Guest Post: Stage Names and Pen Names

The other day Steve and I were talking about how authors and actors choose pen and stage names, and I was very interested in what he had to say, so I invited him over to my blog to tell you more about the subject.  Steve blogs about musical theatre at  Welcome!  

What Would Your Stage Name Be?

Tonight Matthew I'm Going To Be xxxxxxxxx!
Did you ever watch that TV programme ‘Stars in their eyes’ where members of the public impersonated their favourite pop star and got made up to look like the star? Which celebrity names did you dream of being if you ever got to utter those famous words ‘Tonight Matthew I’m Going To Be!’?

Quick Quiz
Have you ever watched a TV sitcom with Jennifer Anastassaki in the lead role?
Have you ever watched a film directed by Allan Konigsberg?
Have you watched a film starring Julie Roberts?
Have you been blown away by the dancing of Virginia Katherine McMath and Fred Austerlitz?
Have you sung along to songs written by Reginald Kenneth Dwight?
Have you read a crime novel by JK Rowling?
Are you sure it is a no?

Celebrities Real Names
I was reading ‘Parcel Arrived Safely – Tied With String’ the Autobiography by Michael Crawford star of Phantom of the Opera and TV show Some Mothers Do Have ‘Em where I found out that Crawford was not his real name.
Stage/Pen Names are something the world of entertainment and writing have in common and it left me wondering what celebrities real names were and what they had changed them to.
There are 4 main reasons why people end up with a stage name.

Similar Names
People have to change their name because there was already someone with the same name in their field of work.
Michael’s real name is Michael Ingram and as his agent was telling him he needed a different name a Crawford’s biscuit van was passing by and Michael pointed and said “That will do. I’ll be Michael Crawford’
Julie Roberts found out there was another actress with the same name so changed her name to Julia Roberts and then found fame with Pretty Woman.

People change their name to hide who they are to stop people finding out who they are in real life.
Ronny Barker who wrote many of the sketches for the Two Ronnies did not like people prying in to what he was doing so he used to write the sketches under the name Gerald Wiley as he did not want all the fuss.
Also there are those that hide their name as they want to be successful in their own right and not on the back of their previous fame like JK Rowling has got a pen name of Robert Galbraith for her latest crime novels.

More Recognition
There are those that have celebrity names to make them more recognisable.
For celebrity real names mentioned at the top of this post such as:
Jennifer Anastassaki,
Allan Konigsberg,
Virginia Katherine McMath and Fred Austerlitz and
Reginald Kenneth Dwight.
They are much better known by their stage names of:-
Jennifer Aniston,
Woody Allen,
Ginger Rogers & Fred Astaire and
Elton John.

Married people have the dilemma of do they change to their married name or keep using the name that their audience already knows.
My wife writes under her maiden name Stephanie Cage, because her first book had already been published under that name before our wedding.
Singer Victoria Adams now uses her married name of Victoria Beckham and somewhere in between the actress Demi Moore uses the surname of her first husband even though she has had another 2 husbands since.

Character Names
Unfortunately some people as much as they try with keeping their real names or adopting stage names get associated with a character they played/wrote about and for ever more will be known as:-
The woman who wrote Harry Potter’ - (JK Rowling),
Alan Partridge is in that!’ – (Whatever character Steve Coogan plays on TV or in a film),
Him with Orville’ – Keith Harris and
Phantom Frank’ (Whenever Michael Crawford is discussed).

Your Stage/Pen Name

So do you have a Stage/Pen Name? What is it and why did you change to that name?
If not what stage/Pen name do you dream of calling yourself?
Or are you happy with the name you have got?

If you are wondering what the title to Michael Crawford’s book is referring to, let me enlighten you.
It is to do when he was born and his father wanted to send a telegram to his parents but did not want the whole world to know so they agreed that the message would either say ‘Parcel arrived’ if it was a girl or ‘Parcel arrived tied with string’ if it was a boy.

Thanks to Steven Bisby for this guest post, and don't forget if you're a fan of stage and screen, check out his blog, or follow @wheresthatmusic on twitter! 

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