With the burden of academics eased during the summer, some young performers and their parents may consider education of another sort: acting classes. But before you run off and book sessions in the Meisner Technique for your budding star, there are several important factors to consider.
Age – If your child is four or younger, formal acting classes are probably not the right move. At this age, agents and casting directors are more interested in finding kids who are natural performers, which is to say they are comfortable on stage or set, quick witted, able to take direction, and above all, patient. There can be a lot of down time in show business, and a child who can’t handle that may struggle in the entertainment industry. If you have your heart set on some sort of training for your child, look for age-appropriate preschool instruction that explores acting with a focus on fun through storytelling and play. Technique typically isn’t part of these programs, but toddler “students” will develop speaking and listening skills along the way. Learning to read is an important milestone for young performers, and as this skill improves, formal acting classes may become more appropriate. As child actors mature, auditions frequently involve cold readings, and acting classes for older kids can go a long way in preparing them for this common challenge.
Availability – On this point, it’s not a question of the availability of classes in your area (a quick Google search should yield some nearby results), but more a matter of available time for your child. We believe in a balanced approach in all things for young performers, so it’s a good idea to weigh the demands of your current schedule against the addition of another professional commitment. Kids need time to be kids, and too much focus on career might have negative consequences, so be sure to have an open dialogue with your child to decide if formal training can fit into their schedule and is something they really want.
Aspiration – What is your child looking to get out of show business? Success comes in many forms in the entertainment industry, but if your young actor is serious about making a lifelong commitment, formal classes may be the right fit. By the time they reach their teenage years, serious child actors can reap huge rewards from professional training in any number of techniques.
If, after careful consideration, you decide that acting classes are right for your child, proceed with caution. While there are many reputable schools and respected coaches available in most areas, there are just as many unscrupulous ones ready to take your money and provide empty promises and little else in return. Conduct research, get personal references, and use common sense as you would on any major purchase to avoid falling victim to the scam artists and other unsavory players in the industry.
And while some actors may believe formal training is necessary to succeed in show business, keep in mind that it is a career like no other. Will acting school improve your chances of landing a role? Maybe. But it’s worth noting that there are a number of Hollywood A-listers (Jim Carrey, Meg Ryan, and Eddie Murphy, to name a few) who never took a class. Learning technique has its benefits, but it is all for naught if your young performer doesn’t have a true love for the craft.
Tags: Parents, Child Actors, Acting Classes