Break a leg! - The kid's guide to acting & stagecraft

Written by Lisa Friedman with foreword by Julia Stiles
Published by Workman Publishing Company, New York, NY, 2002.


When I started acting professionally, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I had nothing to help me navigate in the acting world, and so I relied largely on trial and error. As an only child living in our large New York City loft, I entertained myself by playing dress-up and mimicking performances I had seen on television. In essence, I was my own imaginary friend. I knew nothing about auditioning, technique, or memorizing lines. All I knew was that I loved imitating what I carefully observed in other people, and the thrill of performing. Everything I did to launch a career as an actress happened on a whim.

Being the daring, but naive, pre-adolescent I was, I wrote a letter to a bizarre experimental theater company, hoping to be given a spot in one of their shows. The founders of Ridge Theater gave me a test run, a three-line part in its fall production, entitled Jungle Movie. I had enough chutzpah to figure that my instinct would make up for the experience I lacked. Our first night of rehearsals I remember the director announcing to the adult company, "Take five, everybody!" I excused my eleven-year-old self, called my father, and whispered into the phone, "Dad, what does 'take five' mean? Is it time to go home?"

Since then I have learned the "take five" is a signal for a five-minute break, and I've added numerous other tidbits to my acting vocabulary. I've never gone to drama school, but I have my own scrapbook of information that I have collected in the nine years I've been a working actor. I record everything from random epiphanies I've had on movie sets to quotes I gather just from watching Inside the Actors Studio. I've gathered my own bible of acting, partly because I love the process of exploring this rewarding craft, and partly because I have always felt the need for some sort of guide.

This book is its own sort of bible of acting. It contains just about everything you need to know about acting as a profession. The information collected here is easy to read, fun, and creative. You certainly need not take the entire book as gospel, but you will probably find most of it handy. I only wish it had been published nine years ago so I could have read it then! The most important thing to remember is that there is no right or wrong in playing pretend. You, as an individual, are like a musical instrument ready to strike chords in the human spirit. This book can help you with any fine-tuning you might need.

Julia Stiles