When stage actors deliver a performance with more than one character, they must demonstrate the characters’ shift using different physical movements. These changes, coupled with a change in vocal interpretation, show the viewers a dialogue between two or more characters. This illustration is referred to as ” character pops” or ” pops.”
One way to look at pops is to think of it as a scene from a TV show or movie. When two or more characters are talking, the camera shows you the first character when he is speaking, then cuts instantly to the second character when she responds. In the film industry, this is called a “jump cut.” In theater speech, the character pop is very similar. It would help if you abruptly changed your posture, facial expression, speech pattern, and other attributes you’ve attached to each character to show your audience which character you are presently portraying.
Tips to follow when you are performing as multiple characters on stage:
- Facial expression: This is the most noticeable change you need to make because people’s eyes are typically drawn to your face when you talk. Come up with a raw facial expression for each character so that you can go back to that expression each time you move between characters. Try to use extremes here whenever possible: if one character is loving and lively, smile when you play that character on opposing your villain’s scowl.
- Arm Position: Many stage actors excel at this by giving each of their characters a signature move, such as lighting a cigarette, keeping one hand on the hip, or holding a book. This helps your viewers to remember the character, and it adds attention to your poses.
- Gestures: This goes hand in hand with arm posture and position. Gestures should describe a character’s personality and demonstrate their significance in the piece.
- Posture: If you are doing a couple of characters, one of them should be taller than the other. Demonstrate this by bending at the knees and arching your shoulders slightly, and make sure you level up each time you are performing the second character. In gigs with more than a couple of characters, use a mixture of postures: a tall person (turned-up nose, raised chin, arched back), a person who is your height (focus on facial expressions, and an accent), a person who is shorter than you (relaxed neck, bent knees), a person with a hunched back (bent arms, bent knees, extended neck, dramatically hunched shoulders), and so on. This is something that you must practice and exercise in front of a mirror to get right.
- Your face’s direction: Turn your body slightly to the right when you are playing one character, and somewhat to the left when you play another. If you only have a couple of characters, the first should face forward while the other turns slightly to the left or right (your choice) each time she speaks. If you have more than three, you can alter your characters’ positions, but make sure that your main character is always looking forward so that your viewers can rely on one constant.
In addition to pops, most stage actors also use different accents or “voices” – Scottish, British, Southern, French, Valley Girl, Midwestern, Old Man, Surfer Dude, and so on – to separate their roles. But it’s alright if you don’t have an expanded accents repertoire. All you have to do is use a separate vocal interpretation for each person in your piece. You can do this by merely having your voice at a loud/normal volume for one character and then using a calm, shy voice for another. There’s also the ‘pitch’ – you can use a powerful falsetto for one, and a flat growl for another.
The most crucial thing to remember is that you must be harmonious and bold. Pops are a great way to push yourself and show off your talent as a stage actor.