Is Your Child Ready for Theatre School?

Filed under: Activities: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Activities: Big Kids, Activities: Tweens, Activities: Teens

Performance comes naturally to children. Think: tantrum at the grocery store. Think: pantomime of disgust when supper fails to please. Think: playing dress-up and pretend. And while not every child is interested in taking his flair for the dramatic to the next level, for others, the stage is calling. What's a wise parent to do? Cabin Fever asked Amanda Brunk, director of The Singer's Theatre in Waterloo, Ontario, about "stage mothers," divas-in-waiting, and the benefits of ensemble work.

Q: Tell me about The Singer's Theatre.

A: The Singer's Theatre is a training studio for kids and young adults (ages 6-24), with a focus on musical theatre. We produce shows using casts of amateurs and aspiring performers. Our "Performer's Creed" emphasizes a strong focus on ensemble. Every performer is valued equally, and every participant is challenged to take risks and grow, no matter how large or small a part they receive.

Q: Everyone who participates in your program must audition. As a director, what are you looking for in a student?

A: At auditions, we are looking for vocal ability, confidence, and acting skills. We use auditions to place students -- to see what role would best suit them and their voice at this point in time. We see all different personalities. The extroverts are the easiest to spot, but we also get many shy kids who really thrive on stage.

Q: When I think of the theatre, I think of divas and out-sized egos. How true is that?
A: I think that most egos come not from the performer, but from how a performer is encouraged. Parents have a huge role to play. Most kids are supportive of each other and excited for their friends' successes. Some are more worried, comparing how many lines they're getting. When this happens, we remind students of our "Performer's Creed." We don't have a cast of stars; we have a cast of supporting members. It's important for parents to agree and to understand this, too.

Q: Why would parents want their children to become involved in the theatre? What are the unexpected developments that can happen both backstage and on the stage?

A: The gains are similar to playing on a sports team: working together toward a common goal. Performers put lots of rehearsal time and memorization work into making a real show, which culminates in the thrill of opening night, and the excitement of performing before a receptive audience. By the end of the term, students are more confident and more inclusive.

Q: I must confess that I have a bias against the "Stage Mother"-- and a fear of becoming one myself! I might think my daughter would be perfect for your program, but if she's six or seven years old, how can I be sure this is something she's interested in pursuing herself, not something I'm pushing her toward?

A: The child has to want to be here. If a child likes to sing and dance, and is positive and enthusiastic, he or she is ready to take part.

Q: And then there's the question of talent versus desire. What if my child can't sing in tune, but wants to audition for your program? Can anyone learn how to sing and dance, assuming he or she has the desire, or is some inborn talent necessary?

A: Very few have inborn talent. For most of us, it is learned. Everyone is able. No experience is necessary to begin.

Q: Finally, what advice would you give aspiring performers?

A: Always come back to the storytelling. That is your job, no matter how large or small your part seems. We have students who have gone on to theatre schools all over the country, and others performing on cruise ships, at the Stratford Festival, and in New York. If you love to perform, stay true to that, and success will come!

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.