The director’s input during production week, the last week before a show’s opening night, is significant for any group of actors. But young actors seem to especially benefit from the director’s latest tips and notes as they approach the big night. Young people are especially susceptible to the hitherto unrealized reality that, and far from being reminded by the director that she has been saying this all along, the show is really going to happen.

Youth theater directors will tell you that it is no small feat to convince their young casts during the first few weeks of rehearsal to focus on the idea that there is a reason for all these fun things the director asks them to do when they get together. three. nights a week to rehearse a play. Now, to be very clear and positive, the reasons why a child participates in a youth theater production are many. The opportunities for social, physical, cognitive and emotional growth are endless! But truth be told, and all those other wonders aside, the reality is that tickets are being sold and there will be an audience in the theater seats on opening night and those people will have their hearts set on seeing something really wonderful.

So, the patient director of a youth theater awaits them those first weeks. While he waits, he makes sure the block is solid, that everyone knows his lines, the lyrics of the songs, and that the children understand where his exits and entrances take place, as well as where in the script they occur. She doesn’t freak out because the show’s hero is still reading her book behind the scenes and misses her entrance night after night. She bites her tongue when two-thirds of the cast forget their dance shoes and have to rehearse the big number on their flip-flops. She quietly reminds younger children that just because it’s not time for her characters to be on stage doesn’t mean they should open a yogurt and start a discussion about the best way to build a Lego tower. She is patient because she knows that it will still be a while before the actors find out the truth. And on the first day of the production week, when they start coming to rehearsal, she sees it in their eyes. There is a special feeling in the air. It’s a blessed, blessed day. They know.

The cast has realized that production week is approaching and that at the end of the week, audiences will be there waiting for a full and entertaining production. Gone are the robotic and apathetic line readings. Gone are the complaints of “Do we have to do it again?” and “We don’t have our costumes yet!” Gone are the sad excuses for missing rehearsal due to birthday parties and shopping sprees. The terror of opening night has taken hold of the hearts and minds of the young cast. And this is a very good thing.

Now, this is not to say that the director has no sympathy. Most directors have been actors for a long time, and they know that the anxiety an actor feels during those final days of rehearsal feels anything but cozy. But the reality is that a young cast has to get to this point before they are ready to face what lies ahead. The opportunity to teach, clarify, and smooth out the show’s potholes is ripe, and the clever youth theater director sees her opening, grabs it, and holds on.

Because what must and cannot happen before young people get to this point is that the cast must understand that they must own the show themselves. There is no more time for the pampering that the director shows you at the beginning of the rehearsal period with her patient reminders and understanding smiles. It is time for the director to step back and for the show to now become the property of the actors.

So this is what happens next. The cast becomes a team. They support each other and become advocates for their fellow actors. They develop a sense of the spectacle as a complete entity. The characterizations and that beautiful give and take that is so essential if the show is to truly sound come out of hiding and settle on stage. The director can give notes to his actors and they will listen to him and take the suggestions seriously. The actors begin to listen! The director will discover that she is seeing things that she has asked of the actors every night from the beginning that suddenly begin to bloom in her performances.

The kids have taken over the show and when the curtain rises it will be ready and the audience will love it. But what has really happened? Has the principal really been able to fit an entire week of teaching into the last 7 days of rehearsal? Was he really unconsciously ignoring teaching the actual acting skills necessary for a successful performance from his cast?

The director has been remembering all the time that her actors are children. And children learn things in their own way and at their own pace. She is given the opportunity to learn, she is given the tools of learning, and she has been waiting for everyone to get it. And yes, the last week of rehearsal has increased the pressure and there is much more motivation for them to succeed. So they will get it. They always do it. And that is why it is a well-known fact that if you don’t believe in miracles, you should go to work in the youth theater. Because what you will see there will make you believe.

It happens all the time.

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