun of Creating Characters

Last night I had the privilege of seeing Deerfield High School's production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. It's heartwarming and hilarious, and if you're free tonight, tomorrow, or Saturday night, you should definitely go see it. My son was Leaf Coneybear, a home-schooled kid from a hippie family. His family makes fun of him for not being smart, but really, Leaf is just in his own world.

The Original Broadway cast of Spelling Bee. Leaf is being played here by
Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Mitchell from Modern Family!)

Watching Sammy become this character was such a joy. Of course I loved when he was in the spotlight, singing "I'm Not That Smart," and I loved all the funny and sweet lines he delivered. But the thing that really blew me away was how at every single moment of the production, Sammy was Leaf. From his facial expressions as he watched the other spellers, to his choices in movement (laying his head on his mother's lap, freezing in the middle of a sneeze, swinging from a rope during "Pandemonium", snapping his fingers in appreciation of the other spellers), he never once broke character. I caught myself looking over at Sammy during random parts of the play (after all, I'm his mom), and each time, I was entertained by a small character choice he was making.

As I sit down today to work on my novel, I'm keeping that in mind. Every character should be fully developed and interesting, even in moments when they're on the sidelines. That's what adds depth, texture, and authenticity to a story. And the other thing I'm keeping in mind is how much fun it is to immerse yourself in creating a character. Actors and writers are not that different, you know. We're all just goofing around, playing make-believe.