We are re-creating Victorian London as Charles Dickens saw it, with shops, parades, music, and Christmas Cheer for all. It is our job as entertainers to create the illusion of reality by lending our hearts and minds to the task of developing three-dimensional characters from Dickens' works, complete with his or her own background, needs, ambitions, and idiosyncrasies. It is the hopeful purpose of these notes to enable you to start or continue your character development and suggest some paths to help you become an interesting and engaging part of our entertainment.
To create a real and interesting character you must keep several things in mind. Unless you are an accomplished actor, do not choose a character that is radically different from your own age, personality, or physical appearance -- stage make-up is not convincing when your audience is closer than twelve feet.
Choose to be an active person, not a passive person. A quiet, shy fellow or a blushing wallflower who cannot speak will not be noticed by fellow actors or the audience of fairgoers. We try to draw the audience in to our illusion, so you must choose a character who can interact not only with the other actors but with our audience as well. An ideal character can speak to everyone and draw them into our world. If you keep these suggestions in mind, your character will profit by it. Remember, good choices make good characters, bad choices make dull characters.
Now let's move from the general to the specific, for not only should your character be interesting, she/he must be solidly drawn from Charles Dickens' world. How do you create a Dickensian character? Read some Dickens! You can begin in any library, and there are more than 1,000 characters from which to choose. Consider the picture Dickens paints of Victorian England and the kinds of people he describes. Then choose the sort of character you wish to portray. Refer to the Dickens Bibliography for books from which you can draw characters.
Once you select a Dickens character you will be greeted with a wealth of specific details about that person, provided by an author noted for his clear, in-depth, and delightful character descriptions. In his pages you will find your character's name and much more. Your physical description, attitude, profession, and background are likely to be found as well, providing you with concrete material to bring this character to life.
Don't carry all this research in your head -- use it! How would the fact that a person is a Bagman reflect itself in his clothes, his speech, his manners, his bearing? What about a Barrister? A widow? A Crossing-sweeper? Use your research to answer questions for yourself. What am I doing in London? How would I react to a Pot-boy? To a Warfinger? Or to a Temperance Worker or Resurrectionist? Does my character have any special likes or dislikes -- and what can I do to make them apparent? The more knowledgeable you are about your character, the freer you will feel to engage her/him in interesting and demanding situations.