Author Topic: COMMUNICATION: Giving notes to young actors  (Read 3766 times)

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ReyYaySM

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COMMUNICATION: Giving notes to young actors
« on: Dec 21, 2010, 11:31 pm »
I'm currently working on a production of Annie and am working with 13 young girls.  We're about 6 weeks into the run and some of the girls are getting to the point where they are bored and coming up with new things to do onstage.  I give them notes like I give notes to the adults in the company when what they are doing exceeds the world of the show that the director created.  However, they'll take one note and come up with something new in a different place the next show.  I have reiterated to them and have spoken with their parents about the importance of doing the show that the director created and to stay focused when they are onstage.  A member of the adult company has suggested that I figure out a way to punish/scare the girls into behaving onstage.  While I understand the actor's frustrations, in watching the show it is not as bad as they are making it out to be and it is really not my style (nor do I particularly feel it's my place) to punish the girls if they do something wrong. 

For those of you who have worked with young actors before, what have you found to be the best method of giving notes to them?  At what point do you involve the parents, if you involve them at all? 

SMrose

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Re: COMMUNICATION: Giving notes to young actors
« Reply #1 on: Dec 22, 2010, 10:31 am »
Having worked for years with young performers, I would refrain from any punish/scare tactics.  I would let them know the "why" behind why we need to keep the show as the director intended it to be.  As young performers, this is an opportunity to train them in acting and stage ediquette.  Positive re-enforcement goes a long way and, I feel, gets better results.

loebtmc

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Re: COMMUNICATION: Giving notes to young actors
« Reply #2 on: Dec 22, 2010, 12:46 pm »
Here are a few things that have worked wiith some young adults in shows I've done (just like grown-ups, you have to adjust to the person) - and if you know any Jr Hi School/ Middle School teachers, their tricks really help too - test a couple out, see how they work with your collection of kids and go from there -

- As SMRose said, telling them WHY can help - esp when it ties to cues and existing lights - if they are brought into the circle of planning it can help them be on the team rather than just showing up and not understanding how everything relates - the domino effect of any one change (ah, the  butterfly analogy)

- Deputize the person who abuses the most and make them like a de facto AD - sort of  dance captain equivalent, to keep an eye on the show and keep it tuned to the director's vision

- If you can show an (bad) example in the adult cast, it helps explain "different" doesn't always mean "better"

- Praise the performance every time it does what the director intended with words like "wow, it was so simple and clear tonite, you really touched me" or "the audience really loved it when you...." - as in, specifically manipulative reinforcing specific original blocking/intentions etc

- Depending on their age and experience, you can give rewards, from gold stars to something inexpensive but fun to win based on earning a certain number of performances without changes (something you can afford easily or purchase w petty cash that a person that age would love to win) - awards can be given weekly or monthly, and (in a show like Annie with so very many little girls) even divided into teams, so each team polices themselves since if one person strays, all lose. ** Be careful since this can work like gangbusters or can have repercussions if there is one person determined do what she wants regardless - you really have to know your cast to do teams.

I am sure you will get a slew more great ideas, but I have found these to work well - at least so far- (kids these days...<g>)
« Last Edit: Dec 22, 2010, 12:49 pm by loebtmc »

Jonas_A

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Re: COMMUNICATION: Giving notes to young actors
« Reply #3 on: Apr 17, 2011, 11:17 am »
In an amateur show I frequently perform in, production give the cast the usual 'hate sheet' every night, but they use a lot of humor to dull the sting. There's also congratulatory notes on cast members who did a great job - usually just doing what they were told to! If the kids really aren't doing what they're meant to, consider taking them aside and having a quick word with them about "how the show's going for them" - often times when they get it wrong it's because they either don't understand something or they're bored/frustrated. If they're just being bratty, ask them to do it to set an example for the others. No kid will turn down an opportunity to take responsibility and show that they can do a special job.

Parents? Depends on the kid, depends on the parents. Sometimes it can do a world of good, sometimes it just makes things worse. Go with instinct and a good dose of caution.

Jonas

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Re: COMMUNICATION: Giving notes to young actors
« Reply #4 on: Apr 17, 2011, 11:20 pm »
I have worked with a variety of ages in children.

There are many reasons and solutions to dealing with children in the theatre space.

First, you should know if the children you are working with are there because they want to be or because their parents want them to be. This makes a world of difference in handling the problem.

If they want to be there, it could be a matter of the repetition getting to them. Maybe they just need something more stimulating backstage. Children don't have long attention spans, and a show running around 2 hours is a long time, and going for a long run makes that time even worse. Give them something to do for their age backstage. Coloring, games, puzzles etc.

Depending on the time of day, it could be as simple as they need a snack. They burn a lot of calories a lot fast than adults. Try some fruit or pretzel juice as a nice snack backstage for them.

There could just be a misunderstanding in direction. Speak to them with their parent off to the side and get them to tell you what they are supposed to be doing in detail. If it comes from them, and they understand it, then you know that's isn't the problem. If they can't fully explain it themselves, their is a road block that needs to be cleared.

If the kids don't want to be in the productions, maybe it is as simple as speaking to them and the parents about a replacement. If the child isn't enjoying his/herself they aren't going to want to continue and will do things to try and get out of it.

Maybe a bit of bribery would help, like the prize idea mentioned. More praise could be helpful.

Maybe it is a particular person that they are working with that makes it less fun for them. Try talking to them one on one, telling them there is no consequences, but you want to know why they are acting that way.

You just need to handle working with children delicately. If you don't have a lot of experience working with children in a theatre setting, it might be worth a conversation with the producer to see if it is in the budget to find an ASM who has experience with children that can speak with them separately, based on your notes and work with them backstage to help the frustrations of the adult actors. The one on one attention can be important for their understanding of professional theatre.

loebtmc

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Re: COMMUNICATION: Giving notes to young actors
« Reply #5 on: Apr 18, 2011, 01:33 am »
This topic has been discussed at length, and I don't think we need to rehash what's already been said. However, I keep seeing people assigning the ASM to care for the kids - this concerns me. I want a kid wrangler to handle the kids (or assigned parents), but I want my ASM to be able to do ASM duties and be backstage, not responsible for watching kids.


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