Who is Talon Man?
He’s Talon Man in the stands. He’s Sebastian on the stage. Meet James Mitchell III, the College’s ultimate character.
It all started in September at Bport Homecoming & Family Weekend at SUNY Brockport.
“The week before Homecoming, I thought, ‘I want to do something different and stand out,’” said sophomore theatre major James Mitchell.
A wig, a pair of gloves, a vuvuzela, and some face paint were all it took for Mitchell to gain recognition as the College’s No. 1 fan in the stands this semester.
“It became this little gag. I ran up and down the stands with a vuvuzela and made people laugh, and it kind of blew up from there,” said Mitchell.
As one of the College’s student vloggers, Mitchell earned his alias during an Instagram takeover documenting the October 5 Courage Bowl. In his final post, he asked the Golden Eagle fan base to help put a name to the half-green, half-gold face of his newly created character.
Michael Thayer ’09, a New York City-based high school social studies teacher and coach — as well as a diehard devotee to the green and gold nation — came through with the winning suggestion: Talon Man.
While the Talon Man character has become one of the newest additions to campus, wigs and stage makeup aren’t new to Mitchell.
A naturally talented vocalist, Mitchell began singing in third grade and performing in theatre shows during high school. Though, his friends and mentors had encouraged him to pursue the art of performance much earlier.
“When I was younger, I could never see myself on stage,” said Mitchell. He even had aspirations to become a nurse or physical therapist. Not without some pleading from those who thought it would be a shame for Mitchell’s outgoing personality, unceasing energy, and musical talent to go unnoticed, Mitchell auditioned for his first show during his freshman year of high school (The Wizard of Oz).
Ever since, he has been hooked.
“The feeling of being on stage doesn’t compare to anything else. The first time can be nerve-wracking, but when you hear that applause and laughter, it feels like the key is unlocking the door, and the whole audience is yours now,” said Mitchell.
Since his first stage debut, Mitchell has performed in more than 10 theatre shows, including four in the Department of Theatre and Music Studies at the College. He’s gone under the guise of a flamboyant prince, a senile lawyer, and Sebastian — a lead role in this year’s production of Twelfth Night.
Mitchell said he resonates with Sebastian, because the character “isn’t afraid to be himself,” much like Mitchell — and Talon Man.
“I live for the weird looks,” said Mitchell. “Some days, I’ll think, ‘I want to walk around as Talon Man today.’ So, I’ll get all dressed up just to go to lunch or something. I’ll purposely walk across campus to Brockway just to see how many looks I get. Believe it or not, a lot of people shout, ‘Talon Man! Talon Man!’ But, a couple people look at me, like, ‘Who is this guy?’”
Any gaze his way, whether it’s defined by a smile or a furrowed brow, assures Mitchell that he’s accomplishing what he’s setting out to do: encouraging people to look up from their phones and embrace the world around them.
“I like to make people happy and entertain my audience,” said Mitchell. “I think of it as an extension of my major.” Mitchell describes himself as a "very physical actor" who appreciates the opportunity to add a personal flair to each of his characters with animated facial expressions and strong hand movements.
The Talon Man identity offers Mitchell an opportunity for improvisation, a style of acting he enjoys. Other fans of Brockport athletics seem to be enjoying it, as well.
Mitchell has been deemed the face of #EagleEmpire, Brockport’s official athletics fan club.
“Talon Man gives students someone to rally with and something to look forward to,” said Mitchell. “The connection that people have here to each other and to the school is very special, and it’s special for me to be in that kind of environment. I don’t know if Talon Man would resonate the same way without that.”
Talon Man even has a contractually obligated management team: his roommates. One of them is a friend he performed with in high-school shows.
While Mitchell promises the campus community that Talon Man will grace the stands until he graduates, the sophomore is busy preparing for a performance-filled professional future.
“If I’m not in a show, I’m usually working on a monologue or songs for auditions,” said Mitchell, who is currently in a play analysis course, stage makeup course, and voice course. "I’m usually practicing something or working on something, because you can never be perfect."
Mitchell hopes to become a professional director or actor, and he has his sights set on graduate school in order to gain a teaching certification. “I want to be the mentor to people that I had in high school,” he said.
“I love to make people smile, and I love to make people laugh. That goes without the character, without the makeup,” said Mitchell. “I love to entertain.”