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If you're thinking that your child might have what it takes to make it in show biz, think twice, recommends Gary Spatz.
"It's all business," he warns. "The big corporations just want to put out a product; they don't care about anything else. It's hard for the professional kids involved to
Spatz knows what he's talking about. He's the set coach - the on-site acting teacher - for the kids on Roseanne and The Mickey Mouse Club. Students from his classes
at the Young Actor's Space in Los Angeles have starred in films such as Jurassic Park, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and Little Big League.
"A kid has to have a big passion for acting, just like he would for skating or gymnastics," he explains. "It has to be the child's decision; they have to be the ones leading
the parents. And parents must check constantly to be certain the experience is positive and worthwhile. A kid ha to be allowed to walk away from it if he's rather play
baseball. But most of the kids I work with love it; their joy shows through in their work, and that's what we want."
Spatz will be in Denver this week teaching acting workshops for children, and holding a seminar for parents about how to get their children involved in movies and TV.
He is already working with some children from the Denver area. Matt Morriss, 15 of ARvada, is a Mouseketeer, and has been under Spatz's direction since we was cast
on the Mickey Mouse Club three years ago. Morriss' mother, Teri Hernandez, says Spatz has been a godsend.
"He worked with Matt since day one, and I'm so glad he was there," she said. "He's more than just a drama coach; he helps them make the transition from being just a
child to being a child in the business. And he always appreciates that fact that Matt's a child first, and from a parent's point of view, that's what's most valuable."
Helping a child say a child is the key to successful juvenile performace, according to Spatz.
"All children know how to playact but lose it as they grow and become more self-aware," he said. "We try to teach techniques to get kids back to when they were 5 or 6
and all the feelings were at their fingertips and it was easy to pretend. The great kids know how to hang onto that and keep it real, and their natural-ness shines through.
And what makes a kid a pro is knowing how to find it and repeat it. The amateur can do it well once but the pro can do it just as well on the eighth take. That's the
difference, that's what they need to learn."
One of Spatz's star pupils is Michael Fishman, 13, who plays D.J., the youngest child on Roseanne. He was cast in the first season seven years ago because the
producers though he looked like Roseanne, and because he had no previous acting experience.
"He's spent half his life on the set of Roseanne," said Spatz. "But he's a wonderful kid. He just had his bar mitzvah. People have the misconception, maybe because of
Rosie's persona, that it's a difficult set. But because it's a hit show, very-one has a sense of security and it's very relaxed. It's easier to play the lines, too, because you
can do them on a pretty naturalistic level. A lot of sitcoms are a lot broader, less realistic, but on Roseanne it's not all sunshine and roses."
While in Denver, Spatz said his children's workshop will focus on theater games leading to scene work using scripts from current TV shows. His seminar for parents will
be an introduction to the realities of the business.
"We'll talk about pictures and resumes, agents, manager, pilots, seasons, and auditions," he said. "It's important that parents really understand what they're getting into."
By Alan Dumas Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer
So your child wants to be a star?
Kid's acting coach also advises parents
Rocky Mountain News