November 8th, 2008

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Coyoty impersonates a big red dog.

Today I volunteered to play costumed characters at the 17th Annual Connecticut Children's Book Fair at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut.  The characters I played were Clifford the Big Red Dog and Corduroy, with other children's book characters being Lyle Crocodile, one of Maurice Sendak's monsters, Skippyjon Jones, and Strega Nonael_wereturkey  was also there playing characters, and wally_wabbit  was there as a helper.

This is the first time I've worn a commercial character costume, and I discovered that they apparently are not intended to be worn at any event they are worn at.  If you can see out of them at all, it will not be below eye level, where all the children will be.  The heads are so bulky, you can't really look down to find invisible kids.  This is why a helper is a requirement for commercial characters.  Few commercial character costumes have the visibility and mobility they should have for dealing with their audience, beyond standing still like a manekin for photos.  Custom costumes are far more suitable for dealing with kids.

I mostly played Clifford, with one stint as Corduroy.  There were two Clifford costumes, which made it awkward if Clifford is already out on the floor and another comes out.  I kept with the better-fitting padded Clifford with the best visibility of all the costumes.  He was also the most popular character, getting the most attention from the kids.  I found it helps to have read a book with the character before playing it.  I didn't know anything at all about Cordury, but discovered quickly his main character elements were his buttons and pockets.  About 4 p.m., someone else took over Clifford  while I escorted him, and he was great at it, playing all sorts of games and dancing with the remaining two kids until their father was ready to leave.
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