CYBERSPACERS.COM PRESENTS A "WWW" EXCLUSIVE FEATURE

"SIMON SAYS!"

BALANCING SCHOOL-&-CAREER:
HERE'S HOW YOUNG STARS DO IT!
By Alan Simon, CyberSpacers' Educational Advisor

*(Alan Simon's On Location Education is THE Class-A company providing tutors and teachers to the best-known young performers of popular culture. To name a few: 'NSYNCers J.C., Justin, Lance, and Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Natalie Portman, Sarah Michelle Gellar ('BUFFY'), Melissa Joan Hart ('SABRINA'), Brandy Norwood, Leelee Sobieski, Claire Danes, Keri Russell ('FELICITY'), Malcolm-Jamal Warner + + + = were all OLE students long before anyone knew them by the great roles they created. Here, in his first CyberSpacers.com exclusive - Alan explains how some of your favorite stars were able to balance their education with their phenomenal careers.)*

Hi, CyberSpacers! If you've ever wondered what it takes for a young performer to balance their role as the star of a TV series, feature film or Broadway play with the pressures of completing high school, you should consider looking to some of your favorites, not so much as "celebrities" - but as role models.

Being a young performer isn't easy. Most people mistakenly think that young performers live some romantic lifestyle; chauffeured everywhere by limousine, their every whim catered to, being rich, hounded by autograph seekers, and idolized by millions. And while stardom does have its 'perks' - the truth is that most young performers are just average kids who pursue a show business career the way a Little Leaguer pursues a pop fly. It's elusive, and you have to have the talent and ability to catch the ball -- despite the glare of the sunlight in your eyes.

Being a young star requires showing up on-set at 6 or 7am, often working until 4 or 5pm. Within the confines of that schedule, time is allotted for school. According to the rules governing the employment of kids in the entertainment industry, most minors must work a minimum of three hours per day on their studies. While that may not seem as difficult as being in school for six hours each day, remember that the total workday is still 9-10 hours long for a young performer, and that includes work and school combined.

And for kid performers trying to get an education at the same time, the pressure can be beyond belief. Picture yourself being in a feature film budgeted at $80 million, or a multi-million dollar Broadway musical, or a TV series in which your sense of timing is critical to the success of the show.

All that only adds to the fact that kids striving to make it in show business live in a high stakes world. Imagine having to go to school with that much added pressure on the line!

Despite the burden - Natalie Portman (Queen Amidala/Padmé Naberrie in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace) did it. When we had the pleasure of working with her during her Broadway debut, "The Diary of Anne Frank," Natalie was a junior in high school. The subjects she was studying included (AP) Advanced Placement English, AP American History, and AP physics. She was taking a special pre calculus course devoted to abstract topics (as if calculus isn't abstract enough). Additionally, she was in Honors French, her fifth year of study. And to challenge herself - she was also in her second year of Japanese. Whew!

"Anne Frank" previewed in Boston. Natalie's workweek was Tuesday through Sunday, with Monday being the designated day-off. While this schedule is not uncommon in theater, what made Natalie's story so unique is the extent of her course work and the devotion she gave to both her studies and her role.

While the other actors took Monday off, Natalie used it to schedule an eight hour study day, combining three teaching sessions with three separate tutors, each a specialist in his or her own field. She would schedule school sessions at the theater over the weekend, between the matinee and evening performances.

And when I say that Natalie would schedule it, I mean that the organizing and directives came from her, not her parents.

I asked Natalie why she didn't want to take her Monday day-off and do something less straining. She replied, "I'm not a sightseer. I don't need to take a walking tour of Boston. And I don't really have the time for an art museum."

In other words, she was saying that this was the life she chose for herself and she was committed to it.

What Natalie did find time for were visits with her friends from back home. The people she cared about meant something to her. They were not "show bizzy," but the ones whom she'd grown up with and who'd trek up to Boston to see her regularly on the weekend.

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