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Children vs adults- Directing

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Topic: Children vs adults- Directing
Posted By: Guests
Subject: Children vs adults- Directing
Date Posted: 12/17/01 at 11:32am
Hello, all! I am a director for a local community theater, and have been directing for a few years now & am making a small name for myself in the area. So far, I have not had an opportunity to direct children. That said, my old grade school has FINALLY (after nearly 75 years) decided to start a drama club & are going to be doing their first production next Spring. They have asked me to serve as an advisor & help with the direction. I have a few questions before taking this on:

How should I approach directing for 6th-8th graders?
What are good problem solving techniques?
How do I help with memorization?
What's a good rehearsal schedule?
What problems am I sure to run up against that I haven't encountered with adults?

Thank you so much for your help.

Sincerely,
Jim McCann
President & Artistic Director
Nashville Theater Company



Replies:
Posted By: Guests
Date Posted: 12/21/01 at 2:16am
I've directed both older children (11 and above), adults, and mixed casts. Here are some thoughts about kid shows based on my experience.
-- The kids will memorize their lines (and everyone else's as well!) so quickly that it will make your head spin. I've directed some 60-something's for whom I've had to assign a back-up -- someone else on the stage at the time who would take a line when those senior moments hit -- but it's never been an issue with kids.
-- As a parent of a kid in drama, I emphasize this: whatever schedule you come up with, put it in writing (along with every other "rule") and make sure it gets into the parents' hands. They are the only ones who know the family schedule, and they are the ones who have to do all of the transporting. Do no rely on the kids to convey the information -- ask for a signature from the parents. Also, let the kids go at the promised time -- we hate to have to sit in the parking lot fuming.
-- Kids have a hard time standing still on stage. They tend to want to step forward on every line and to wander for no reason. I've resorted to threatening to put glue on their soles -- never have, but have been known to stop even tech week rehearsals by shouting from the house - why are you moving?!? Maybe there are some theatre games out there that would help prevent this problem ...
-- Consider banning parents from rehearsals. Although they are well-intentioned, they sometimes will "coach" at home, and you'll end up with an actor who has artificial gestures and inflections, and who doesn't know whether to do what Mom says or what the director says. Include something about that in your initial note to parents.
-- Establish your ground rules early and stick with them. Noise, running around, bringing friends and food, what's an excusable absence, etc.
-- Scheduling can be hairy because you'll have to deal with athletics, lessons, confirmation classes, and working parents. Cut your cast some slack early on, but let them know at what point in the rehearsal schedule the show must become a priority over other activities.
-- Spend some time at the beginning teaching basics: up and down stage, left and right, cheating, crossing, countering crosses, not telegraphing, projecting, the fourth wall, etc. It's fun to introduce concepts which we take for granted.
-- Expect a lot of energy which you can capture and focus. Stage games can help.
-- Although some of this sounds dire, you'll find most kids are fun to direct. They'll let you direct them (unlike many adults) and you can have great fun modeling your expectations. If possible, have another adult you trust work with you -- one of you then can work more closely with the kids who need more help "getting" it. I'll take a good kids' show over an adult show any day. Have fun!!


Posted By: Guests
Date Posted: 1/13/02 at 8:03pm
I have to agree with what Marcia says, and just reiterate the one point that I have found most important working with kids.

Let them know, right up front, exactly what it is you expect of them. Lay the ground rules early and stand by them! Let parents know what's going on every step, don't expect the kids to keep them informed.

Kids are great to work with, you just have to stay one step ahead of the little busy-bodies! Communication really will save you!


Posted By: Guests
Date Posted: 4/01/02 at 1:12pm
One thing that I've noticed is that a kid's attention wanders like nobody's business. If a kid is not being dealt with directly at any particular moment (i.e., you're not actually looking at and talking to that particular kid), then he or she will very happily wander off and go do something else in the middle of a scene. "Staying in character" is completely foreign. There's almost always someone who thinks you cast them as the villain because you hate them and think they're evil. And if anyone is supposed to be dead for any length of time, they have about 2-3 minutes (at best) of staying still in them before they start wriggling and squirming. This is all in rehearsal; usually by showtime they know what's expected of them and they behave. That said, kids have twice the energy and three times the enthusiasm of any adult I've ever seen, and generally make (for me, anyway) the process a lot more fun.

Remember, though; if you cast a kid, you cast their parents as well. If the kid's mom is absolutely determined to come to rehearsal, then there's really no practical way to keep her out without losing your Danny Zucco a week before curtain, especially if you're dealing with younger children.


Posted By: Guests
Date Posted: 4/10/02 at 9:20pm
As someone who has been on both sides of this issue, both the kid and the one in charge, I think that kids are a blast. They are so enthusiastic, and so supportive, and you have to give them credit. A kid who really wants to be involved doesn't want to get lectured for mistakes that others might make, and will resent it. I found stories worked the best, things like "I knew this one girl who was chewing gum on stage, and spit it out into the first row of the audience..." keep the kids of chewing gum better then any threat or lecture.



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