Here’s a list of important skills child actors need to succeed, and things good kids acting classes should provide:
- Acting TechniqueYour child will need a basic acting technique. How much technique depends on their age. While a younger child will do great with simple role playing and theatre games, an older child (9 and up) can be introduced to basic acting techniques like short term objectives or asking the questions “Who What Where and When” when reading a scene. A good kid acting class also helps children explore what makes them unique rather then teach them line readings and cute “tricks”. This is especially important if you think your child is into acting for the long run. You don’t want them to pick up bad habits that will take years to break down the road. A good kid acting coach helps children build the confidence to be themselves instead of trying to guess what casting directors want. Listen to this short video where Talent to Go co-owner Pat Tallman talks about young actors who mistakenly try to “people-please”.
- Speech & ElocutionActors, of all ages, need to be heard. In the least, they need to be able to speak clearly and audibly. If they are interested in stage acting, they need to be loud enough to be heard in a theater. A good children acting class should address any speech problems a kid has. There’s no need to take formal speech and voice classes, but a class that teaches a basic vocal and body warm-up will get them started on the right foot. Older children actors also need to be able to read well. Often, actors are given “copy” to read at auditions (also known as a cold reading). A young actor will not be able to concentrate on the acting if they are struggling to read. A good children’s acting class will give older kids plenty of opportunities to do cold readings.
- Memorization & ImprovisationReading-age children who want to act are expected to learn lines, so they should pick an acting class that includes scene study or monologues where they can practice memorization. That being said, casting directors don’t expect kids to be perfect, so being able to use improvisation is very helpful for children. Improv makes them unique in the eyes of casting directors while giving them the confidence to make it up if they forget a line. Improvisation is even more useful with younger kids who don’t learn lines at all and are basically just expected to be themselves.
- Being a kidPick an acting coach that lets kids be kids. This doesn’t mean that a child acting class should be all play, but fun should definitely be incorporated in teaching… or not only will your child not enjoy the class, they will start to think they have to behave like an adult when they audition, which is exactly what casting directors don’t want to see. Directors and producers look for kids who can act, not kids who act like adults. Children have a natural ability to play make believe and to really get invested in their imaginary games (something many adults lose when they grow up), so acting can be very natural and fun to them. The goal is to find a kid acting teacher that will teach them how to stay natural when they play in front of an audience (or camera) and not coach them a specific way to say a line or make a face, so look for acting schools for kids that teach things like Spolin’s theater games, storytelling, role playing and mime.
- ConfidenceAlthough all the skills mentioned above are useful, the most important thing children can gain from a good acting class is the confidence to be themselves. If they know what to expect when they walk into an audition because they’ve done it all before in class, they will be much more confident. Pick a kids acting class that prepares them for auditions, lets them perform in front of others and gives them practice time in front of the camera. For example, they should learn things like how to find their mark and slate their name during on-camera auditions.
There are no guarantees in the acting business. It’s just the nature of artistic careers that actors don’t know if and when the next job will come. This can be particularly hard for children who are still building their sense of self. Look for a kids acting class that offers support and makes children realize that their worth has nothing to do with whether or not they are successful in the biz.
How much should kids acting classes cost?
Expect to pay between $35-$50 per class for a 2-hour basic children acting class. Most classes are offered on a 6-week or 12-week basis. Avoid acting schools for kids with expensive “packages” that include classes, headshots and other “showbiz specials”. Similarly, if a children’s acting class is really cheap, there may be a reason, so check the teacher’s credentials and reputation before you sign up. If you can audit the class first, that’s great. If not, ask if you can get the number of a few parents whose kids attend the class to get recommendations.
Now that we’ve gone over what good kids acting classes should offer, let’s look at some other options you may want to consider depending on what your child’s dreams are:
If your child wants to perform in theater plays, they need to practice being on stage in front of others. In that case, a class that culminates with a small performance for family and friends is very useful. You’ll see what your kid’s been up to and your child will get used to performing in front of a live audience. If your child is ready for theater auditions, also look for a class that will help them prepare akids monologue.
If your kid wants to be in musicals, then they’ll need to be a “triple-threat” (which means they’ll need to know how to act, sing and dance). There are plenty of kids acting classes out there that teach everything Broadway, from basic vocal technique and dance steps for younger kids all the way to musical theater workshops where children get to perform in popular kid musicals like Annie or the Wizard of Oz.
When your child first expresses an interest in acting, get him or her to try an acting class. Later, if it turns out your kid is really hooked and wants to pursue a professional acting career, you’ll have to start thinking about an agent or manager. That’s when kids acting classes that include agent showcases and casting director workshops become useful. Agent showcases allow your child to perform in front of invited kids talent agencies. It’s a great way for them to be “discovered” once they’re ready. Casting director workshops allow your child to practice his audition skills with a guest casting director. It’s a great way to be introduced to casting directors in town and to get professional feedback on their acting, headshot and resume.
If your child loves to act but you’re not sure if they should take this passion a step further, look for children’s acting programs that will introduce them to the professional world of acting so they can decide if this is what they want to do. Look for children theater performances that have a Q&A with working actors after the show or find a kids acting camp where young actors get to experiment with costumes and props.