Cosplay Performances: Scripting it

17 Aug , 2011,
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In my previous entry, I described some easy ways to prepare for a cosplay competition, and if you’ve done your research, got a good handle on the judges, and think your costume’s stage ready, it’s time to take next step – scripting and producing your routine.

1. Writing the script 

Unless you’re doing a song and dance routine on stage, a cosplay skit is very much like a theatrical play or a scene out of a movie. There’s characters, there’s a semblance of plot, there’s conflict, and there’s a payoff.

Coming up with an original performance can be tricky for first timers, so it’s no foul if you rehash a scene from anime or manga. However, if you’d like to take a stab at coming up with something original, here are a couple tips.

a. The Setup:

It’s important to set the scene, and this can be accomplished with a simple voice-over (VO). The VO introduces your character, establishes the context of your performance, and provides an important lead-in to the action.

Keep it short, but keep it engaging. The VO’s supposed to drum up excitement and get the audience prepped for when you take the stage after all.

Here are some examples:

Sample VO #1:  “Having braved the dangers of Dracula’s Castle, Simon Belmont, bearer of the Vampire Killer must now confront his worst enemy – himself.”

Sample VO #2: “To save Academy City from plunging into war, Kamijyou Touma challenges golem summoner Sherry Cromwell to battle. When Science and Magic clash, who will prevail?”

You could also work your introduction into the performance through the use of dialogue, though this requires greater deliberation in your writing.

A generic enemy could shout out your character’s name, or you could introduce yourself by addressing the audience (and breaking the fourth wall in the process).

Sample, Enemy Introduction: “You’ve got nowhere left to run. Come quietly, Goemon!”

Sample, Self Introduction: “Where monsters rampage, I’m there to take them down! Where treasure glitters, I’m there to claim it! Where an enemy rises to face me, victory will be mine! I am Lina Inverse, and if you (points at the audience) say otherwise, I’ve got a fireball right here with your name on it!” 

b. The Performance Proper:

Let’s plunge into the meat of your performance. This is the part that either makes or breaks the competition, so it’s important to plan this right. It’s got to have buzz, it’s got to be dynamic, and it’s got to be entertaining. It might seem daunting at first, but it’s really not that tough.

In most cases, a cosplay performance could be as simple as a fight between two characters – the protagonist (that’s you) and an antagonist (typically a stage hand or your competition partner), or your character ‘shadow boxing’ with phantasmal assailants on stage.

If you’re a fan of the character you’re cosplaying (why the hell wouldn’t you be?), then you’d already have a context for the scene.

If you’re Ichigo from Bleach, you’d probably want to vanquish a hollow on stage. If you’re Tomoharu from Asura Cryin, then maybe you could summon Kurogane. If you’re Dante from Devil May Cry, how ’bout demonstrating your gun-fu?

Come up with a framework for the entire segment. Plan out the actions, then add in the character’s favorite lines, gestures and mannerisms to spice up your performance. If the character’s got a unique victory pose or opening stance, be sure to emulate it. If the character’s got a famous catchphrase, deliver it with panache! Part of the fun of cosplaying is in roleplaying and acting the part. If you can do it well, it will definitely score points with the judges!

Also, you’re usually allowed to rope in helpers for your performance so long as they’re not other cosplay contestants. This is especially helpful, if you’re doing a solo act. Stage hands make great sword fodder, and they can help to manipulate essential props into position, so think about how you can integrate them into your sequence.

2. What next? 

Well, rehearse, rehearse and rehearse. Practice your performance in front of your friends (or if you’re shy, in front of a mirror). Tweak your performance and tailor it to suit the audience. Sometimes you might think you’ve got a great line, but your audience might think otherwise. Or if you’ve come up with an awesome move, but it looks really wonky on stage, it’s probably a good idea to take it out of your rotation.

Keep working at it, and be sure to accept feedback from your friends!

3. Creating a Performance Clip:

And finally, if you’d like to beef up your performance, then you’d want to incorporate sound and music into your performance.

You can use a USB microphone to pre-record your dialogue, and free software like Audacity to put your audio clip together.

Also check out Freesound, which has a large library of sound effects you can introduce into your recording, such as sword swings and clashes.

That’s it for this tutorial, folks. Next time, we’ll look into choreographing a stage fight using common theatrical techniques, and methods for enhancing your performance with live sounds!

Until then, cheerio!