This is the second part of a three-part posting that we are doing to discuss our philosophy at WFT for working with young people. If you missed the first entry, read it below! bp
Advice for Directors
We suspect that there are directors out there who harbor secret fears about working with young people. We’d like to assure you that those fears are groundless. Young people can take direction well. They are, for the most part, energetic, malleable, eager to please, able to feel deeply and to act naturally.
If there is a secret to successful work with young people, it is embarrassingly simple: what is effective when you direct adults will be effective when you direct young people. Be supportive and clear. Establish explicit expectations. Recognize successful moments with an enthusiastic, positive response. Recognize less successful moments with a measured and specific response. Resist the urge to yell.
Beyond what every good director already knows, the following few truths -- less immediately apparent and frequently ignored -- may be of use in working with young people.
Trust young people to get where they need to go on their own. There is really no need for actors to escort them about onstage as if they were prisoners plotting an escape. Once young people know what they are expected to do and when and why, they are perfectly capable of doing it.
Provide strong staging. Young people -- particularly those with minimal experience -- should not be expected to stage themselves. They will need your help in developing motivation, movement, and characteristic gestures.
Take advantage of their energy. The more young people have to do onstage, the better. Keeping them busy helps to keep them focused.
Don’t over-rehearse. The freshest performances can rapidly go stale if most young people are required to conform to an adult’s rehearsal schedule. Work with them in relatively brief, but frequent enough, sessions.
Hold them to a high standard. Young people don’t need coddling, but sometimes they do need coaching. Help them to shed “performy” habits and to see themselves as professionals. Your high expectations will frequently be rewarded with extraordinary performances.
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