As a Backstage Expert for over two years now, acting coach Denise Simon has offered her insight on various topics ranging from finding a great monologue for child performers to deciding whether or not you should pursue a BFA in acting, and beyond. But now, armed her with the insight so many Backstage readers value, Simon discusses her own career.
Similar to many in the industry, Simon started out with the dream of being an actor, and remembers anxiously waiting for her Backstage to arrive every Thursday. “You’d get the Backstage on the newsstands and the old print that would get all over your fingers, and I just couldn’t wait for Thursdays ’cause until then if you didn’t have an agent that was your only ticket,” she recalls.
But as her passion for being an actor herself faded, Simon looked to her day job. Knowing her passion for working with children would remain a constant throughout her life, the New York-based coach worked in theater camps, and eventually started holding acting classes for kids in her apartment.
And while directing at a camp, a manager “discovered” Simon’s true talents of working with kids and offered her a job at Fox Albert Management. “I was a manager for 10 years at Fox Albert and that’s where kind of it all started for me,” she says. Much like she was “discovered” by the agency, Simon was personally responsible for many careers as well—Scarlett Johansson, Lacey Chabert, Mira Sorvino, and Judy Reyes, to name a few.
The next chapter of Simon’s life included becoming a mother—a lifestyle that clashed with management. “Management is a 24/7 job. Your clients expect you’re gonna be there for them all the time,” Simon explains.
So with her passion for teaching, Simon went back to her roots in coaching and has been doing it ever since. One-on-one audition coaching or Skype sessions, the full-time coach and founder of Denise Simon Acting & Coaching does it all (and shares it with Backstage).
On a big challenge of coaching kids.
The idea of wisdom coming with age is something Simon fully agrees with, and sees it as a challenge when coaching young performers. “They just don’t have the life experience. So when they’re having to play roles of kids who have difficult lives; these kids, a lot of them have had really charmed lives and they don’t know pain, so that is probably a challenge for them to learn techniques, to be able to come up with analogies. The “as-ifs”: What would it be like if your parents split up, or your mother died? If they have to go to that imagination—which all actors have to go to that place anyway—they can’t pull from a lot ’cause they’re young; they’re not there yet,” she explains.
On involving the parents.
Though parents don’t necessarily have to be completely involved in a child’s career, Simon encourages it for the younger students. “Personally, I allow parents in my coaching room—not for everybody; definitely not for the adolescent who’s like, ‘Get my mother out of here,’ but for little ones because the parent is the one who’s really doing the work with them during the week. I would rather them sit in on the session and hear what I have to say and be able to then reiterate that to the child,” she says.
On a common mistake she sees parents make with their child actors.
“I’m one of those coaches
On the signs that a child might be losing interest in acting.
No child should be forced to pursue this career if he or she is no longer enjoying it. Simon says some signs your little one might be losing a passion for acting include “when they don’t want to train anymore,” “when they’re not wanting to go to auditions,” “when something else becomes more important,” and simply, “when they don’t look happy.”
“They’ve got to enjoy the process; they’ve got to enjoy the training and enjoy the auditioning ’cause that’s mostly what they’re gonna be doing,” she explains.
This interview is reposted here with permission from Backstage.com