I like kids. I especially like theater kids.
Well, most of them, anyhow.
Kids working with adults are in a very different position than kids working in a kid show. They can feel isolated or ignored or infantilized. I try to include them, listen to them, and give them the proper respect a fellow performer deserves.
Usually, when I am working with the young ‘uns (Annie, Music Man), I have a talk with the kid(s). I tell them what I expect and what I won’t be tolerating.
I put a little bit of the fear of God (TIDBI), or at very least, the fear of Terri, in them.
I know that kids can get distracted.
Kids can pick up things faster than old farts like me, but they have more trouble focusing.
I feel that if I tell them what is not going to be okay, then they have a little bit less to distract them and a good reason to stay focused.
I let them know that while theater can be fun, it is also hard work and that we are not there to have play time. We are there so that we will (eventually) put on the best performance we can for a paying audience.
I try to impress on them that we are doing this for others – it’s for our fellow performers, for the theater where we are performing, and for the audience.
If a kid is having trouble with something – like a dance or lines, I am the first one there to take them aside and work with them. I let them know that it’s okay. That everything takes practice and it takes time. Even for an old fart like me.
I teach them about not upstaging (especially not upstaging me) or pulling focus. I impress on them that on the stage, we take turns and everyone gets their moment.
(I also tell them that if they try to upstage me, they will not win; I will upstage them every chance I get, and I have a lot more tricks in my bag than they do. – I clean up my threats for the younger crowd, but I tell adults – I will whip out a tit if you try to upstage me. You don’t want to test me.)
And when it’s time to perform, the kid(s) know(s) I have their back and they hopefully start to appreciate the joy of performing.
If something goes wrong or if they goof, then I try to teach them about putting it behind you and going on. I teach them about how the audience is forgiving (they want you to be good) and forgetful (so often, they don’t even notice), but I do impress on them that they need to learn from their goofs.
And woe to the person (even if it is another child) who is mean to one of my kids. Thanks to the initial instilling of a fear of this fat old lady, it usually only takes one look to put an end to that horseshit.
I want the kid to leave the show with the same feelings of pride and satisfaction that I have when I leave a show. I want them to know they are loved and appreciated and especially respected – and they have earned that respect.