Kids are the best audience you’ll ever have. They’ll let you know instantly if you have them enthralled by listening intently, and if you don’t, the wiggles, the giggles, and the talking will start. I’d like to share with you what we look for when we cast family musicals at Making Books Sing.
First, you don’t need to “act like a kid”; you need to remember how you felt when you were a kid. If you were anything like me, you knew you were a fully formed person who just happened to live in a kid’s body. Kids have an instant response to what they see and hear, so honest emotion and being “in the moment” at all times is what we look for in actors.
Second, the surest way to start a mass exodus for the bathroom is to talk down to your audience. Kids have a short attention span when they don’t believe in what they’re seeing and hearing. You don’t need to make your reactions big so the kids will “get it.” If it’s real, they will not only get it but give back their full attention and enthusiasm. They might even engage vocally with you, which lets you know you really have them.
So when you’re acting in a show for kids, consider inhabiting your character without indicating, and treating kids like the discerning audience they are. You won’t be sorry, and you’ll know you’ve inspired a love of theater in the next generation.