XVR27's Improv Interviews - Dawn E. Emanuele - Basic Acting Tips & Experiences

Whose Improv Is It Anyway? : Original On-The-Spot Satire

An Interview With Dawn E. Emanuele

Basic Acting Tips & Experiences

ChivalRuss: Alright, let's start out with acting - formal training, experience, and some of the stuff you've done.

Dawn E. Emanuele: Umm, early, like in grade school, I remember being in a play, "Babar's Birthday", and (laughing) "Snow White & The Seven Dwarves" where I was the mirror and one of the trees and the background, but I was in kindergarten at the time.

ChivalRuss: Did you have to practice to mimic movements as the mirror?

Dawn E. Emanuele: No, it was pretty much just remembering my lines and a couple lines to a little kid can be, y'know...

ChivalRuss: Frustrating? Or intimidating?

Dawn E. Emanuele: Yeah, yeah, intimidating. I was very, very shy as a kid. Umm, it'll probably go under the personal section, but I was the kinda kid that even if we went to a family function where there were second cousins or cousins that weren't, y'know, immediate, what I'd end up doing is just, like, avoiding eye contact with them and I spent a lot of time hanging out with the adults; y'know, the great aunts and great uncles that were my grandparents' age and listening to them - I was very quiet and they'd forget I was around and talk very natural. So, even at a young age, I was surrounded by adults and would hear adult conversation and things like that. You get kind of a different perspective. I wasn't talked to like a little kid, I was talked to and around, like...

ChivalRuss: Like an equal.

Dawn E. Emanuele: Yes, like an equal, yeah. And I would avoid eye contact with my second cousins or something and then, finally, they would break me down enough and we could go out and play and we would just get into it when we'd have to leave. Y'know, and I was just very quiet and very shy and I went to a lot of different grade schools. My mom always encouraged me - I took swimming lessons, violin, ballet, tap acting, modeling - all in early grade school. Y'know, my mom wanted me to do stuff. She bought me art supplies and crafts and I was, I have half-sisters, but I was basically raised as an only child. I get along great with them, but they're quite a bit older than me. So, y'know, it's, umm... I've always been encouraged to be creative. When my mom just came to the [art] shows, she spent most of the time looking at my artwork instead of everyone else's even though she'd seen it before. Y'know, she was very encouraging and tries to make suggestions that are valid like that to help me along. So, a lot of support, always.

ChivalRuss: How about more recent (post-school) acting.

Dawn E. Emanuele: OK, well, this is a little complicated, because I was in, like, Brownies and Girl Scouts and then I ended up stopping that. In fifth grade, they found out that I was dyslexic, a mild dyslexia, and I bounced around through so many schools that I was so quiet that they just passed me on. And that went on until the fifth grade when I had a teacher named Miss Therese Pfeifer who was just an amazing inspiration. I won art awards and writing awards not only locally, but nationally, because of this woman and her encouragement for all of her students. And I had her for fifth and sixth grade. And she made us square dance and she made us sing in front of the school and she gave me that confidence that I could do things, and she sat with me and two of the boys in my class and taught us how to read a first grade book and by the time I was in seventh grade, I was almost at a seventh grade level. Because of private tutoring and because of the help she gave. And I started coming a little more out of my shell and then, when I got to high school, acting started because I wanted to hang out with my friends. I started out as a go-fer. And then before I knew it, I was a stage manager. And then the next play we did, I was acting in it and I was helping with the costumes and I was doing the make-up. And then we had to find the props. And then I was the director's assistant and I was in charge of line counts and making sure everyone got on stage and cleaning up and permission slips, and it was like... I was the one that people went to. So I did some acting in some smaller plays and I was very passive about things. And they started up a ComedySportz...

ChivalRuss: ComedySportz?

Dawn E. Emanuele: Comedy and sports and the last "s" is a "z". And that's a lot like Second City or "Whose Line Is It Anyway?", but it's two teams that play against each other and it would be, like, two high schools - two high school teams against each other. We were the Buffalo Wings one year, and the next year, we were like the Whatzits or something like that, I can't remember right now.

ChivalRuss: You wanted me to ask you about Much Ado About Nothing...

Dawn E. Emanuele: Right, I told you to ask me about Much Ado About Nothing. Well, I had auditioned for one of the lead female roles. I can't remember the name, which is obviously a clue to the fact that I didn't get the part. But part of that is because, I know that they liked me quite a bit because they encouraged me to come and tryout for other things, but we did an improvisational thing. I was supposed to be a young girl who totally had a crush on a boy. He was supposed to be so cute and so wonderful. Well, despite the fact that I am auditioning for a Shakespearian play, my brain goes straight back to the ComedySportz and I just start going on and on about this gorgeous man with sideburns and a tight tee shirt and I get so into it that I had him riding a motorcycle and I took my arms... and I started making motorcycle sounds and I was being, like, incredibly weird. And so, umm, yeah, I didn't get the part. I can't necessarily say that I agree with the girl that was cast but wow, I couldn't have got it for the overacting if that was the problem.

ChivalRuss: OK. Next Section: Hints & Suggestions. Let's start with performance: getting up on stage in front of a crowd.

Dawn E. Emanuele: OK. Well, making sure that your nose is wiped, you don't have to worry about that. Check that you don't have toilet paper hanging off the back of your heel is probably also a good tip just to think about. So, once you've got your appearance down... When I was little, I used to panic when I realized that everybody in the group was looking at me and I don't know why anymore because it shouldn't make a difference if you're talking to one person or if you're talking to a hundred. You're still going to say what you're going to say. If you mess up, you mess up. Big deal. As long as you don't do some severe Dan Quail kind of 'I'm-sticking-my-entire-leg-in-my-mouth' problem.

ChivalRuss: Do you have any stunt suggestions based on your martial arts experience; did you want to just throw something in?

ChivalRuss: Basic, y'know? Not if they're doing anything complex. For example, how might they want to set up the stage to prepare for basic impromptu stunt effects like falling?

Dawn E. Emanuele: Well, make sure people don't have anything they can trip over. Big exaggerated movements are good, but try to be aware of your surroundings. Uh, there was one time where girl kind of flung her arms and ended up knocking another girl kind of off the stage and, unfortunately, she was one of those girls that doesn't handle pain real well. But, because she's an actress, she tried to suck it up and she just doesn't handle pain real well. So she's in a scene where she's supposed to be funny and this girl has tears welling up in her eyes. Sometimes, things are just unavoidable. So, I don't know if you can really...

ChivalRuss: If you're on the stage, watch for the edge.

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