Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Create Your Own Character this Halloween

Shelley Wollert creates modern pop music for kids and families. Her character, Elska, is a modern pioneer who discovered a newly formed volcanic island off the coast of Iceland. Shelley, and the team behind Elska, were selected as one of our 2014-15 New Victory LabWorks Artists in Residence and will develop a new work for kids and families as part of the program this year. 

By Shelley Wollert

I'm a musician and actress whose job it is to dress up and pretend. A few years ago, after taking a trip to Iceland, I was inspired to create a unique character that no one had ever heard of before. I heard a true story about a little island named Surtsey that bubbled up off the coast of Iceland in 1963. It was made by a volcanic eruption deep down on the ocean floor. As I stared out into the frigid ocean, looking past icebergs along the South coast, I thought to myself, who might live on the newest landform on Earth? What would they look like? What would they do on this tiny island?

Soon, I started thinking about a girl who was a pioneer. She loved to sing and she loved adventure. She was sometimes scared, sometimes brave and usually both at once. She loved animals and loved to hike in the snow.

I thought about what she would need to wear to live on a tiny island near the Arctic Circle. It was cold there, so she'd need some good boots, a warm hat, socks and gloves. And she'd need a cape, and the cape would have to be colorful, so her friends could see her in the snow.

Before I knew it, I had dreamed up someone who no one had heard of before. She needed a name of course, and we gave her one: Elska. I chose a name that I liked very much and had meaning to me. Elska means "love" in Icelandic.

Perhaps you are thinking about who YOU might be this time of year? Halloween is here and you might be thinking of doing something a teeny weeny bit different for this year's costume. Last year you were a vampire, the year before a ghost. You've been pumpkins and bumblebees and princesses. So, what about coming up with something completely different this year? Maybe you could be someone or something no one has ever heard of before! Maybe you could be someone weird, strange, and wonderful. If you are interested in making this Halloween a bit of an adventure -- here are my tips and tricks for creating a character and costume that is truly unique:

When there's a whole world out there of things to be, it helps to narrow down your choices! You might want to begin by asking yourself, "am I a person? An animal? An object?"

If you think about it, everyone and everything lives somewhere, so pick a place for your character to live! Here's some ideas on choosing a place:

  • Choose a place you love to visit (Central Park! the beach!)
  • Choose a place you wish you could visit (the moon! Antarctica!)
  • Imagine a new and imaginary place that doesn't even exist!

Add a few details to bring your character to life. You can perform these on Halloween night!

  • What is you character's name?
  • How does your character walk?
  • What language do they speak? How do they say hello? (Elska says "Hiddi Hiddi")

It's time to think about what your character will wear. Try drawing a quick picture and ask yourself:

  • Do they wear clothes? Your animal might like to wear a top hat!
  • What colors does your character wear? Are they wacky or are they realistic?
  • Peek in your closet. Is there something in there that your character would wear?

Here's a few examples of unique characters that I created by answering the questions above:

Carl, the Pencil who lives in Hawaii.
Ned, the ant pilot.
Rita, a veterinarian who treats aliens on the moon.

Look around for ideas. Often times the most simple things that are lying around can make a great costume or character. For example, this green coffee warmer that we bought in Iceland was made by a wonderful designer named Sigríður Ásta Árnadóttir. When it came time to make Elska's costume, we contacted her and she designed and produced it! Can you see the similarity between the coffee warmer and Elska's hat?

Use your "favorites!" Your favorite song might be your character's favorite song. Your favorite name might be your character's name. Your favorite yellow pants might be a great starting point for creating a banana character. This little white toy is a music box that I bought while traveling in Iceland. It is one of my favorite things. He became the inspiration for a character named "Shooshi" who lives on the Island of Elska. Shooshi is a musician who plays bell music in a mossy valley.

Most importantly, HAVE FUN! There is no right or wrong when creating your own character. You can be as goofy or as serious as you want to be. What is most important is having fun and playing, not how "perfect" your costume is. A great character could be dressed in something very simple. What makes a character unique is not necessarily their clothes, but often how they feel, how they act, and how they live.

Go for it, and have a very happy, wild and weird Halloween!

We'd love to see your fantastic costumes this Halloween! Tweet (@newvictory) or Instagram (@newvictorytheater) using the hashtag #newvic so that we can see your characters. We'll even share our favorites with our online audience!

Learn more about Elska, or buy some of Elska's costume pieces for your little one. 

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