Monday, October 24, 2011

Toronto Zombie Walk 2011: Your Not-So-Normal Acting Exercise

It's not every day you get to act out your zombie apocalypse fantasies.  I think it's a great idea to celebrate a birthday, too.  It's actually on October 25th, but everyone's always doing something on the weekend after my birthday, and they've usually planned it months in advance, y'know?  I figure I just join a party already happening this year with Nick and a couple of our friends.  And believe it or not, I took this in as a great acting exercise, since I had decided I wasn't going to break character during the entire event.  Preparations abound!

L-R: Tony and Nick as 'survivors' and me as their 'zombie captive'.  Check out the Nerf firepower!

Nick has an awesome collection of Nerf guns, some he's repainted to look like some heavy-duty artillery.  He's been waiting for an opportunity like this to put them to 'good use' in a costume or roleplay, so he and his friend, Tony, picked up a couple of 'em and dressed up as 'survivors'.  Tony's holding the Nerf Vulcan automatic machine gun with ammo belt, while Nick proudly shows his Nerf LongShot painted in grey and tan.  We kept teasing Tony that he looked like Jesse Ventura from Predator (pictured left), especially with the hat!  Tony's friend, Daniel, came as a companion zombie - the only time a man would ever let me put makeup on his face outside of a theatre.

The bathroom looked like Dexter's killroom when we were done.

I wasn't budging on the self-zombification.  I was looking forward to it, actually.  Nick and I studied The Walking Dead Season One DVD for 'zombie walking technique' and found a great special feature about zombie makeup - liquid latex and toilet paper is the secret, folks!  I had saved a white shirt from a previous Halloween costume - a shot-up gangster, complete with caked blood and tatters.  It was a find in the Halloween department at a local dollar store that gave me a really interesting idea - a pair of 'shackles' with a long chain, fit for a prisoner.  Since the boys would be survivors, I thought it would be a great dynamic to be their 'zombie captive'.  Sweeeeet.  I always enjoy a prop to keep myself busy, since I planned to stay in character all day, so I snagged a fake brain packaged like grocery ground beef and threw in a little red Jell-O for some squishy effect.

Insert 'before the morning coffee' quips here ...

We didn't get to Trinity Bellwoods Park until 4:30 pm or so, completely missing the walk and the Zombie Wedding of Thea Munster and Adam Pearson - I saw pictures, it looked incredible.  We still had loads of fun wandering the park, meeting other zombie folk and checking out the awesome costumes and creative zombification of Disney characters, Mario Brothers and company, even a few X-Men.  A lot, a lot, a lot of impressive special effects makeup, excruciating detail to look at, it looked so painful to be real.  I only broke character twice to talk to someone about their makeup effects or costumes, mostly I shuffled right up to their faces and sniffed them violently, snorted and moved on.  If I did that to you as a fellow zombie, I dug your look, I wanted to 'mingle'. 

It was so much fun playing zombie for a few hours.  Nick and I had developed a mutual trust when it came to the roleplaying - I told him to go all the way with it - isn't it comforting to humiliate a mindless creature like a zombie with the comfort of 'heavy firepower'?  We had a fantastic go at it - we played zombie attacks where I would charge at him and he would shoot me down, and a number of times he had to 'placate me' if I got too rough with people who wanted to check me out.  I don't like to frighten children, though, but it was great to see so many kids get into the fun.  I had a few requests for pictures where I would give the kids the end of the chain as if they were leading me around.  They gotta kick outta that.  If you happen to be one of those lovely people who took one of those pictures, could I have a copy?  The kids I met on the Zombie Walk were adorable!

Tony thinks he has time to rest ...

We had a crowd gathered at one point when we did our 'charge n' shoot' routine, and Nick had walked up to my 'corpse' on the ground.  I had whispered to him to 'give 'em a show', which gave my stage-fighting skills some good practice.  He grabbed me by the back of my jacket while I was still on the ground, and I scurried low as if he was dragging me.  (We heard some gasps, so it must have looked pretty convincing!)  Nick grabbed the chain, 'yanked' me up to my feet, pointed the gun to my grunting face and said, "say 'Ma-ma!'"  I was trying so hard not to break out laughing, the only thing I could do was grunt ugly and loud.  He then dragged me to a youngling tree and 'chained' me to it.  Photographers had a field day with me then.  Hopefully I can find the pictures on the many Facebook and Flickr albums that have sprouted up.  Those lovely people have posted them on the Toronto Zombie Walk Facebook page.  Lots to browse through!

Doesn't this scream 'engagement photo'?

So what I got out of this as an acting exercise?  Plenty, plenty, plenty.  I enjoy taking risks in roles and roleplaying, and I've always wanted to perform in some sort of street or guerrilla theatre.  I had learned that I'm a bigger risk-taker than I thought, especially with the idea of being dragged around by my boyfriend.  The trust factor is incredibly important, especially the dragging and manhandling part, but a good actor knows that the one receiving the blows is the one who's doing the acting.   As I type this, I'm so damn sore.  So, remember to stretch if you're going to be doing so much physical work, yeah?

It's also the universal debate over the reasoning of whether a zombie has reasoning or if it's the embodiment of a virus, simply using a human body as a host or vehicle.  Zombie Cassandra had some personality to her, frustration at the gawking and cameras and the shackles that bound her.  I treated the zombie personality like a "human rabies," a sort of creature without reason and full of bloodlust.  There was an excerpt from Max Brooks' World War Z that stayed with me, an army commander realizing that the zombie enemy was nothing like they had ever encountered - an enemy without fear, hesitation or reason and very difficult to kill.  Soldiers are used to pointing their gun at an enemy just like them - another reasonable human being who might delay in a moment of hesitation.  Zombies aren't human.  They just keep coming.  They aren't an organized mob except for the single purpose of whole to devour living flesh.  They'll stop at nothing and will not hesitate, so you'd better shoot first or run like hell.  It's a scary thing to think about.

So, the classic actor's question - what's a zombie's motivation?  Where does it come from?  How did a zombie become so?  I was having a little fun thinking that I'd come up with a backstory for my character's zombification.  Nick and I will be doing this again for Halloween, so I'll have a little more time to put in some missed detail the first time.

We've got pictures, too!  I'm in the process of editing, but come back - they'll be up soon!

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