Anonymous was unique among our shows in that it didn’t start with detailed character descriptions or backgrounds or even genders. For our actors, we presented them with character archetypes with one key identifying trait for each of the four agents. They could be played by anyone of any type. The key to Anonymous is personality and how these secret identities work together. So with little more than a name highlighting their character’s signature trait, writer/director, Daniel Stallings, and our actors tell us how they developed their agents from page to performance.
SECRET IDENTITIES: THE MAKING OF ANONYMOUS (Part 3)
Each character began with one signature trait that defined them. Each trait was reflected in their agent moniker–the warlike Battle, the sneaky Sly, the impatient Race, and the pacifying Paxton (“pax” meaning “peace”). Dr. Fleming came about for the need of a cryptography expert. From there, we paired off the characters and let these traits bounce off each other. We sat down together as a cast and went over every character–how we viewed them, how characters viewed each other, how all their relationships played out–as thoroughly as we could. Only by being thorough and exploring the possibilities the script provided could transform these simple character sketches into living, breathing people.
Here our cast of newcomers will tell you what they view about their individual characters that was born out of all our intensive discussions.
Agent Battle is a tough-as-bedrock personality with a commanding presence. The de facto leader of the agents with a sharp, militant attitude who views the cat-and-mouse game with Anonymous as a kind of battle campaign. He is the most senior operative on this assignment, overseeing the entire operation with the grim air of a general at war. In his first Master Mystery Production, Omar Sharief, who was once declared the champion detective on the second night of Bury Me in Paris, joins us as a performer to play the militant Agent Battle. Here are his thoughts on his secret agent identity:
“The character I am representing in this play is Agent Battle. Battle is the chief officer in a government organization responsible for retrieving rare and stolen artifacts. He is a senior ranking, Military General, and carries himself with the strict, sort of demanding presence that you would expect from someone who has grown used to a lifetime of unchecked authority. It would seem that he wears his power on his sleeve, even when out of uniform. He has unquestionable resolve, and is capable of making very complex decisions in very short periods of time. But to every extreme personality, there are extreme flaws as well. Gently put…Battle is one of the least likable people you will ever meet (insert four letter word here). He is an arrogant bully who, as you will see when he interacts with the audience, has no concern with earning your respect. He is an unashamed chauvinist…political incorrectness seeps from his persona, even when he is trying to be proper. His style of leadership is pure power…he threatens his way to obedience, and takes everything personal. Once an unfortunate soul becomes his subordinate, there is no way out…and his “employees” tremble when reminded of it. But as Agent Battle fights to maintain control of a crumbling mission, this same group of employees has a few, highly intelligent Alphas, who poke at every insecurity he has. Well, at least…that is Battle’s way of looking at it.”
Agent Sly is cunning, crafty, and solicitous who views Anonymous as a kind of artistic genius. He is an adept sneak thief brought in to analyze Anonymous’ technique and style. Sly uses a combination of wit, stealth, and finesse to achieve the team’s goals, but his idleness and his tendency to wave off any serious matters as “amusement” could jeopardize the operation. Although Anonymous is Sam Johnson’s first Master Mystery Production as well as our youngest performer so far, he is an experienced thespian with many acting credits to his name in shows such as On Golden Pond, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Baskerville, and The 39 Steps. Add to that a credited performance in the short film, “Like Animals,” and you have a true acting professional. Sam shares with us his interpretation of the slippery and snide Agent Sly.
“Agent Sly is lazy, but he is a trickster. Agent Battle sees him as a valuable asset to the operation and could care less about how he treats the other agents. Sly was plucked out of prison to work for the agency, but Sly sees this as a vacation, so he sits on the sidelines watching the chaos while annoying the other agents. I knew that he had a lot of Loki in him, but I wanted to give him some finesse. So I put some Joker in him, Mark Hamill to be precise. As for his movement, I wanted to do a mixture of Joker and Jason Todd (Red Hood); When he makes a joke, he does a Joker-like movement, and when is sarcastic, it could be either Joker or Jason. As for insights on voice, movement, etc., I watched Batman: The Animated Series and played the Arkham games. This character was really fun to portray.”
Impulsive and reckless, Agent Race is a “leap before you look” sort of person. An extremely gung-ho individual who wants to dive into a situation without analyzing it beforehand. He generally undervalues the intelligence of Anonymous, believing the thief to be nothing more than a common criminal. He and Sly have a complex relationship, one almost like brothers who both respect each other and hate each other’s guts. New to theatre, Matt Bradford signs on to play Agent Race in his first Master Mystery Production, and he shares with us some of his insights into his character:
“I try to bring Agent Race alive through movement. He has a lot of nervous energy which he expresses through his body language. He talks fast. He’s always fidgeting, shifting from foot to foot, and pacing. He doesn’t like to sit still. He’s anxious to get started on the case and has little patience for his fellow agents who over-analyze the situation. He wants to jump right in. This is an agent who has his own secrets and his own motives for joining the team. He’s not particularly sociable. What’s going on in his life that makes him so jittery and edgy? This is my first time acting so I’m having a blast fleshing out a character, seeing what motivates him so I can bring him to life. Any nervous energy I have during the production works to my advantage because Agent Race is a nervous fellow. So I feel like I can portray him realistically! It’s been a great experience for me working with Daniel and my cast mates. Everyone has been supportive and positive, which makes it a fun environment to work in.”
Agent Paxton is calm and diplomatic, a kind of emissary of peace sent to sensitive negotiations and deals to keep the organization running smoothly. She believes Anonymous can be reasoned with, despite her boss wanting to flay the thief alive. Paxton will occasionally use bribery and other such means to solve problems. Her role in the agency puts her under a great deal of stress and tests her usually impenetrable patience. Newcomer Leslie Blake plays Agent Paxton in her first show with us and gives us her take on what makes this secret agent tick.
“Agent Paxton is a woman in a male dominated line of work. As a result she is often overlooked and ignored. As a person who talks for a living, this leaves her very frustrated. She exudes confidence to clients, however in her work environment answering to her superiors and colleagues she is nervous and unsure. It seems like she’s constantly looking for someone to agree with her. She uses liberal amounts of sarcasm to deal with the high level of stress she’s often under.”
Dr. Alan Fleming is an eccentric book collector, linguist, and puzzle solver used as the team’s intelligence expert and code breaker. He is passionate about books and literature and puzzles to the brink of being an obsessive, making him almost fanatically devoted to cracking the code Anonymous has sent the agency. Glued to his notes, he doesn’t tend to acknowledge others as little more than distractions. With his name an homage to Ian Fleming, original author of the James Bond novels, Dr. Fleming is my character, and here are some insights i have on him:
“With Dr. Alan Fleming, the puzzle is everything. He is not a man accustomed to looking outward at the world around him, but inward to what his intelligence can reason. Life isn’t something to experience, but something to solve. Pompous and academic with a narrow focus, Dr. Fleming is happiest buried in his work, hardly coming up for air. He could care less about interpersonal relationships, work tension, or the general feeling of paranoia and suspicion that starts to spread throughout the mission. An Alpha dog at the height of his career, Dr. Fleming spends most of his free time butting heads with the other agents.”
Five unique individuals, each with their own process to cracking the Anonymous code. But who will get closest to collaring the genius himself? On August 19, it will no longer be a mystery as we get ready to unmask the culprit. Get ready to crack those codes!
And don’t forget your tickets! They are on sale now at Red Rock Books! Hurry and get yours before they all disappear!
You now have the complete dossiers on all the senior operatives on this very important mission. Each senior operative will follow a strict dress code to look as intimidating as possible. But how do you make the same exact costume brief look individual for each agent? Learn how we style a basic look to suit these very different personalities in Unique Uniforms: The Making of Anonymous (Part 4).
–Master Mystery Productions