1. Learn to speak without moving your lips. Hold a finger over your mouth as if trying to tell someone to be quiet. This will help prevent your lips from moving. Gritting your teeth together may help.
2. Change your voice. A convincing “vent” voice must be very different from yours. Choose your “vent” voice carefully depending on what type of partner you want. If he or she is smart and witty, have him or her speak quickly, without stuttering. If he or she is unintelligent or slow, have him or her speak in a low, slow voice. The voice you choose helps to amplify your partner’s personality and helps bring him or her to life.
3. Bring your new friend to life. Decide what kind of partner you want. You must always make sure that his or her personality is different from your own, to give the illusion that you are not the same person.
4. Try to find a dummy that will fit that character. For example, if your imagined character is a young, energetic boy, don’t pick a dummy that’s an old man or a young lady. Make sure to pick the right partner for your needs.
5. Convince yourself that your partner is completely alive. Once you’ve done this, it will be easier to convince an audience. Try to make sure that, from the moment you pick him or her up (take him or her out of his case, bed, etc.) and grab the controls, he or she is totally alive. Have him or her tell you stories about what he or she has been up to, where he or she goes to school, etc. Even though you are technically making this up, it will help you believe.
6. Animate your partner properly. There are many different control schemes for dummies, but a good, average one that is excellent for beginners and even for advanced vents is one with a moving head. Be careful while purchasing your dummy that you don’t buy one with a string on the neck to operate the mouth. Buy one where you put your hand in the back, grab a stick attached to the head, and push a trigger to move the mouth. Try to observe real people as they speak, and have your partner mimic those movements.
7. Have fun with it. A big factor in being a good ventriloquist is having passion. You must always practice the art. Practicing every day will eventually make you a fantastic ventriloquist. You also don’t have to practice only by sitting and speaking with your partner. Play games with your partner, watch TV with him or her, bring him or her to family get-togethers and have others meet him or her. Whether you are taking up ventriloquism for fun or for a career, make sure you are having fun with it. The illusion of life doesn’t come easily, but you just have to believe in your friend to make him or her come alive.
Note: this is drawn from Wikihow’s “How to Be a Good Ventriloquist in Seven Steps”. In Week 5 of my residency, I’ll adapt this into a “How to Be a Good Ventriloquist in Poetry”.
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