Brandon Zelman Q+A
Brandon Zelman is an actor and improviser born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. He has been with Child’s Play NY for a few years now and has happily answered a few questions for us about his training, comedy and more.
What kind of training do you have, in both acting and comedy?
I did a lot of plays and musicals in middle and high school (and won a National Youth Theatre Award for my 12th grade portrayal of Motel the Tailor in Fiddler on the Roof. My father is still very proud.) I studied Theatre at Fordham University, with a concentration in acting, but did a lot of dabbling in sound design and directing and playwriting and costume design. I eventually studied improvisational comedy at the UCB Theatre.
What do you do outside of teaching with Child’s Play NY?
I perform improvised comedy at the UCB Theatre, inventing new stories on stage every week! I like to write and make movies and plays with my friends. And every Tuesday, I record a Pokémon podcast.
How did you start doing comedy?
As a child, I would dress up in costumes and disturb my mother’s co-workers with improvised puppet shows. This would eventually lead to me writing rude comic books which would eventually lead to interviewing my school principal in a kiddie pool in front of an audience, which would eventually lead to me doing improv comedy with all my free time.
Any advice for how to be your funniest self?
The best way to be funny is to be yourself. The silly in you is unique and if you can figure out your own unique point of view, then people will be drawn to you.
How do you approach teaching young students versus older students?
An important principle in theatre is knowing your audience, and so that means engaging with what excites a group. This can change with different age groups, but beyond age, I look for what different groups find most interesting. One group might thrive on rigorous scene-work while another might have the most fun with immersive scene exploration.
How do you create original stories?
A lot of my classes involve building plays that are based on works that already exist. One of my great joys in teaching is discovering the themes, characters and settings that resonate with my students and creating a new narrative based on them. It can be so much fun to place our characters in new situations that originate in our imagination, and can be a really creative exercise in learning all the structural pieces of a story.
What kind of books do you like?
I love authors who write stories with silly narrators; books by Roald Dahl or Lemony Snicket or Judy Bloom. I think my role in the classroom is often similar to these silly narrators: helping extract the silly stories from the daring minds of the students. I love Harry Potter and science fiction and fantasy novels.
What are some of your best experiences with Child’s Play NY?
I have done a few week-long Harry Potter summer camps, and I love Harry Potter (I have dressed as Dobby the House-Elf more than one time.) Sometimes, I get dunked on by my students who know way more intricacies of the Potterverse, and I find that very, very fun. Sometimes, as I pretend to be Professor Flitwick, I will say “levio-SAH” and wait for the chaos that ensues.
What is it like doing Birthday Parties with Child’s Play NY?
It is a lot of fun to show up on a special day and add a theatrical adventure element. We are always in a new space, and often with brand new friends, so every single party is unique and special. I love playing around with the different party themes!