View Full Version : Thoughts on character development

01-07-2011, 07:40 PM
We're a second year haunt trying toamp up our acting skills. We're located in a rural area with little or no experienced actors to pull from. Last year we did fairly well with our pool of actors, but would like to increase the scares.

My thought is to develop character profiles for everyone. So instead of just saying "You are going to be an evil clown tonight. " we would be saying something to the effect of "Tonight you are playing Garbonzo the clown. She is the most viscious of all of the clowns and hates it when people invade her space. She had polio when she was a child and suffers a dead left leg. Due to the constant taunting of a childhood classmate with red hair, she had developed an extreme hatred of redheads and will go berzerk upon seeing them"

I'm hoping that this might give our actors a little more basis to build thier characters upon. It seemed like last year we had a lot of run-of-the-mill characters.

As actors, do you think this would be helpful? Especially with newer actors?

01-07-2011, 08:18 PM
I think this will be very helpful for the new actors. I remember my first year acting i wasn't quite sure what to do really needed some motivation for my character. now ive got character development down pretty well. Just tell them to ALWAYS stay in character. if they can in between groups continue talking in character talk to the other actors in character. and SPEND TIME getting in character. don't just send them out and say good luck. give them 10-15 minutes to get in character in their scene. the longer they are in character the more they will get into it. I run around talk in character practice movements and walking etc at least 15 minutes before the groups start coming through. Really helps build on character and time to experiment each night.

01-07-2011, 09:13 PM
Great tips! We are hosting our first planning meeting tomorrow and I'll definitely take this to heart. Thanks for the advice!

Jim Warfield
01-07-2011, 11:57 PM
I have been walking around in my character for 61 years. The mask looks pretty bad now, wrinkled and slightly damaged. I can still make it do several things and it seems to be able to scare more people now than ever before.
I drag myself around and often limp abit infront of the customers then sprint when I need to where they can't see me, making me seem even more mysterious and incredible seeming to appear quickly from far away.
Someday they may walk around that corner right after I sprinted and find me laying there, playing "dead".
If this is the scenario , don't worry, I won't be breaking character..ever. (Molecular break down, too slow to notice at first)
I have pretty much got the smell down already.

01-08-2011, 08:46 PM
^^ Dedication at its finest. Cant forget the monster smell!!

01-09-2011, 08:59 AM
We had Badger come and do some training with our actors. It was one of the best things we did and rather inexpensive.

My suggestion however is that switching things up with everyone is not the way to go. Once someone is comfortable with a character and can help that character their own, they should play it through the season.

They need some renewal after the third week. Once some are coming back then it seems to get old and response, of course, is not what is was the first time around. This is one thing we are going to focus on for the year.

We had a night that 10 of my main actors were not there and it was a nightmare. So I suggest once they are comforable, keep them in that spot. It because another "them" and they are comfortable in that skin.

Allen H
01-09-2011, 03:36 PM
Spooky world used to have character sheets that Ed annon wrote up. each one had the name of the character they were playing where they were in the house a bit of story and some sugestions of lines to say to the guests.
So know how many actors you will have and then make a sheet for each spot. If they like the caracter the first night they play it and do well then keep them there. If they dont like it as much move them untill they are in a good spot if they arent good anywhere get rid of them.
Many actors want to play the same thing each night and thats great, others want to play something different each night and thats great, they are your fill in guys and can rotate between different spots.
Once an actor has been there awhile let them know that they can submit ideas for characters and then they play a character that fits the show and they created.
Allen H

01-10-2011, 01:21 PM
We have this problem as well. Most of our actors have little to no experience. They're excited, but nervous to jump into roles. I'm a writer and this year we had a complete backstory to our haunt. We told the story to our actors and gave them details to the characters. they picked based on what they were comfortable with and then tried out. Many of them ended up in other places because they fit a different character better. Many of the new actors tended to express their character without becoming something too different from themselves, so we matched their natural personality to a character close to that. We even had some really awesome renditions come out that created completely new characters in the haunt! No two actors are the same, and I love it.

01-10-2011, 03:52 PM
jsut be sure to give the actors some room for improv. improv makes it more fun for the actors and a different experience each time someone comes through. also it helps if the actors need to fill in in other places. being good at improv will not only help them but help you be more comfortable and not nervous if an actor doesnt show up you have someone that can fill their spot well.

01-10-2011, 05:14 PM
jsut be sure to give the actors some room for improv.

I completely agree with you! I was mostly refering to those actors who want to be involved but have issues coming out of their shell so to speak. we give everyone something to aim for and say "Got it? Show us what you can make it into" or if they clearly don't know where to take it, we give them some key things to do and let them get comfortable with the role. they usually start to incorporate their own ideas after a few nights. by the end of the haunt, those are the scariest actors!

01-11-2011, 12:01 AM
I also used Allen's two videos which helped with giving them something to go off of. They seem to like the fact he gives ideas and showed them the different scares.

When Badger came he made us all go down the line and act. I think it helped with bringing them out of their shells.

01-12-2011, 07:14 PM
jsut be sure to give the actors some room for improv. improv makes it more fun for the actors and a different experience each time someone comes through. also it helps if the actors need to fill in in other places. being good at improv will not only help them but help you be more comfortable and not nervous if an actor doesnt show up you have someone that can fill their spot well.

I agree with you. I'm a huge fan of improv and I find that the skill truly makes for a great character. It is very obvious to the patrons if an actor is using canned dialogue, especially if they go through the haunt again and witness the same performances each time. Improv also enables the performance to be interactive, as opposed to making the customer feel like an audience at a play.

With semi-scripted haunts, I find that giving the actor the basis of the character (ex. Doctor, nurse, hillbilly) and allowing them to create the character (name, age, background, dialect, quirks, movement style, vocal pattern, etc) really allows the actor to feel that they contributed and creating something truly unique.

Admittedly I'm a huge of changing things up, and I like switching actors up because it means the show is never the same (which means that the actors aren't bored and neither are the customers). It also allows actors to work with a variety of acting styles (ex. crazy in an insane asylum, a slow and stupid zombie in a morgue, heavy dialogue in a Victorian parlor, loud and violent in a slaughterhouse). I think improv and the ability to change things up constantly is the best way for actors to grow and improve their performances.

Jim Warfield
01-13-2011, 07:43 AM
"I'm bored."
"This is too hard!"
I would try to make something easy=Bored .I tried to make it more interesting="This is too hard."
Very frustrating, especially with a very small number of "bodies" to ever choose from.
The core crew here have been here in Octobers for 6 -7 yrs. They evolved, matured, found their own individual "way" of overcoming shyness and personal issues or confusion.
When it came to dialog, at first they mostly said what I had said, then they began improvising by making fun of me! Which played pretty well with the customers! Great! Go for It!
I love those "Happy" customer$! We all do.

01-13-2011, 07:55 PM
I just wanted to clarify that in no way would we try to limit an actor's creativity - but since we have so few experienced ones, we are just trying to find ways to give the shyer or less creative ones some additional direction.

Right now we are planning on holding auditions this year, having a few training meetings to screen Allen H's dvds, and some of the training audio from RFR. Then we'll just let the actors realize what is expected from them and allow them to get comfortable with their characters.

And in the future, once we have a better talent pool to select from, perhaps bringing in a consultant to boost us even further.

Thanks to everyone who posted on this. I really appreciate the help.

Jim Warfield
02-27-2011, 08:34 PM
For most people is, "Public Speaking'. Maybe wearing a mask or heavy, obscuring make- up may help elieviate this some for some.
Freedom, creativity, Ad-libbing? Many new actors I have seen would almost run out the door screaming when such things get mentioned.(Which all by itself would be a decent scary act !)
Asking or even hinting they might try to do such things would be like asking them to fill-in for the surgeon when he begins to operate on their Mother!
"I just Can't do This!"
Once they feel somewhat comfortable just being around customers , then is the time to put more on their "plate".
I have it doubly difficult here because my house is haunted and some people will say it doesn't affect them or they aren't upset or scared by such things... then two hours later I realise they left without saying good-bye.

"Can you work in the backyard? You should dress warmly."
"I love the outdoors, the cold doesn't bother me at all!"
Then she doesn't even show up because "The cold bothers her joints,bones". Whatever?
Over the years most of my frustration has been trying to get people to work for me and be predictable as far as just showing up when they are supposed to be here.
I was once told if you need someone to work, find someone who already is working, not camped out on Mommie's sofa for the winter.(They already have things figured out for themselves!)

Soul Reaper
03-02-2011, 01:52 AM
Giving them a back story on the charactor is a good way for them to devope that charactor and inprove it.

When you do go for consulting talk to Badger or get a hold of Bob Turner from The Haunted Hydro in Ohio.
Bob does the Hauntainer University class. And has a two set dvd called Haunter-U that you can by.
I have a copy of it and find it very informative.