Children's Theatre and the Young Actor's Expectationsby Marc T. Romero Business Consultant, Marketing
The director's input during production week - the very last week before the opening night of a show - is significant for any group of actors. But young actors especially seem to benefit from the director's last suggestions and notes as they approach the big night. The young ones are especially susceptible to the heretofore unrealized reality that - and far be it from the director to remind them that she has been saying this all along - the show is actually going to happen.
Youth theatre directors will tell you that it is no small feat to convince their young casts during the first weeks of rehearsal to focus on the idea that there is a reason for all this fun stuff the director asks them to do when they all get together three nights a week to rehearse a play. Now to be very clear and positive, the reasons for a child participating in a youth theatre production are many. The opportunities for social, physical, cognitive and emotional growth are endless! But truth be told, and all that other wonderfulness aside, the reality is that there are tickets being sold and there will be an audience in the seats of the theatre on opening night and those people will have their hearts set on seeing something really wonderful.
So, the patient director of a youth theatre waits them out those first weeks. While she is waiting she makes sure the blocking is solid, that everybody knows their lines, the lyrics to the songs, and that the children understand where their exits and entrances take place as well as where in the script they occur. She doesn't get crazy because the hero of the show is still reading his book backstage and misses his entrance night after night. She holds her tongue when two thirds of the cast forgets their dance shoes and has to rehearse the big number in their flip flops. She quietly reminds the littlest boys that just because it is not time for their characters to be onstage doesn't mean they should pop open a yogurt and begin a debate over the best way to build a Lego tower. She is patient because she knows it is still going to be a while before the actors figure out the truth. And the first day of production week, when they begin trickling in to rehearsal, she sees it their eyes. There's a special feeling in the air. It is a blessed, blessed day. They know.
The cast has realized that production week is upon them and that at the end of the week, the audience will be there expecting a complete and entertaining production. Gone are the listless, robotic line readings. Gone are the complaints of, "Do we have to do it again?" and "We still don't have our costumes!" Gone are the sad excuses for missing rehearsal due to birthday parties and shopping sprees. The terror of opening night has found itself into the hearts and minds of the young cast. And this is a very good thing.
Now this is not to say that the director has no sympathy. Most directors have long been actors, and they know that the anxiety an actor has during those last few rehearsal days feels anything but cozy. But the reality is a young cast has to get to this point before they are ready to face what's coming. The opportunity for teaching and clarifying and smoothing over the bumps in the show is ripe, and the clever youth theatre director sees her opening, grabs it and holds on.
Because what needs to happen and what cannot happen before the young ones get to this point is that the cast needs to understand that they must themselves own the show. There is no more time for the coddling the director shows them in the beginning of the rehearsal period with her patient reminders and smiles of understanding. It is time for the director to take a step back, and for the show now to become the property of the actors.
So here's what happens next. The cast becomes a team. They support each other and become advocates for their fellow actors. They develop a sense of the show as a whole entity. The characterizations and that beautiful give and take so essential if the show is going to ring with truth come out of hiding and settles in on the stage. The director can give notes to her actors and they will hear her and take the suggestions to heart. The actors begin to listen! The director will find that she is seeing things she has asked the actors for every night since the beginning suddenly begin to blossom in their performances.
The children have taken ownership of the show and by the time the curtain goes up it will be ready and the audience will love it. But what has really happened? Has the director really been able to cram an entire weeks of teaching into the last 7 days of rehearsal? Was she really obliviously ignoring the teaching of the actual acting skills needed for a successful performance by her cast?
The director has been remembering all along that her actors are children. And children learn things in their own ways and at their own pace. The opportunity for learning is given, and the tools of learning are given and she has been waiting for them all to get it. And yes, the last week of rehearsal the pressure is on, and there is a lot more motivation for them to get it. So get it they will. They always do. And this is why it is a well known fact that if you don't believe in miracles, you should go work in youth theatre. Because what you will see there will make you believe.
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Created on Aug 19th 2018 06:48. Viewed 297 times.
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