Rehearsing With Kids

In a typical adult rehearsal for a musical, the actors are told that rehearsals are twice a week from 8-11 p.m., with maybe an additional rehearsal once a week for lead roles only. Everyone shows up at more or less the assigned time and sits around studying their lines until they are needed on stage.

Anyone who has directed a musical for 30 or more children can tell you this doesn’t work for kids. The kids who are not on stage — and some who are — will get bored, start running around and talking loudly to one another, and the teenagers will get so caught up on their cell phones they do not respond to stage calls. So what is the alternative?

Be practical

First of all, it is unlikely you will get kids, especially if they are middle or high school age, to come to more than one rehearsal a week. They are involved in so many activities that asking for more than one rehearsal night is asking too much for most of them. For that reason, it’s best to take several months to prepare for a show and do only one rehearsal per week up until the dress rehearsals. 

Second, it’s a good idea to talk to various parents about what nights the schools have their musical activities such as band, show choir or orchestra, and work around those nights. Most sports programs are immediately after school, but you might also check if there is a big sports night as well.

George and the crew

Once you have picked a night, figure out how long the rehearsal needs to be in order to give everyone a chance to go over their parts. Start early and try to end by 8 or 9 p.m., as most parents will not want their kids out later than that because of homework and, for younger kids, bedtime. 

Plan ahead

Schedule as many rehearsals as possible in out-of-sequence pieces. Divide the scenes into groups of actors that are on stage during those scenes and rehearse, if possible, in separate groups. In our theatre group, we use older teenagers to work with chorus groups while the director works with stage scenes and the musical director works with soloists. Have the youngest students come first to rehearse their scenes and songs so they can leave early. Try to arrange it so that only the lead roles have to stay at the rehearsal more than an hour.

Before dress rehearsals, you will need to have three or four full cast run-throughs, start to finish. This will involve everyone being there at the same time. To occupy your young actors waiting in the green room, organize drawing contests or other quiet games and find someone to supervise the green room and make sure kids who are needed on stage don’t miss their cues.

Our final piece of advice: Find a director who has the patience of a saint. They will need it. But the rewards of seeing the kids on stage, shining and enjoying the accolades, is well worth the effort.