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How to Engage a Child in Youth Theater

Posted In Theaters - By KidsMug On Tuesday, March 6th, 2012 With 0 Comments

Trying youth theater is a great way to build public speaking skills and can be a terrific way for a shy child to overcome his shyness by role playing. As your child progresses, you’ll often see an exuberance on the stage that echoes the growth in his self esteem as a result of the program. Finding a good program is key and you should seek certain characteristics to fully engage your child

Be aware that many local theater groups bolster their bottom line with educational programs for children. It’s a good use of the theater during the afternoons, when it’s typically unused, and also provides some income to the actors in the troupe. Different theaters will have different goals for their program: either to play children’s roles in the adult production or to create a performance specifically by the children. It’s generally better for the children to be engaged in a production focused on their needs rather than to be trained to say one or two lines in an adult production. Adult productions also tend to have rehearsal times that aren’t necessarily conducive to children’s schedules.

See if there’s a committed staff. Theater companies that offer children’s productions typically have a director of education or similar title, who vets scripts, hires directors and manages the logistics of the children’s production needs. You’ll also want to research if the directors have experience with children, have directed at this theater before and enjoy working with children. The best ways to find out this information is to ask the education director and then attend a rehearsal or two to see how the director interacts with the children.
Focus on education. To engage your child, you want to be sure that the focus of the program is on learning stagecraft–how to move on stage, how to be still, when to speak and how to project. A good program works through these basics with the children and doesn’t expect a child to know them when she walks in the door. Some programs are focused on playing dress-up or improv; this is fine for younger children, but older children need more of a challenge to be engaged.

Check if there are different levels for different developmental ages. Younger kids who are just learning to read will have entirely different needs than a teenager who’s really into Goth culture. See if the group offers age-appropriate levels for children. This way, your child has opportunity to grow and develop as he involves himself further in the process of learning how to be in a production.

Make sure the script interests the child. While you likely have little to no say in the script choice, be sure the script is at least of interest to your child. It needn’t be developmentally challenging, but it should at least be something that engenders some enthusiasm or it will be a chore for your child. Be aware that most scripts are modified as the rehearsals progress, so make sure your child is aware of this and talks to the director if the initial script isn’t immediately exciting.


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