Art of Fear: Wild and Crazy Acting

Now we are getting into some of my favorite types of character acting. We have covered Loud and Violent, Slow yet Aggressive, and Stupid yet Creepy so now let’s dive into some of the most difficult styles of haunted attraction acting with first the Wild and Crazy acting style.

Wild and Crazy acting is just how it sounds. To the customer its unpredictable and because of that it raises tension within the customer. It is very physically demanding and also requires dialog relying heavily on your ability to improv. Although it seems to the customer that your character is wild, crazy, and unpredictable the fact is you are not that way at all. You have to plan carefully your act…think a dozen steps ahead…and have several options to take your character based quickly off of customer interaction.

If we are to pigeonhole this specific style of acting into a character that is common enough for everyone to be able to relate to then let us use the haunted attraction clown as an example. Again, keep in mind these acting styles are NOT limited to the examples we are using. I am just trying to pick examples that will be easy to see the concepts I’m talking about.

The clown…people either love them or hate them. That haunted attraction clown people either fear or despise them. In order for a clown to be effective in a haunted attraction it must have its own personality, or it becomes forgettable in a sea of clowns in haunts. Being wild and crazy seems to come with the territory for a clown, but it’s much more than just jumping around acting goofy. This is where a basic background comes into play to help shape the character into something unique. It also helps with the dialog especially when you are backed in a corner and find yourself bantering with customers. Your movements should be planned in such a way that they seem chaotic to the customer. Jumping around or tumbling if there is space. This is a very physically oriented style of acting. The more you move around or act jittery the more the customers are thrown off balance.

You are insane…not Jack Nicholson in the Shinning insane…your crazy! There is nothing subtle about any part of your character. You exist in your crazy world and view the customers as intruders to that world. They endanger it and that is your motivation for the scare. They either adapt to your craziness or you send them running and crying for their lives and sanity. I know I sound crazy, but do you get the point?

A wild and crazy character blends seamlessly into their environment so you must know your room or acting area inside and out. Use it to your advantage and I don’t just mean the best hit points for customers. Your actions must bring that room alive, so the customers feel swallowed into your character’s reality. Use everything in the room. Are there platforms to jump on and off of? If so use them. Are there props…refer to them use them in your act. Plus, never stop or let up even to breath. You MUST be chaotic in everything including your dialog.

Speaking of which what do you say. Anything works. When first starting out to help actors with dialog I always say look to song lyrics and movie line…things you know. The beauty of a wild and crazy acting style is you do not have to make sense at all. You can throw out a song lyric and then a movie line that don’t make sense going together. You sell your dialog with your facial expressions. I remember one time a great haunt actor and friend once sat in an asylum set reciting from chapters from a car repair manual. It worked because he sold it as a wild and crazy character. It is not what you say it is how you say it.

This is an acting style where you need to start thinking outside the box. Push the limits of your imagination. Characters for this acting still that I did were bizarre to say the least. I did Gumby and Cat in the Hat…dancing around all crazy throwing everyone off guard not just with my act but the imagery my character portrayed. I was also Ernie in a Sesame Street Burt and Ernie team act. I classify all those within the wild and crazy acting style. However, they don’t need to be so extreme or bizarre looking. My simple top hat suit wearing Mr. Maniacal has moments of being wild and crazy. I even did a character once which was inspired by the film version of The Who’s Tommy. Towards the end of the movie Tommy placed his “disciples” in a head piece that blocked their eyes, plugged their ears, and sealed their mouths. So, I wore tattered scrubs and did a version where wires came from my brain to covers over my eyes and I sold the character with movement and no dialog. It was very effective because the movement was wild and crazy. It also helped I could toss my arm behind my head when I was younger. It was a wild and crazy act that worked very well.

This acting style can work with pretty much any character you design and create. Plus, like I said in a previous essay it entertains those customers you cannot scare or also can be used as a distraction when working with others. This style is limited to clowns or twisted children’s characters. Guys dressed in drag, sideshow freaks, nerds, wild and crazy demons even…the options are endless.

You need to be energetic and think quick on your feet in both the way you move and what you say. You need to be confident in these abilities and not be afraid to experiment and try something outside the box. In actuality a good wild and crazy character will also use elements found in all the other acting styles. Movement is key with this acting style and so is experimentation. If you can master this style of acting, then the sky is the limit with your characters. Don’t be afraid and start experimenting!