Getting onstage for the first time in an acting class can be scary for a child. They might be dramatic in their living room, but when they get on stage in front of an audience, they freeze up.
Not to worry, getting more confident on stage is easy. Just follow these five steps and any child can overcome their fears and feel confident on stage!
Step 1: Be patient
A child might think they can jump on stage in front of a big crowd in a drama class for the first time and feel great. They might envision that everything will go their way, and the audience will burst into applause at whatever they do.
While audiences tend to be very supportive of young people when performing, learning how to be comfortable in front of a crowd takes time. Just like any other skill, it is something that needs to be practiced over and over again.
The first step a performer new to the theater can take is to be patient. They should have a vision of their road ahead, the first time they are on stage being just the first step of a long journey. If they get frustrated that the joke they told did not get a big laugh, they need to practice patience and know that it will eventually happen.
Too many young performers fall into the trap of assuming that the mastery of stage performing is either quick or easy. It is not! Many actors and actresses study for years and years to get better. The best ones adopt the philosophy that you never stop learning, no matter how long you have been acting.
At our drama classes for kids, we are always practicing patience. As performers, we all have to take the time to know that progress often comes slowly.
Step 2: Practice makes perfect
Any new skill takes practice, and acting is no different. A new performer should look at learning the craft of acting as if they were learning a new language or how to play a new instrument. One needs to practice learning a new skill over and over and over again in order to improve.
As soon as they get their lines for a play or scene, they should try to memorize them as quickly as possible. When memorizing, they should practice reading and acting the lines aloud with a partner. Knowing the lines in your head is not the same as speaking them out loud. The theater is a spoken art; they must practice saying their lines repeatedly until they know all the words.
A good tip for learning lines: do an activity while saying your lines out loud, such as washing the dishes, sweeping the floors, playing checkers, and so on. Engaging in physical activity while saying your lines will force your brain to strengthen your memory and see your lines anew. Plus, it will keep your lines from feeling stale. Remember, a performer’s lines are to be spoken as if they are being said for the first time, not recited like a memorized speech. Engage in something physical when you say your lines, and they will sound more authentic.
Step 3: Start small
If a performer is very nervous about getting up in front of a large crowd, start with a small one. Gather a small group they are comfortable with, such as a few friends or family, and put on a show. They need to see that saying their lines and performing their role in front of a crowd is not so scary.
After they have become more comfortable, increase the size of their audience. Keep performing for bigger and bigger crowds. Have them say their lines in front of just one friend at school. Then two friends, then five, and so on. Soon they will see that once they are on stage, the audience is eager to support them and happy to laugh at their jokes and applaud their abilities.
We have seen this many times at our Summer Drama Camp near Overland Park. Oftentimes, students who are nervous in front of big crowds will start with small crowds. Soon, they get used to being on stage in front of many eyes, and they see that it can be a lot of fun.
Step 4: Don’t give up
If they are frustrated with their progress, encourage them to keep going. Everyone will doubt their abilities at one time or another, but those performers who move past that uncertainty are the most successful. Anyone can get on stage and be a good performer; they just need to trust themselves.
Here is a good tip for the unsure performer: look at interviews with famous people they know who overcame adversity. There are hundreds of videos online of actors, singers, dancers, and celebrities who wanted to quit but stayed and got past their fears. When your trepidatious actor or actress knows that someone they admire feels the same way they do, that can give them the courage they need to stay on the path.
Step 5: Have fun!
This is the big one! When an audience sees performers onstage, they want to see them having fun. The joy an actor or actress has will cast a happy light on an audience.
Encourage them to relax and have fun when they are onstage. That enthusiasm and joy of life are infectious. It won’t matter if they miss a line or drop a prop. If they are having fun onstage, the audience will be right there with them.
Just follow these five steps, and any performer can succeed in front of a crowd. With more and more practice, they will keep getting better and better!
At our Drama Classes near Overland Park, we encourage all of these steps. We especially emphasis the idea of fun! It is called a “Play”, after all. Check out all of our upcoming drama classes.