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This editorial was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on April 14, 1999. All rights reserved.

Between the Lines: Play-acting

Play-acting comes naturally to children: The dress-up

corner is among the most popular at nursery schools, and almost any

play activity, from climbing to block building, can turn into a game

of Let’s Pretend. Those with starring roles in grade school plays

might turn into high school actors and college thespians.

But most grownups assume that, unless we join a community theater

company, our theatrics will be limited to reading bedtime stories

or yukking it up in the annual sales meeting skit.

Wrong. Every day is an acting opportunity. If you are worried about

approaching a known-to-be difficult client, you can assume the body

language of someone confident and poised. If you must deal with an

arrogant co-worker, you can try to "think the thoughts" of

that person to gain empathy with her. If you must answer the phone

all day, you can, with acting skill, "pretend" a smile into

your voice that masks your utter boredom.

Starting on page 17, freelance writer Caroline Calogero offers insights

on children’s theater performances plus tips on where children can

train in everything from creative drama to clowning. After all, today’s

young actors may be getting a head start on tomorrow’s good jobs.

And although this issue of our annual "Culture for Kids/Family

Life" series does focus on theater, almost any kind of activity

or lesson — dance, sports, martial arts, painting, pottery, scouting

— is going to add a new dimension to a child’s future. There is

also something to be said for encouraging children to participate

in what doesn’t come naturally. The gawky kid should probably take

a year of gymnastics, and the shy one may blossom with creative drama.

That works for adults, too. We all might do well, for instance, to

hone our narrative skills. Dramatic storytelling ability, says Peter

Giulano, an Englewood-based consultant who founded Executive Communications

Group, is vital for business. "Learning how to be a good storyteller

as well as an effective presenter adds might to your communication

muscle," says Giulano. "Storytelling is a technique that allows

you to draw analogies for your listeners. These analogies add a critical

`personal’ touch to any business situation and prime your listeners

to better hear, understand, and remember what you say."

Princeton business people can pull up their storytelling socks by

studying with actresses like Julia Poulos of All the World’s A Stage

or Sallie Goodman of Presentations Plus. Poulos, Goodman, and other

speech consultants offer tips on everything from how to relax to how

to use that all-important body language. Body language, the experts

say, delivers 55 percent of your message.

Another way to use drama in business is at trade shows. with displays

that bring excitement, capture an audience, and leave a lasting impression.

You might even say that any kind of marketing campaign is a form of

business theater, incorporating alll the elements of theatrical production

— talent, set design, concept, lighting, and multimedia.

It’s a long way from the "Three Billy Goats Gruff" to the

CEO’s podium, but learning to "think the thoughts," Stanislavsky

style, will help us all over the bridge.

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