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Teen Actors: It’s Time to Rethink the Way You Train

Teen Actors: It’s Time to Rethink the Way You Train
Photo Source: @Mermmanda via Twenty20

Here’s some encouraging news for 2018: You no longer have to worry about whether you’re talented enough or if you can really “do it.” You can sleep peacefully knowing you don’t have to compare yourself to others in your class or play. You can stop trying to please teachers and impress directors.

Pretty bold statements, sure, but with a combined 60 years of experience working with young actors, we’re excited to let you in on a teen actor training revolution taking place. Acting is supposed to be thrilling not just for the audience but for the actor as well. But how can you, the actor, have any fun or enjoyment if you’re constantly worried about being good enough? You can’t. This is a problem that stems from actor training that’s rooted in results. Your director says to “smile bigger here” or “be angrier now.” You’re told to produce these results and because you don’t have a different way of working and you very much want to give your director those results, you fake it.

But “faking it” isn’t acting, despite what a lot of people think. We can’t tell you how many students have come to us and shared that they thought acting was basically just being a good faker. And this, dear friends, is the root of the problem. Instead of faking it, you need a clear, simple, human way of approaching your craft. And here’s how to do it.

Simplicity
Acting is actually very simple but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It takes consistent hard work, but it’s not complicated! You can begin right now by looking at the character as an actual human being. Just like you, the character has hopes and desires, struggles and challenges, great accomplishments and painful failures, moments of joy and deep suffering. Just like us. This is the human story, the basis of every script you will ever read. Remember that you do have something in common with every character and the connection doesn’t have to be a complicated one.

READ: How Young Actors Can Discover Powerful Audition Material

Clarity
The minute you read a script, grab a notebook and write down how the character moves you, how you relate to what makes them feel good and what makes them suffer. These are the keys. Can you find connections with how you see the world? This will immediately help you understand the character’s point of view, which is where you should start when stepping into their shoes.

Utter Humanity
Every play and every movie is a story about human beings, no matter the style or the period. And you know what? This is something you know how to do since you do it every single day. In our series of articles here, we will bring together everything you know about being human and everything you discover about the characters in the script. You’re going to see that what we believe about you is true:

1. You are amazing and brilliant.

2. You are gifted and powerful and unique. We don’t care what others may have said and we don’t care what you may have told yourself.

3. We know you have everything you need to be a great actor.  

We also know that you are driven by a great desire to express your true self, to make a big difference in this crazy world. We believe you can do this—you just need the right tools. And that is our desire, to give you those tools. We’re on a very personal mission to help you fulfill your gifts and realize your destiny. So join us in the teen acting revolution this year and become the future of the craft.

Denise Simon is a New York-based acting coach. Backstage Expert, and author of “Parenting in the Spotlight: How to raise a child star without screwing them up.” For more information, check out Simon’s full bio! Master your craft, empower yourself, enjoy the journey.

Larry Silverberg is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Sanford Meisner technique of acting and an internationally acclaimed author. His newest book, “Winning Your Acting Auditions,” features 50 original monologues written for high school and college actors. In addition to being one of the most published acting coaches in the world and an award-winning actor/director, Larry is also the Master Teacher of Acting and Full Professor at renowned Shenandoah University Conservatory of Theatre. 

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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