Published: March 5, 2012
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BEHIND THE SCENES WITH...
DIANE CHRISTIANSEN

Meet American native SBF Member Diane Christiansen (a.k.a. Diana Mann), whose career has spanned three decades as Dancer, Actress, Director and Coach and according to the Young Presidents Organization in NYC, she is one of the Top 3 Acting Coaches in Hollywood. Diane's accolades also include: 2011 Best Acting Class for Kids & Teens, by Backstage Readers Choice Awards; one of the Top 10 most effective Coaches in Hollywood, by Actors Access (3 years running); #1 Rated Acting Coach in Hollywood for Kids & Teens, by Children in Film (3 years running).
Diane is the force behind some of the hottest young talent in Hollywood, having taught actors such as Hailee Steinfeld, David Henrie, Jason Dolly, Spencer Daniels, Shelbie Bruce, Amy Bruchner, Kay & Danielle Panabaker, Mason Alexander Park and Joey Luthman to name a few.
Diane coaches many acclaimed actors on shows and films such as Glee, Wizards of Waverly Place, Good Time Charlie, Weeds, October Road, 90210, Sonny With a Chance, Criminal Minds, Ghost Whisperer, Lost, Desperate Housewives, 24, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Star Trek, House, Alias, Law & Order, Cold Case, NYPD Blue, ER, Without a Trace, True Grit, Cat in the Hat, Bruce Almighty, 13 Going on 30 and many more.
Read her interview and find out about how her career has evolved from being a Bluebell dancer to a Hollywood acting coach...
Diane Christiansen
a.k.a. Diana Mann

  • Quote ...I teach them to be impeccable listeners. Listening is the most pertinent technique an actor can hone...
    Please tell us about your own performing career?

    Diane Christiansen: My performing career really began when I travelled to New York City from Rock Island, Illinois at the tender age of 17, with my dance mentor, Mary Lou Dennhardt to audition for the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. Paris, Lido
Diane in Bonjour la Nuit!
1972 I was still in my senior year of High School and I was fortunate enough to have a mentor who personally knew the original choreographer, Emily Sherman and the Rockettes creator, Russell Marquette. The year was 1969. All of my dreams were wrapped up in that audition, or at least I thought they were at the time! I had just received a scholarship for Acting in Illinois and as much as I knew I needed to get to New York to dance (while I was young), in my heart, I believed I was going to be like Fanny Bryce or Barbra Streisand and take the town by storm with my larger than life talent. Of course, I couldn't sing a lick, but I sincerely thought my dance and acting skills would sweep the hearts and souls of audiences everywhere and I would 'have it all'. Possibly one too many Streisand movies in the late 60s? Not exactly how it turned out, but it was the beginning of a fantastic journey. I was accepted by the way and placed on hold as a 'summer replacement' for the Rockettes. So, back home I headed, to wait for the call that didn't come... hmmm...
    Cut to: six months later. After I relinquished 2 wonderful roles I had just been cast in prior to the Rockettes audition in the largest Regional theatre company in town….luscious roles too! Anita in West Side Story and Ado Annie in Oklahoma. Instead, I waited and went to tap, jazz and ballet classes until I was blue. Eventually, my mentor called Emily and Russell and they claimed: "No one left this year". The Rockettes were busy striking during that time and all they wanted was one night off per week. Yes, those were the days when they worked 4 shows a day, 7 days a week.
    Las Vegas, Stardust
Diane in Allez Lido!
1980 I was so worried that I was 'too old' when I turned 18 and that I would shrivel and die in Illinois. I had a dream and I needed to fly.
    Quote ...Having been an on set coach for Disney and Nickelodeon over the years, I know how critical it is to be 'the package'...
    So, Mary Lou arranged for another audition, this time with Tibor Rudas in Montreal for the Rudas Dancers. This time, I was not only accepted, I was asked to report for duty right away! Off I flew to Montreal, to begin my actual dancing career in a lovely show at the Cafe Conc in the brand new Chateau Champlain Hotel, in Montreal. It was truly a magical, very Toulouse Lautrec undertaking with the Cancan and flying carpets and Liberace attending our opening week, and sending champagne to the cast. That first experience led to the next, dancing with Rudas at Paradise Island, Bahamas and the Tropicana. Nearly 4 years later and a commercial or two under my belt, I did a 3-month stint as a bunny at the Atlanta Playboy Club. Then on to one of the finest shows in the world…..where I joined my new BFF, Barbara Beverly and Miss Bluebell... at the Lido de Paris, in Paris. Barbara and I met in the Paradise Island show that Tibor Rudas had in Nassau, back in the 'not so commercial' days in the Bahamas. We had been roomies then, and again in Paris. We had such fun and worked so hard.
    My dancing career also took me to Puerto Rico in the 70s with Miller-Reich, back to New York City where I joined the Disco Troupe Le Clique, then settling back in Las Vegas at the Stardust Lido, where I once again roomed with my now dear friend, Barbara Beverly and had the pleasure of working with Siegfried & Roy for over 3 years, along with several of the wonderful dancers listed on ShowBiz Friends.
    Paris, Lido
Diane in Bonjour la Nuit!
1972 Several Feature Film roles later, including Butterfly, Looking to Get Out, Fake Out, plus several commercials (all in Las Vegas), while still at the Stardust Lido six nights per week, I was 'discovered' at an audition for the Young and the Restless by CBS Casting Director, Mike Hanks and when he said: "Come to L.A. to be on the show", I finished my contract and to L.A. I moved to embark on a full-time acting career (my true love) at last, at the age of 31.


  • When did you start to realize that you liked coaching actors and how did you make the transition from performing to coaching?
    DC: I began teaching acting classes in 1992 when I was teaching dance at a studio that my 3-year-old daughter was a student at. The owner and I decided an acting class was needed and I jumped at the opportunity. As for a transition, I had stopped performing once my son was one year old. My husband and I decided that I would take a break and be a mom. I claimed I would return once my kids were older and begin a community or regional theatre. I did just that in 1996, my husband, a dear friend and I started a 7-year theatre company in our Mtn Community near Los Angeles. At the same time, my professional classes and coaching career began to blossom and I loved it. I found so much fulfillment in coaching actors, so much joy.

  • Los Angeles
Diane directs actors for Disney Casting Director
2010 What is the age range of your students?
    DC: My students range in age from 5 to 80.

  • What do you enjoy most about coaching children and teenagers?
    DC: Being the oldest child of a family of 5 children, I have always resonated with kids and teens. It seems to be a natural progression in my own personal evolution.
    Quote ...Do good work, and good work will find you...
    Beyond that, in Hollywood, I really enjoy working with families. I have always coached adult actors and love my adult class, but kids and teens are so much more ready to jump in and take risks and play and I love that. Adults tend to hesitate & hold back and need lots of coaxing, whereas kids and teenagers just go for it.


  • Can you tell right away whether a student has what it takes to succeed in acting?
    DC: I recognize natural talent immediately, but what it takes to succeed includes so much more than talent or being cute. It takes the right circumstances, the right family, and the right team. Including the training (coach), representation (agents and mgrs.) and the actor themselves. A certain amount of drive and ambition need to be in the mix, as well as a strong dose of discipline... don't we dancers know that!!!

  • Los Angeles
Diane on Set with Shelbie Bruce from Spanglish
2011 How does somebody know when they have found the right course and coach?
    DC: It just clicks for both of us, and with the parents. When I am able to guide an actor to a full and dynamic performance, I know we are in sync. It is double when an actor does private coaching for auditions and attends weekly classes.

  • How are your classes structured?
    DC: We have 8 weekly classes in 3 locations, with 3 levels and divided only by ages and levels and our class curriculum includes cold reading, audition technique, scene study and improvisation. We are on camera once a month and we mix up what we work on camera. Once a month we also brush up on commercials, then we do mock auditions and the next month we film our prepared scenes with props. I believe our classes are award winning, because they are so well rounded.

  • Has your class changed significantly since you started teaching it?
    DC: Oh yes, we have grown so much from my one little class per week. I am now in my 20th year of teaching!
    Quote ...A certain amount of drive and ambition need to be in the mix as well as a strong dose of discipline…..don't we dancers know that...


  • Apart from bringing out their acting talents, what other skills do you teach them?
    DC: I tend to add lots of career coaching and professional 'on set' skills to the actors work. Having been an on set coach for Disney and Nickelodeon over the years, I know how critical it is to be 'the package'. I am also very goal oriented and encourage lots of goal setting and reaching and am an advocate of training actors to be one another's support system.

  • Many actors are fine when they are speaking, but get lost when another character is speaking. How do you teach children to maintain concentration?
    DC: I teach them to be impeccable listeners. Listening is the most pertinent technique an actor can hone. When an actor can learn to make it look like they are hearing a line for the very first time and allow them to be affected by what they are hearing, then their focus is where it needs to be, to be organic.

  • Los Angeles
Diane Teaches Chicago Workshop
2010 How has being a working actress shaped your work as an acting teacher?
    DC: After so many years of working on Film, TV, as well as in Theatre and Cabaret, I feel I have experienced many different disciplines to share, but mostly, I love the craft and details of the Actors work. I love working with actors every day of my life. Performers are my favourite people on the planet. I feel so incredibly blessed that I get to do what I do each and every day!

  • What are the most frequent questions/concerns from your students?
    DC: Probably how to get the best agents, and to cry on cue. Everyone seems to want to learn that!

  • Is the auditioning process for children and teens different in Los Angeles than in other places?
    DC: It is a little bit different than London, Paris, New York or the smaller markets like Chicago or Orlando. Hollywood has its own special formula for auditioning to some degree.

  • Best Acting Class for Kids & Teens
by Backstage Readers Choice Awards
2011 Would the preparation for trying out for companies such as Disney or Nickelodeon be different from auditioning for a film or a commercial?
    Quote ...When I am able to guide an actor to a full and dynamic performance, I know we are in sync...
    DC: I just shot a video on this topic. It was at MTT, www.mastertalentteachers.com, my Virtual University for Performers. When you visit the site, see my video in the archives entitled Adjusting your style of acting to different scripts. Knowing what you are reading for, is critical and I offer tools for actors to adjust for each style audition, whether it is for a soap opera, a Disney show, an episodic or a feature film.

  • Are young actors of today easier to work with than in the past - since many are accustomed to being on camera either via a friend's camcorder or a YouTube video clip?
    DC: Surprisingly NO! I have not found that to have much effect on skill. Even if someone masters a YouTube video, it rarely means they have on camera skills, which take years to develop under the watchful eye of a seasoned Coach or a Director.

  • What was the best acting lesson/tip/technique someone ever shared with you? Los Angeles
Diane awards Scholarship to Mason Alexander Park
2011
    DC: For me personally, it was when I truly understood that you could always achieve your goals if you persist. When I was young, I thought: "You pay dues, and then you work". Not so, it's really about staying in the game and I believe my Acting Coaches really drove that home. Now I teach my actors to adopt acting in L.A. or N.Y. or London as their lifestyle, to keep training, doing great work and persisting, no matter what.

  • Is it easier than ever to get a job as an actor today, given the wealth of media outlets (cable TV, online content etc)?
    DC: There are more opportunities than there were 25 years ago. However, Actors still need to make their choices carefully. I encourage student films, webisodes and theatre, while pursuing careers in TV & film. One thing I do discourage, is extra or background work or reality shows, which are all actors by the way.

  • What advice would you give to someone who wants to become an actor?
    DC: Be certain that this is what you want to do, if you can find some other way to make a living and be happy doing it, do that! But if you are certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is the only career choice you can possibly make, then commit to it with all of your heart. Stay in class, keep honing your craft in order to compete. Do good work, and good work will find you!

  • What is your involvement with Master Talent Teachers (MTT) and how did it come about?
    DC: I am the 'Master Talent Teacher' for Kids & Teens. MTT is an online University, which was assembled by 30-year Commercial Coach, Carolyne Barry, a little over a year ago. I was invited to be part of this extraordinary team of teachers by Carolyne. We have created the most powerful Virtual University for Performers in the World with instructors like (see photo):
    The Master Talent Teachers at MTT
1.  Suzanne Lyons - Careers & Business
2.  Maurice LaMee - Theater
3.  Diane Christiansen - Kids & Teens
4.  Gerry Katzman - Comedy
5.  Carolyne Barry - Commercials
6.  Kimberly Jentzen - Actors
7.  Maureen Browne - Hosts
8.  Steven Memel - Voice
9.  Kevin McCorkle - Careers & Business
10. Joe Tremaine - Dancers
11. Holly Powell - Auditioning

    1. Suzanne Lyons - Career Coaching
    2. Maurice LaMee - Theater
    3. Diane Christiansen - Kids & Teens
    4. Gerry Katzman - Comedy
    5. Carolyne Barry - Commercials
    6. Kimberly Jentzen - Actors
    7. Maureen Browne - Hosts for Actors
    8. Steven Memel - Voice
    9. Kevin McCorkle - Career Coaching
    10. Joe Tremaine - Dance
    11. Holly Powell - Auditions


    and Lynn Stallings for Theatre. These are award-winning teachers who all love shooting videos which air every 4 days. We are able to provide free training for performers of all ages and levels worldwide... with our Hollywood sensibilities intact. I encourage all performers and teachers to visit our sensational site for true inspiration and training: www.mastertalentteachers.com

  • What do you think of ShowBiz Friends?
    DC: I am your #1 fan! Having reunited with so many of my friends and fellow performers worldwide has been so joyful and fulfilling. I feel ShowBiz Friends has gone above and beyond all limitations to unite such a huge spectrum of performers and has done it so beautifully. I am a loyal visitor of the site and absolutely love this level of interaction with so many wonderful friends, I would otherwise be unable to connect with. Superb idea and execution! I have encouraged many to sign up! Keep up the good work, I for one am so very grateful and I know how much work it takes to do this so well!


    Thank you Diane for this great interview and best of luck with your coaching career and MTT!