Cosplay Performances: Dazzling the Stage!

16 May , 2011,
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So you’ve got a great costume, you’ve got your poses down pat, and you can even remember a pet phrases or two. You’d think that’s enough for you to strut your stuff on stage, and to dazzle the audience with a stellar cosplay performance right?

The reality is, whether you’re just starting out in the competition circuit, or a regular face at cosplay events, performances aren’t just about looking good, preening, and posing for the cameras. Cosplayers are constantly upping the ante by playing up the WOW factor, creating spectacle through the use of elaborate props and complex technology, or hell, just by relying on good old fashioned showmanship.

While epic props and expensive theatrical effects might be out of reach for most of us, there’s one thing that’s invariably free, and that’s you, the star of the show. In this new, bi-monthly column, I’ll be discussing various ways we can level up our performances through the use of basic acting techniques and tools.

And in our inaugural Cosplay Performances column, we’ll be talking about performance preparation and planning.

Preparing for a Cosplay Performance in 4 Easy Steps

1. Understand The Event

Before you sign up for any cosplay contest, it’s important to figure out if your favorite outfit’s right for the event, and whether it’s going to win big props from the audience. This is especially pertinent if audience appeal is a significant aspect that impacts your final score.

You wouldn’t want to dress up as a character from some obscure anime when you’re doing something at E3, for example, and hamming it up in front of a bunch of videogame nerds.

2. Suss out the Judging Criteria

The quality of your cosplay performance is a defining factor for any competition, but some competitions place greater emphasis on other components, such as online votes through Facebook, Audience polls, and the like.

The World Cosplay Summit, for example, devotes 100 points (fully a third) of its criteria to the performance (it’s further broken down into additional criterion), while License 2 Play’s Cosgames attributes only 20% to the performance (with an additional 20% for character portrayal).

Knowing just how much of your final tally is attributed to the performance component can help you prioritize the amount of effort you should put into executing it. It also helps to find out the expected duration of your performance, as this will impact your script.

3. Wise Up to Your Competition

Every cosplayer brings something unique to the stage. The question is what? It’s important to know who you’re up against, which outfits they’re wearing, and what they’re capable of. Know what they can do, and what you can do different, or better.

Identify your own strengths in relation to the competition, and play it up during your performance. If you’re agile and acrobatic, and can actually handle a sword, pick a character from an action anime and stage a sword fight. If you’re a Vocaloid who can actually croon a tune without going off-key, please do so.

Or hey, if you’ve got a talent for carving a live-sized animal sculpture outta ice  in under a minute, why the hell not?

4. Know the Set

Even if you’ve got a great cosplay sequence planned, replete with flashing strobe lights, smoke effects, and fantasy monsters projected onto a backdrop, you’ll never know if the event organizers can deliver. Or the stage could be simply too small, and swinging your seven meter long buster sword around would just play hell with the backdrop.

It’s always a good idea to call ahead to find out the size of the stage and the facilities available, or hell, just do a bit of research. Typically though, you should have no troubles getting access to a sound system (and sometimes a video screen), so plan your performance with that in mind.

Once you’ve got these four items taken care of, you should be well on your way towards putting on a kickass cosplay performance.

In our next installment, we’ll talk about scripting, and how telling a good story endears you to the audience.