Masquerade Skits for the Beginner
Last week I wrote an article for people beginning their foray into cosplay masquerades, focussing on walk-ons. This week I will be focussing on skits/performances.
Skits are a wonderful part of the masquerade experience. My most fond memories of masquerades include skits from Wessex Anime, Tab and Christian, and Team Giblets. Comedy skits are the most common form of masquerade skit, and to a degree they are also the easiest form. Most people who attend anime conventions have at least a passing knowledge of most anime (unless you’re talking really really obscure stuff), and so a skit about Cardcaptor Sakura characters or One Piece is most likely going to be understood. However, that is not always the case. Below I list some (hopefully!) helpful pointers to those who are beginning their convention journey and looking to enhance it with some masquerade skit-playing.
One – Sign up in plenty of time.
Yes, this is a repeat of what I said in my previous article, but it is doubly important for those wishing a skit entry. Whether you’re planning the next comedy masterpiece, or a dancing marvel, you only have a certain amount of time to do it in, and the longer spaces fill up fast. Each event has a different time limit, so always check out with either a committee member or previous attendee to get a heads-up on how long you have.
Two – Speaking of time: Keep it short and sweet.
As mentioned above, you only have a certain amount of time to get your skit across, which includes walk-on time. The biggest thing to remember here is that you don’t want to lose your audience. At events such as an MCM Comic Con, there is a wide mix of attendees in the audience, and not all of them will be interested in your Sailor Moon dance piece. With this in mind, try to keep your piece as short as you can. Back when I was performing dance skits, we kept our tracks to a one-minute forty average. The longest track we had was two minute. Having a shorter time is a little harder on you, as it often means you have to cut sections you liked, or shorten them. It is, however, much easier on the tech desk, the organisers, and the audience members themselves. And a happy audience gives a good response, which will make you much happier in return.
Three – Content
Whilst I wouldn’t dream of policing what people include in their skits, I would like to give a few pointers to what, as a ten-year convention-goer, I have found to work and not work. One of the biggest things I have seen not work is in-jokes. These can be as minor as something that “everyone” who knows the series “should” get, or as major as jokes you and your group find hysterical. Series in-jokes can sometimes look like mistakes (as was the case when my friend and I did our Sailor Moon skit), or can plain not be understood. Obviously, I am not expecting you to only perform a skit that is relevant to everyone, but understanding is something to bear in mind. Think of the event you’re at, and plan accordingly. Are you at Minamicon, and planning an epic Marvel/DC skit? Might not be the best target audience, similarly if you’re planning an epic classic Sailor Moon skit at MCM Comic Con.
Also, and it shouldn’t have to be said, but if the crux of a skit is based on same-gender characters kissing onstage, just don’t. It’s disrespectful, partly to the creators of the characters, but mostly to people who are in same-gender relationships. Seeing your relationship reduced to the punchline of the joke is not pleasant, or necessary. So please, steer clear of those sort of punchlines.
Four – Practice.
Another “well duh” note, but it bears a reminder. Your skit will come across more polished and enjoyable if you and your teammates have practised. Whether you’re doing a dramatical skit, a comedy skit, or some sort of song/dance performance; practice, as the saying goes, makes perfect. No-one is expecting a full Royal Shakespeare Company performance from a fellow convention-goer, but not having a performance slowed by missed cues, fumbled lines, or unintended panicked expressions is nice. Obviously, I’m not expecting you to conquer your stage fright if you, like me, suffer from it, nor am I demanding that you create a perfect performance off the bat. But I assure you, a goodly amount of practising makes a huge difference, both to yourselves and to the audience.
Five – Relax!
You’re not being graded, this isn’t going to matter past what you make it matter. This skit, this performance, this song; it’s for you, your time to have a heck of a lot of fun doing something you love for friends and fellow convention-goers. In the immortal words of Lance-Corporal Jones, “Don’t panic, Mr Mainwaring!” Go and own that stage, and when you come off, you’ll be glad you gave this masquerade skit thing a shot.