Don’t Fear the Ears
- Magic Ears: Part One of Two
- Magic Ears: Part Two of Two (this page)
While we often think of elves as being cute, small, and perky, but they don’t have to be, if they have good performing chops. My son is a big guy, 19 years old, and he has a red beard. He has great instincts on playing with the kids. His elf name is “Oddball,” and he’s got a great dead-pan delivery.
Kid: “Are you an Elf?”
Kid: “Aren’t you pretty big to be an Elf?”
Oddball: “Aren’t you pretty small to be a Human?”
Kid: “Can you show me some magic?”
Oddball: “You first.”
It’s strange, but his matter-of-fact delivery makes kids love him. He refers to me in character as “Mr. C” and asks the kids, “Do you want to meet the Big Man?”
Oddball has one more amazing talent: He is a wiz with any smartphone and camera. So he’s truly helpful for getting photos done and lines down. A great elf can make your event amazing.
Performance Tips for Elves
Great character work makes a difference! Here are some performing tips to help you out.
- NBC. Claus or no, if you are a Performer, you Never Break Character in front of the customers. This does not mean you have to be insincere or artificial. But Skippy the Elf talking about his truck transmission going out, is going to harsh the mood.
- Yes! And… One of the first rules of Improvisation is, “Always go for the agreement.” Try not to say No. Instead, agree and modify. “Elves only eat Candy!” “We do love our candy! But would you like to know a little secret? I like salads and fresh fruit, too!”
- Be Positive and give Positive Feedback. When you see somebody do a great bit, praise it, support it, share it, and build on it. Know what your Jolly face looks like.
- Build your Repertoire. Goofy Christmas jokes, Christmas songs and trivia, magic tricks, balloon animals, and other skills in your toolkit are invaluable. The better entertainer you are, the higher the demand for you will be.
- Appearance is Key. Look great, smell great. Never chew gum on set or smell like smoke (of any kind). Check your mirror on a regular basis. And when others have issues, let them know in a friendly way. “Want a mint? I think that last kid messed up your beard,” and so on.
- Back Story. Seriously. Build your Character back story, and it will help you stay in character. Sit down, talk to others, and have them ask questions about your character’s history, goals, and interests.
- Find your key gesture and phrase. If “Rocket the Elf” is always running around, his key phrase might be “Rrrready to go!” with a snappy salute. Key phrases and gestures help you get and stay in character. And they may change over time.
- Learn to project and find your character voice. You don’t need to blast someone, but if you and another elf are doing some schtick, you need to play to and cheat your body toward to the audience, to make certain they can hear you.
- SING! (Even if you can’t.) Learn to lead folks in song, and do so without fear. Remember, your audience WANTS to play! Two songs are crucial: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Jingle Bells. Try to add more.
- Languages are AWESOME. If you can speak or learn to speak other languages and say various season greetings in those languages, the audience will love you. Extra brownie points if you are fluent in American Sign Language (ASL).
Wrapping It Up in a Bow
In Character: The best supporting performers make the Leads shine! They do this by lending energy and attention to them by being supportive and going for agreement. This helps create the story that our audiences want to be in. A a good Elf in character (perky or grumpy) is always going to defer to the Claus, and should always be a bit in awe and in love with them while in character. After all, Santa is a living Antique and does the impossible.
Out of Character: The same concept applies. The Claus you work with probably has a great deal invested in costuming, hair care, training, insurance, and much more. Your average Santa is wearing 35+ pounds of gear and could be sweating half a pint of water per hour. Their day starts before they show up on set, and lasts at least an hour after they finish. It is physically exhausting and emotionally draining to stay “ON!” all day. A Pro-Santa in season is a lot like a broadway performer or marathon runner, for 30+ days. The help and support you give them will pay huge dividends in the fun and magic of what we do.
And we thank you for all you do.