Sunday, 29 June 2014

Becoming Arrow 3: An Inner Journey?

As I put on the costume and start playing the character, something interesting starts to happen. It is quite an awkward feeling to be walking with a hood almost covering your eyes. You are forced to look downwards, and you are ‘shading your eyes’ , as if they would betray you by being visible. This creates a sense of smallness, of invisibility that, as I realize, is capturing the stealthy nature of this character so well. I gradually notice that I start to feel alone in what seems to be a increasingly strange and hostile world. As my character, I am observing my surroundings and what I see, I am weighing and judging. I place myself at what looks like ‘strategic points’ from which I can oversee parts of the convention area, where I ‘freeze’ and attempt to melt into the shadows.
And gradually I start noticing that the people around me start interacting, not with me, but with the character. A certain distance seems to be setting in between my fellow fans and me, some attempt to start a conversation, but fail to continue it when confronted with this character. I am a bit amused by this, as I know first hand how difficult it is to interact with someone who is in 'full character'! By way of an experiment, I deliberately " drop him" a few times, and immediately, the interactions with my surroundings become profoundly different. And then something remarkable happens. As I enter an elevator, already with some people, conversation stops while I stand there brooding and observing. It does not take long, but as we all exit, one of the girls bends towards me and whispers, just for my ears: “Have a great day, Oliver!” and for a moment I am actually stunned. In character, I reply that she better keep that knowledge to herself, upon which she grabs her camera and takes a picture.

This –and other little events like these- convince me that something really interesting is happening and that there is more to ‘playing’ this fictitious character than meets the eye. Apparently, somehow, the image I am building inside, the emotions and feelings, are being picked up by the people around me.

As I continue doing this, other weird things start to happen. Remember the keywords I used to build up Arrow: ARCHETYPE, FORCE FOR GOOD, ANONYMOUS, HIDDEN, MISSION, FACELESS? These are still there but, as I walk around, I am also getting new insights into this character: he possesses a great Strength as he seeks to bring Justice according to a finely attuned sense of Judgment as he fulfills the role of an archetypal Archer. It is insights such as these that convince me something very interesting is going on, as this seems to grow beyond simply roleplaying a character: the character itself seems to come alive through me. I do a number of ‘cosplay’ sessions in character and gradually it becomes apparent that “Arrow” has a lot to tell me.

Now, I am not an actor, but I imagine this is the kind of thing an actor would also experience playing certain characters, especially if these are of an archetypal nature. I recall the many stories from actors who played in series such as Battlestar Galactica, on how playing their characters who went to all kinds of transformations and ordeals actually changed them personally as well. It seems that what started as an innocent and fun cosplay will now shift into a more personal journey, if I allow it. That is great, as I have already found out that cosplaying as a competitive art is not something I enjoy. I am not the only one with an Arrow costume, however, the others look more screen-correct and therefore better than mine. I need to take this into another direction, and this sudden shift into such an ‘inner journey’, to me, is much more valuable! I cannot wait for the next opportunity at London Film and Comic Con to “put him on” and, in the meantime, I have some ideas on how to improve a bit on the costume. Let’s see what he will tell me then!

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