If you are in any sort of leadership position on a show with young people (director, musical director, choreographer, stage manager), it’s vital to establish a rapport with your actors. You need to create an atmosphere of trust, respect and positivity for your young actors. And, of course, you need to make your actors feel that they are a vital part of the team, no matter how large or small a part they have in the show. So read on for five tips that will help you make your young actors feel important.
1. Learn their names, as soon as you can.
First and foremost — learn their names. And don’t give me the excuse that there are too many to learn… in 2012 I had to learn more than 75 names with my four OKTC T.A.G. classes! Remember how good you feel when someone you admire knows your name? Same goes for everyone else! Make it a priority to learn everyone’s name by the third rehearsal. Use name games, get the actors to say their names when answering questions, and just repeat, repeat, repeat their names. Learn their names, and use them!
2. Be respectful.
You have to give respect to get respect. You cannot just waltz into a room and demand respect. Nobody likes being bossed around… especially young people. They’re used to everyone bossing them around: parents, older siblings, teachers. So be respectful. Treat young actors the way you want to be treated. Don’t scream and yell — nobody likes that. Of course you need to be the leader of the rehearsal/class, but you can do so and not be a jerk about it! Find the balance!
3. Be real.
Kids can spot a phony a mile away. So just be yourself. Don’t force yourself to be sugary sweet and hyped up, or serious and sage-like if you’re not that kind of person. If you don’t know the answer to something, just say so. Find out the answer later and let them know then. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Just be honest, and most importantly, be you.
4. Take a genuine interest in them, and what they’re interested in.
You don’t need to know all the songs in the OneDirection discography or be able to name each one of the Avengers. But it is important to stay abreast of what’s in, what’s current, and what’s going on in terms of technology and social media. Listen to your actors. Ask their opinions about topics. Wait to be asked your opinion, if you’re asked at all. Know who’s friends with who in the cast. Listen, listen, listen! This can be really useful if problems arise in the future.
5. Use their talents.
Find out what they’re good at, and use it in your show! Do they play a musical instrument? Can they turn cartwheels? Do accents? Juggle? Incorporate it somehow! And there’s other opportunities to use their skills. Create leadership opportunities within the show. Are they good at taking selfies? Have them take photos during rehearsal and create a social media account to publicize the show. Are they super-organized and reliable? Put them in charge of scene transitions. Got a fantastic dancer or a great pianist? Make them dance captain or have them lead vocal warm-up. Are they quiet backstage? Have them be “backstage captains” who are in charge of keeping the backstage area quiet. And of course, everyone needs to be responsible for after-rehearsal and after-show clean-up!
What are some tips you’ve used to help boost kids’ confidence and make them feel important?
Share your ideas in the comments!
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