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Acting for Children: Adjusting your Acting Style to Different Scripts


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Most Actors pride themselves on having a dazzling paint box filled with emotions that range in a number of shades, which they can use to paint their roles with and change frequently. Many imagine they have few limits, whether their sensibilities are based in Theatrical training or Film work, most of them believe they can “play anything”. However, from that idea to actual execution is another point entirely. Depending on the training and how well versed an Actor is in his or her characters, there seems to be a general misinterpretation of “Style”. Style, in my opinion, needs to be erased from the Actors language.

Once an Actor begins to think about his “style”, he usually gives up working subjectively and starts to think objectively, and that in itself is where his damage begins. Although most Actors love to make adjustments from role to role, script-to-script, I have found that the minute they begin thinking about changing their natural style, they suddenly become stiff and unbelievable. Who wants to watch that, Actors showing us their work at doing a new “style”?

I have chosen five Teen Actors who are training with me at my various locations in the L.A. area, all at various places in their careers and training. They have been asked to not only demonstrate their different styles, but also to offer you their concepts of how adjusting their styles on a script to script basis lands with them when asked, whether it be for an audition, a role that they have booked or a role for class. I thought their answers were poignant and interesting.

Miranda May (15) was asked, “What happens to you, a stand up comedienne, and often cast in comedic roles when you get a Disney script?”

Miranda states, “When I look at a Disney script, I think ENERGY, I think HAPPY. As opposed to say and ‘E.R.’ audition which is more real”.

Mason Alexander (15) was asked, “Since you are a Nickelodeon Actor on both iCarly and Bucket & Skinners Epic Adventure, what do you do when you get a Soap Opera audition?”

Mason says, “When I receive contrasting scripts, I ask myself, ‘ What do I need to do personally to find that character in myself?’

Zach Callison (14) was asked, “What do you, a Disney Actor, do when a Feature Film script comes in from your Agent?”

Zach offers, “Having done a lot of Disney, I’m now excited when I get to adjust and tone down my work for a Feature Film role.”

Dani Jacoby (18) was asked, “Since you are primarily a Host and busy commercial actress, what do you do when you get an episodic or dramatic script?”

Dani states, “I love episodic because you can show your range and go deep and expand yourself.”

Marcus O’Dell (15) was asked by Diane, “I know you love doing sketch comedy characters and impersonations, but what do you do with a script from a big Feature Film like “The Social Network” in class?”

Marcus said, “ Never copy a celebrity’s performance in your scene study, always find your own interpretation, make it your own”.
All of the Actors had intelligent approaches to this topic of adjusting your style and that has a lot to do with their experience and training. They are smart actors. However, I have this to offer any actor approaching something out of their comfort zone, or some style other than their natural style. Shift your focus from the ‘style’ of the script, which you need to be aware of every time you pick up a script, to the ‘behavior’ of your character in each script. Consider these behavior choices as you approach your character:

• Posture – How does my character stand, walk or move?
• Speaking patterns – What does my character sound like or say?
• When does this particular character internalize and when would they express things outwardly?
• Work from the inside out and from the outside in.
• Find the vulnerabilities inside the Life of your characters and inside yourself.

It is important for the actor to understand why the characters chose to behave as they do. They have chosen based on their life style in each script, whether it is a modern day character or a period piece. Style then becomes very simple.

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