Character Development: Searching for Laney’s Identity via Social Networking Sites
Posted on Monday, May 21, 2012 at 1:06 PM
by Rae Gray, Rivendell Ensemble Member and "Laney" in crooked
As an actor, I’m big on character development. My goal, for every show, is to create a character that is as fully developed and realistic as possible. There are several ways I go about this. For almost every project I have worked on since middle school, I have filled out a guided journal called “All About Me.” It’s a thin, navy blue, hardcover book that I first discovered at an Urban Outfitters (I’m not cool enough to shop for clothes there, but I do enjoy perusing their comical book section). “All About Me” is a book of questions. Hundreds and hundreds of questions. It covers the basics such as birthday, address, and favorite color, but it also asks questions such as “To whom do you hate to be compared?” and “What is something you wish you could change about yourself without having your friends or family comment on it?” and “Do you easily develop crushes?” These are all things I know about myself and, therefore, think my character should know these things, too. What I find most interesting is when a character I’m playing can’t answer one of those questions, and how that missing information might add to the play.
Seem a little neurotic? Maybe it’s a little excessive. How could knowing whether or not my character easily develops crushes, or what their favorite color is, impact the play at all? Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know if creating answers to these all these questions has a tangible result. But I don’t care because I know that I’m putting as rich of a person as possible up there, and there’s something comforting in that, something artistically fulfilling.
For Laney, the role I play in crooked, I have, once again, filled out another “All About Me” (though this time, I got the teenage edition). But how are teenagers today really defining themselves? Not through guided journals (that can just be for my artistic purposes), but rather, the internet. Now don’t get me wrong, Laney has a journal. Her journal matters more than anything else in the world to her. But she uses it to create fictional stories rather than soul search and discover her identity. Almost every 14-year-old has a Facebook - that was the age I first got mine – and I think they use it as a tool to find who they are and project a certain image of themselves on to the world (this is very important as teenage years are, more than anything, a time to establish your identity). So I decided, for my blog post, to create a Facebook page for Laney. http://www.facebook.com/elizabethlanewaters
In her “about me” section, she writes, “I am a 14-year-old writer. I write short stories. I hope to win the Nobel Prize for literature someday. My dream is to attend UC Berkeley's English Program, the #1 English program in the US.” The Nobel Prize dream is mentioned in the play, but not the Berkeley part; that was my personal addition. Her favorite quotes are all from famous authors. You can see that Laney’s favorite books include “As I Lay Dying,” “Catcher in the Rye,” and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” all of which are, in some shape or form, mentioned in the play. Of course, I’ve added more books that I think Laney would be a fan of, plus her favorite movies, sports teams and board games, which aren’t really mentioned in the play. Her favorite TV shows are set in Wisconsin, her home state, which she misses very much since moving to Oxford, Mississippi.
A huge theme for Laney in crooked is finding out who she is, and how exactly she defines herself. A writer, a holiness lesbian, a genius? She’s not sure, even though she may think she is. But one major way kids today define themselves is through social networking sites, so why not choose to develop a character that way, too?
Though her page is public, and you should be able to see everything even if you don’t have a Facebook. Feel free to add “Laney” as a friend. She is open to making friends, especially since she is living in a new city and all. And she will occasionally post short stories she has written, and links she finds funny or interesting. She’s a cool girl. You should friend her.