The holiday music is already playing in my favorite coffee shop, so it must be the time of year for all good actors to make their wish lists. Here’s a list that will keep you out of the Black Friday crowds, and still make the holiday gift you give to a young actor a memorable one.
1. Theater tickets. It never fails to make me smile when my students excitedly tell me about the magic of the theater from the perspective of an audience member. Actors who have experienced this connection are more likely to embrace it in their own performances. It also provides young actors with essential examples of good acting, and inspires their passion for performance.
2. Career check-up. Students who are actively developing their skills in classes and performance often benefit from an independent evaluation. I routinely work with young performers into their mid twenties to assess their talents and marketability. An industry professional can make career and training suggestions to help a young actor meet his goals, whether they be professional, collegiate, or for personal achievement.
3. Board games. Guesstures is a charades game from Parker Brothers that my students and their families enjoy playing. So much of acting is about learning to communicate non-verbal meaning in support of the words in a script. This fast paced, almost frenetic version of the typical take on charades prevents the game from getting dull, keeps the entire family laughing, and is great practice for non-verbal communication. It’s good as a party game for adults too! I also recommend the game Kids on Stage, another take on charades for the budding actor ages 3-6.
4. Lessons and Classes. Most young actors participate in classes. Despite this, however, many students still have inadequate training. If your child has been focusing on musical theater, it may be time to take an on-camera workshop to expand their range and marketability. In addition, many young students begin with a passion for acting, but soon discover that dance and voice are important components to their ongoing progress. Even if your young actor is not naturally blessed with triple threat talent, I suggest you encourage them to expand their range in this way as well.
5. Entertainer’s Secret. My students and colleagues rave about this product. Without making any medical claims or promises (I’m not a doctor; please check with yours before use), it has provided relief to many of my singers and actors with hoarseness from overuse. It’s a must-have item for your actor’s first-aid kit. It even comes in a travel size for when you are on the road!
6. Plays and Books. I encourage all my teen and young adult actors to read plays. I recommend important modern playwrights for their accessibility. Some of my favorites include Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” “I Ought to be in Pictures,” “The Gingerbread Lady,” “The Good Doctor,” and “Lost in Yonkers.” These plays all feature young characters that bear studying. I also recommend “Be Aggressive” by Annie Weisman, “Our Town” and “The Matchmaker” by Thorton Wilder, “Women and Wallace” by Jonathan Marc Sherman, “Courtship” by Horton Foote and, the classic, “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. If your young actor is interested in monologues for audition purposes, avoid compendiums of generic monologues solely created for the audition. I generally find these collections to be vague and trite. Stick with good literature and you can’t go wrong.
7. GripTight GorillaPod. I love mine and I know your actor will love theirs! It is a miniature tripod with flexible legs that wrap around just about anything to create a stable, portable stand for your smart phone, iPhone, iTouch, or other camera and/or video recording device. This is a must purchase for self-taping auditions.
Enjoy the holiday season! I hope your young actor is thrilled with these gifts and your family is blessed with a happy, healthy and safe holiday.
Master your craft, empower yourself, and enjoy the journey.
Denise Simon is a New York-based acting coach and career consultant who has been involved in the entertainment industry for more than 25 years as an actor, teacher, director, and personal talent manager. For 10 years, she was an associate with Fox Albert Management, one of the leading talent management companies in New York, where she managed such clients as Scarlett Johansson, Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino, Lacey Chabert (“Party of Five”), and Judy Reyes (NBC’s “Scrubs”). Denise has coached hundreds of children and young adults appearing regularly on Broadway and in television and film, as well as educating parents on the business of show business.