tips and insights on working as a mascot or costume character.
There is much more to those lovable mascots and costume characters we see at ballparks, restaurants, and theme parks; the job is far from just putting on a suit and than walking around.
All to often a person is "volunteered" to do the job. Frequently a person who hates the idea of putting on the suit ends up playing the part. If you don't want to be the character, then you will not do a good job at playing the character.
I started out as the mascot for my junior college. As a non-traditional student I discovered that becoming a different character was a way to have some fun and be a part of the college community. I also got to practice some of the things I learned in my dance classes.
One mascot turned into a job as many different characters, which in turn led to my biggest job. That of playing Chuck E. Cheese.
There are no great secrets to playing various costume characters. It does; however, require commitment, patience, and some creativity. The most important thing to remember though is to have some fun with what you are doing. Once you put on the costume, you are no longer yourself; you become the character. Inside the costume you are anonymous. Take advantage of you anonymity and let go of your inhibitions. People expect the characters to be silly and act goofy. As long as you remember to keep it clean and watch your behaviour don't be afraid to have a little fun.
But there is more to playing a costume character than having fun. Some children are afraid of the characters. Remember to use caution and desecration when approaching children. Be extra careful around children who show signs of being afraid. Keep your distance unless a child runs toward you to give you a big hug. Be friendly,
wave, try to make the children laugh, but keep your distance
and let the child come to you. You certainly don’t want to traumatize the child or frighten him even more than he already is. The parents will appreciate the time efforts you take with their child. In fact, I have even seen children who were afraid of Chuck E. seek him out to give him a hug before they left the restaurant.
One group of children whom I have seen overlooked and ignored too many times is the children with disabilities. As Chuck E. – as well as my other characters – I made it a point to spend extra time with these children. Taking the time to interact with these special children brings a joy and satisfaction all of its own. I sometimes found it hard to determine who was the more excited about my spending time with the children with disabilities; the children themselves or the children’s parents. The day my Chuck E. signed (sign language) his name the little girl’s mother was
ecstatic because someone had taken the extra time to spend
with this lady’s child and took the effort to communicate with the child.
When I played Chuck E., I was the primary person to play the character at that location. As a result, I gave Chuck E. his own personality. Chuck E. wasn’t just a mouse; he was also a kid just like all the children who came to see him. My Chuck E. became one of the gang. He played games and so forth right along with the other children. Creating a personality for your characters eliminates the boredom from the job; even if your character does nothing more than walks around a park all day long. It seemed like a day didn’t go by that at least one parent would ask me when I was working again because that was when they wanted to bring their children back again. They liked the way my Chuck E. performed and interacted with their children. To me that was the highest compliment that they could have given to me.
Unfortunately; the job is not always fun and games. There are times that as a costume character people will hit or attack you. Some places will protect their mascots to keep this from happening, but not always. As Chuck E. I had one store that vehemently protected me and one other store that did not. As a result I was injured on more than one occasion. But as a general rule the job is safe and challenging.
Always remember that playing the part of a costume character is not a terrible job. It can be a very rewarding job. Keep it clean and most important of all HAVE FUN.
Tips for Costume Character Performers
By Sherrill Fulghum
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