Diane Christiansen Kids & Teens

Fall in Love With the Process of Becoming Great

By Master Acting Teacher ~ Diane Christiansen

Why did you become an actor?  This is the all-important question.  It is a question worth revisiting from time to time in order to remind ourselves of our purpose as actors.  We do not do this for fame or fortune, for acknowledgment or accolades, or for other people.  We just want to be great actors.  Of course we all know great acting when we see it, but what does it mean to be a great actor?  And no, you’re not allowed to just shout out, “Meryl Streep,” without thinking about it!  A great teacher and casting director once told me that the best performances boil down to two simple questions: “Do I believe this person?” and “Do I care?”  Be sincere and be committed.  That’s it.  Simple enough to understand, but not so easy to deliver.  In order to deliver greatness, we must dedicate ourselves to the process of accomplishing sincerity and commitment in every performance, as well as in every day of our lives.  One without the other will invariably fall short of the mark.  Imagine believing an actor’s performance, but not being moved in any way.  Perhaps the level of commitment to a chosen action is not strong enough to stir your emotion.  Alternately, imagine it’s not for lack of a strong or committed choice that the performance falls flat, but rather lack of sincerity in that choice.  Perhaps the action is forced and contrived instead of occurring organically in the moment. 

Naturally, it’s easy to talk about the importance of sincerity and commitment in our work, but these tasks become especially difficult to accomplish given the fabricated worlds we live in on a set or on a stage.  Well my friends, here is the Holy Grail: We want to do great work and to be great actors, but focusing solely on being great is missing the mark.  The process is the prize. Greatness is merely the product of faithful dedication to process.  Falling in love with the process is like choosing to do long division over rote memorization or using a calculator.  It’s more challenging, but you can clearly tell whether a person really knows what they’re doing.  Like watching Meryl Streep.  So if you want to be great, then forget about greatness and dedicate yourself to the process of being sincere and committed in every role.  Do the work it takes to get you there.  Research.  Train.  Feel.  Observe.  Study.  Practice.  Recall.  Experience.  Develop a process that works for you so that you may fall in love with it, and in so doing, discover your own greatness.  

Stage to Screen Acting

For years I’ve been coaching talented theatre actors as they make the transition from stage to film and television acting. It seems the distinction between stage and film acting has become an obsession for actors who want to make the leap!

The ability to adapt between the two has undeniably become an extremely important skill for any actor who wants to be a working professional. I have worked with students who have thrived in theatre, be it starring roles on Broadway or repertory companies; but found themselves a bit befuddled when it came to translating their acting ability to film.

The following is the beginning of a series of videos and articles that will continue to shed insight into this important skill and the differentiation between stage and screen acting. Read more

Donald the Dialect Coach

The Secret to Being an Engaging Speaker

by: Donald the Dialect Coach

We all want to be engaging speakers.

Some people seem to do it naturally, however it is a skill that can be learned. 

How can you make your voice interesting? How can you engage with material immediately? How can you make choices right away (even when cold reading)?


This trick alone will TRANSFORM your auditioning.

When you’re reading a sentence, find the action verbs and use them. A verb expresses action or a relationship between two things. Wait a minute – that’s what acting is all about! It’s no wonder that this tip will cause you grow as an actor immediately.

When we watch movies, what do we want to see? ACTION.

When we are speaking, we need to speak the action with our voice for the person listening. We can’t literally pantomime each thing we talk about, but we can milk our action verbs and make the audience feel as if they were there.

The great thing about verbs is that we can make them sound like what they mean. For example, The word trampled sounds like what it means. So does love, hate, fear, accept, deny, free, etc. 

You get the picture 🙂

Your job as actors is to make these action verbs the star of each sentence that we say. All of the meaning and emotion in the sentence should be put into the action words.

Let’s use this sentence as an example: “I know they talk about me.” You may be tempted to use the pronouns, so that it sounds something like this: “I know they talk about me.”
Listen up, friends!  Pronouns are an actor’s worst nightmare. Okay, that’s a bit extreme but you get the point 😉
Pronouns don’t deserve our attention 90% of the time.

Picture this: 
Your best friend walks into your house, slams his car keys down and says, “I know they talk about me.” He doesn’t need to point to himself when he says, “me” in order for you to know that he’s talking about himself, does he?  Nope, It’s understood. Likewise, he doesn’t need to point away from himself when he says, “they”. It’s understood.

When we stress a word it’s like we’re pointing at it with our voice. The meaning in the sentence is contained within the verbs.

“I know they talk about me.”The way he says the word “know” answers two important questions. 

  1. How does he know?
  2.      AND

  3. How does he feel about knowing?

The same is true for the word “talk.”The verbs are the meat of every sentence. Pronouns are just filler.  Yes, you have to say the pronouns in a sentence, but you don’t have to use them.You will be amazed at how quickly using the verbs will impact your acting.

Happy Training,

Confidence and Becoming a Great Actor

Confidence… we all need it to be successful. No matter what we do in life, we depend on our ability to communicate effectively with great belief in what we have to give.

But one can’t gain confidence by demanding others to praise or approve of them. This same rule applies to anyone who is attempting to be a successful working actor. You gain confidence by demonstrating to yourself that you are worthy of it.

Read more

Playing the Love

by Kimberly Jentzen

Owning your character in acting can be similar to the interest you have getting to know a new friend. They require a different and specifically unique investment. Think of the people you know and love. When you love someone, you’ve invested time with them… you have gotten to know them. You understand the things that are similar and the things that are different from you. When you care about a character, you “play the love” of knowing them. You also play the parts that are different than you because you have taken the time to understand them.

When you feel judged or disapproved of by a friend, the friendship often suffers. You might not feel like they understand you. You might not want to spend a lot of time with them, and most likely, they won’t either. It’s the same with a character—when we judge them, we shut down our willingness to empathize with them. It’s so important to understand why a character behaves the way they do without judging them. It’s so important to understand the character you will be playing—they must make sense to you—their behavior must add up and it is your job to discover how it does.

How to Prepare for Your Audition or Performance

by: Kimberly Jentzen

Have a ritual of working out both your body and voice in the early part of the day prior to your audition. You’re body needs to be tuned up and present. Also, by executing a few vocal exercises, you won’t squeeze your throat from nerves or tension, and you will be able to drop that voice into your body.

Next is the mental preparation. Make sure you take a minute to close your eyes and quietly envision your audition from stepping into the building and meeting the casting director’s assistant to walking into the room and meeting the casting director; or if it’s a call back the director or producer. Experience being free from nerves and feeling a sense of confidence and enthusiasm for the project.

Visualize yourself doing your cold reading from beginning, middle, to end. Experience your intention, beats and emotion. (Let the emotion be held within, save the full-out emotion for the audition.) Then experience a sense of satisfaction and gratitude and see yourself leaving the audition room feeling like you did what you set out to do. Open your eyes and write down any realizations you may have about the process.

When you drive to your audition, listen to music that builds your confidence and gives you the added energy of emotion that will relate to your reading. Before you leave your car, take a moment to connect to your surroundings. Breath, relax and say to yourself, “I’m ready.” Even if you don’t believe you are, a part of you actually will.