A few years ago I had a great time performing the role of Kris Kringle in a regional stage production of “Miracle on 34th St.” Being a trained actor with a serious craft I knew that to create this character convincingly I couldn’t simply put on a mask or portray a “magical” individual. I had to create a realistic person with a deep conviction that he actually was Santa Claus. To achieve this I did extensive research into the origins of the Santa tradition and wrote a back-story for my character that would justify his belief based on those traditions.
In the acting world this back story is called a character’s biography. I won’t go into detail here about all the imaginative choices I made for this biography, just two salient points. I gave him a back ground that allowed him to be expert in the traditions and put him in a circumstance where he became convinced that it was his destiny to identify with and enact those traditions.
After a life changing experience that caused him to change careers entirely when he got fired, (from being a toy importer, purchasing agent for a large toy store and author of a definitive news-letter on Santa traditions) I imagined that he turned to show-business and parlayed his expertise into a vaudeville act where he told stories and entertained with seasonal song and dance.
This allowed me to justify a character that not only seemed to “know it all” but also presented himself with the self -knowledge (and flair) of a performer who “owned” his act.
After this production ended, I started to think more and more about the “act” my character could have performed and decided that I would craft such an act for myself for a one man show. I continue to hone the material each season and I think I’m almost having as much fun as Kris would have had!