4 Things YOU Can Do to Help Your Child Succeed in Theatre, by Christopher Blair

     As a teacher at The Savannah Children’s Theatre, I often get asked by parents how they can help their child to be a better performer.  (Most of these questions are about how to improve their child’s abilities so they can get better roles, but that’s a blog post for another day!)   What I want to share today is how to help your children once they are already cast so that you can help them build good work habits.  It’s never too early to start making a good name for yourself! 

1)  Make sure your child always brings his or her script and a pencil to EVERY rehearsal

     You can’t study geography without a map.  You can’t build a house without a hammer.  You can’t rehearse a play without a script!  The script is the textbook, the raw material, and the pencil is the tool.  They allow your child to record their blocking, choreography and character notes in one place.   It’s not like homework; it doesn’t get turned in and graded.  The scribbles and notes only need to make sense to the child writing them.  This practice is a great way for a child to make the production personal to them, recording their unique journey through the play.  This will solidify what they are learning and help them get off-book at a much faster pace.

2) Be a line buddy

     I have never been good at sitting down alone with a script and memorizing lines.  Acting is usually an interactive process with me.  I need someone else there to read the other character’s lines so it becomes a true conversation rather than just a series of words and sentences.  Having a person there to be “on book,” to complete the conversation or to correct errors, will help young actors get “off book” more quickly.  It is nearly impossible to truly act if you are trying to remember the line.  Offer to help.  Enlist a family member or babysitter.  I have a line buddy who helps me with every single production.  He is an invaluable asset.

3) Encourage healthy eating and sleeping habits

     An actor’s body is his or her instrument, and it has to be cared for and fueled properly.  There is no energy drink on the planet that will ever take the place of a good night’s sleep!  This is one that I struggle with as an actor.  It’s so much easier to throw back a cup of Starbucks than it is to get a solid 8 hours of sleep, especially during tech week!  Fast food is fast and convenient, but 9 times out of 10, it’s just a bag of empty calories that burns away quickly leaving us less energized and focused than when we started.  We all need good rest and fuel to make our bodies, voices,  and brains work properly.  Encourage your children to rest during tech weeks and performance weekends, and encourage them to eat healthy, fresh foods that will provide them with the clean energy they need to get through a show.

4) Encourage them to trust their director

     The director is trying to put on the best show they can!  Doubting the director’s choices, especially early in the rehearsal process, can make things stressful for everyone involved.  The director must consider all aspects of the production in each scene (the story, the cast, the budget, the space, the multitude of personalities involved), and while their vision may not be clear at the outset, it will eventually be brought to light.  At SCT, we encourage young performers to share ideas and visions with their teachers, but we need the students to trust that we will make decisions based on the best interest of the show as a whole.  Your trust is vital to our success!

     So there you have it; 4 easy things that parents can do to help kids stay on top of their theatre game.  Begin planting these little seeds of wisdom now and watch your young actors grow into empowered performers!  Just like any other after-school activity, theatre is a discipline.  The harder you work and the more your prepare, the better your outcome will be!  We want all of our students to turn in successful performances, so sharpen your pencils, and let’s get ready to rehearse!

Read, Set, FIELD TRIP! by Carmel Grace Cowart

100 excited children
5 talented instructors
2 fun-filled hours
1 hilarious script
Too many silly hats to count
1 Unforgettable Theatre Experience
(No one ever said actors were good at math.)
Cheri Hester, Chris Blair, Carmel Cowart, Laura Keena...just a few members of our amazing field trip team!
Cheri Hester, Chris Blair, Carmel Cowart, Laura Keena…
…just a few members of our amazing field trip team!

A Day in the Life of an SCT Field Trip Instructor

8:30am – The SCT field trip staff arrive at the theatre to prepare for the day’s show.  We gather props and costumes, mend broken bunny ears or create new bug hats if need be, review notes and choreography, all whilst sipping our coffee.  Each of our 27 curriculum-based musicals has at least 8 songs and dances to be learned, smart and funny dialogue to memorize (“Sedimentary, my dear, Watson”), plus separate props and costume pieces to prepare for each number.  I’m not sure if anyone has done an official count, but I’d guess that we have over 5,000 hats and props in our field trip storage area!

10:00am – We activate Field Trip Mode, a unique mode that requires the utmost creativity, the ability to think on your feet at lightning speed, the flexibility to go with the flow of a kindergartner or the reticence of a 6th grader, a big smile, and lots of heart!  The schoolchildren and teachers are buzzing with excitement as they enter the building.  The students are divided into smaller groups, and each group follows an instructor to a designated rehearsal space. For many students, especially those from rural areas or Title I schools, this is the first live theatre experience they will ever have!  The kids have quite a lot to say upon entering the building.

“Whoa, this place is HUGE!”

“When does the MOVIE start?”

“Are we gonna be on TV?”

“Wait…I think I’ve BEEN HERE before!”

10:15am – This is when the students get to flex their creative muscles!   Each group gets a crash-course in theatre; what it means to be in a play, to rehearse, and to perform in front of a life audience.  They learn their musical numbers and speaking roles, and even get to experience a brief audition.  They work on character development, choreography, lyrics, and try on some of the silliest hats you’ve ever seen in order to “get into character!”

Rehearsing Aesop's fable "The Ant and the Dove" with some sweet bird hats.

Rehearsing Aesop’s fable “The Ant and the Dove” with some sweet bird hats.

     While we rehearse, the teachers get to take a break in our lobby, or head to Starbucks.  (They say their favorite part of our field trip is watching the children perform, but I’m guessing this mid-morning coffee break is a close-second.)  We want the performance to be a surprise!

10:45am – After rehearsal, all student groups meet on SCT’s proscenium stage for a final dress rehearsal.  This gives the students a chance to release any last-minute jitters, and helps them feel more comfortable onstage before their audience (teachers and chaperons) arrives.  This dress run also enables them to understand the fluidity of the entire show, like which group performs first or last, what hat to wear when, and so on.

11:15am – SHOWTIME! This is the moment when the live theatre magic happens!  It’s amazing to watch what children can do with only an hour of prep, especially when it’s the first time that many of them have ever been on a stage!  They sing, they dance, they laugh, they smile, they learn, they teach, they entertain, they inspire!  Whether they’re acting like pirates, princesses, pilgrims, or (in one show) volcanoes with a gas problem,  I am continually tickled by how much FUN these kids have on our stage, and I’m grateful that I get to be a part of it.

The Lion does a victory dance!

The Lion does a victory dance!

12:00pm – The new, young performers all take a well-deserved bow, smiling ear to ear.  Many proud parents and teachers clap and cheer for them, encouraging their brave performances.  We collect all our props and costumes, and we tell them what a wonderful job they did performing.  Now the field trip is over and the students have to go back to school…boo.  As they are exiting, I often get to hear some of the most joyful remarks while they relish in what they just experienced, rather, what they just created.  Here are some of the students’ words from this week:

“This was the BEST day of my WHOLE life!”

“Remember, JAZZ HANDS!”

“That was AWESOME!”

“I wanna perform ALL day, EVERY day!”

“I LOVE this place!”

     Hopefully, these kids will go home with songs to sing and stories to tell.  One child at each field trip will win a free ticket to an upcoming production; right now each class gets to participate in a coloring contest for TARZAN!  We certainly hope that many more of them will be bitten by the acting bug and visit us again in the future.

     If you’ve never experienced a SCT field trip before, you should remedy that ASAP!  If you’re a teacher and would like to bring your grade level, send us an email, or call (912) 238-9015.  If you’re a parent, tell your child’s teacher about SCT , and please encourage them to contact us!  More field trip info can be found on our website. Come and put on a play with us! 

Field trippingly,

Carmel Grace Cowart