OnStage Canada Columnist
The cardinal rule is to never work with animals or children. Aside from a stuffed monkey, I have never worked with animals. Working with kids, in an adult play, taught me a lot more than I ever expected.
1. Talk to them like humans.
They have a voice. They have questions and they really want to learn. Giving notes to them, makes them feel important. Get to know them. Ask about school. Ask about their likes. Find out what interests them. I found myself wanting to hear from them. It amazed me every time.
2. Ask them for their help.
Whether it’s putting away props or moving chairs, it makes them feel useful. They can learn so much about all the aspects of a show. It encourages respect for props, costumes and set pieces. Plus, they will feel pride for being useful.
3. Encourage them with praise.
They want to know they are doing well. Most actors appreciate and want feedback. Notes need to be more than just criticism. The young ones really want to know they are doing well.
4. Teach them theatre etiquette.
Respecting the theatre, know what the tech staff do, how a props table works and the importance of hanging up costumes.
5. Please and thank you go a long way.
On both ends. Working with eight polite kids, that you treat with respect, will return the favour. I would be thanked regularly for nothing more than being kind to them.
I hope they will look back on being in an adult play with respect and great memories. I will always remember impromptu raps, homemade cookies, kid friendly jokes, Christmas presents picked out by a 7 year old, the excitement to tell me stories and all the innocence that we all once had.
Photo: Missoula Children's Theatre