By the time we are adults we have learned by osmosis a sense of stage craft. Most adults just have a sense that you need to include your audience. We just know that if you are delivering a small two handed dialogue to the audience that you turn out. You cheat it out so the audience catches what you are saying, they get your facial expressions etc. Its so funny working with kids especially the really little ones, they have absolutely no sense of what it means including and audience. I often find myself saying to kids “ that would have been perfect if we were making a film or an episode of a tv show bit this is different. My mantra seems to be “On stage you don’t always have to look at the person you are talking to.” The other thing little kids find really hard is delivering simple dialogue audibly. I forget that all of this stuff is so new to them. its just so new. Really hard to do. It takes an incredible amount of precision to make sure a sentence is clear to a room of people and to make sure you are facing in the right direction and to be able to have enthusiasm and energy and character on top of all that. its a really big ask! Its brings me back to the best way to teach is by letting them do. When i was at Uni I had a singing teacher who said the key is little and often. Once a term a 20 minute concert. I really think thats the best way to do it. Each kid will probably get ( I’m just talking about the little ones ) a couple of lines of dialogue. but that’s enough. Any more would be too much.
I find the best way to teach kids drama is by letting them do. If there's too much to read or remember it gets in the way. So often at kids performances it looks like an exercise in learning lines. I think it's got to be more about the craft of theatre. I think keep concerts short. A long kids concert isn't fun for any one. As a parent watching long concerts I used to joke that I would buy a pair of glasses with fake eyes inside the rims like Homer Simpson wears. That way I could get a couple of hours sleep while at the concert. Wonderful father I know.
My solution is to focus on sketch comedy. Usually we create them in class and develop them throughout the term. I have never laughed so much. It's amazing how much you can tinker with a skit that consists of only five or so lines. It's utterly humbling to see what kids come up with. Quite often where we start is lame to be kind and pretty funny at the end. The other great thing about making comedy your focus is that after every skit there is a payoff. That wonderful release when the audience gets hit with the punch line. The kids come off stage and know " that went really well. "
Sometimes the best way to create a skit is to start with a question and answer joke.
Joke : why did Cinderella get kicked off the soccer team?
A: because she always ran away from the ball!
(Cinderella enters singing a dream is a wish your heart makes )
Cinderella: yes coach.?
Coach: Cinderella!!!!!your off the soccer team!
Cinderella: But why coach?
Coach: You always run away from the ball.!
Now, two six year old kids could learn that pretty much immediately. The words are taken care of. From here you can really explore the craft of theatre. One of the simplest rules that I teach is that in the theatre and quite often in the real world we don't always look at the person we are talking to. Kids find that so difficult to do but it can really shut down the skit. This is an immidiate cause of closing off and backs to the audience. It can also be a real encourager for mumbling. Most of the time I explain it like this -be polite enough to include the audience in your conversation.
I try to keep props to an absolute minimum. It's really fun to work sround needing a prop. The fun can really be compounded when a kid miimes a balloon or arrives in a pretend car. No props really encourages stage craft.
Which brings me to costumes. One again absolute bare minimum. no parent wants to have to find a costume for s kid or worse have to make one. Then one kid arrives in a little red riding hood bought from eBay with a bloomers and a basket and another kid arrives in granddad jacket saying look at me I'm fagin.
When parents ask what to wear at the concert. Black.
We spend slot of time with on improv. There are thousands of games cirvlcle games and team building exercises that encourage cooperation and communication and working as a group.
Less is more.
One of the things I have learned in my career as a performer is that less is so often more. I think that is true in so many aspects of life. Even in the way that we have constructed extraordinary kids. Small classes more attention Small concerts equals more performances. No paraphernalia, no dance shoes, costumes, uniforms ect. How can we do more with less?
Someone said to me recently good directors don't seem to add much. They just take things away. It's so true with performing. If it doesn't serve the script take it away. First you need to ask everyone to just brain fart. get all ideas then take away what doesn't serve.