Open Forum

Side coaching vs Audience Ettiquette

  • 1.  Side coaching vs Audience Ettiquette

    Posted 06-05-2019 06:56
    Edited by Blake Wilson 06-09-2019 21:45
    As a teacher/director, I often use side-coaching when I am working on scenes with students. I have observed, however, that this seems to inadvertently create a challenge for teaching audience ettiquette (especially with younger students). The students hear me providing coaching and I think it gives some the feeling that it is okay for others to call out feedback at the actors as well.   Most often, the students are not intending to be rude...they are just offering feedback at a time when I don't want them to....and I wonder if my use of side coaching contributes to this.

    I have directly explained to them that side coaching is a teaching & directing technique that only I am allowed to use and that students should not talk to the actors while they are performing. They seem to understand this when I explain it to them, but my sense is that it makes it harder to enforce against comments being blurted out from students in the audience because it creates an atmosphere where there is regular verbal feedback given to the actors.

    Thoughts on how to approach this? It feels like I’m making my own job more difficult, but side coaching can be an effective & efficient way of working with actors. Have others noticed this as well?

    Like many of you, I have criteria for audience participation and they receive a grade....but the blurting out of feedback seems like something I keep having to address.


  • 2.  RE: Side coaching vs Audience Ettiquette

    Posted 06-06-2019 07:55

    Holy Moley, you are not the only one!

    I have found no perfect way to address this; however, I have-sometimes- been able to redirect the energy.  Here are some ideas:

    1) Give a feedback form to students to fill out during classroom performances. For very young kids, a checklist with pictures will do (ears for projection, a picture frame for stage pictures, etc.) By upper elementary, omit pictures and use short phrases. Middle school kids can handle a more open-ended response form, provided they are given topics to address.  The author's name must be on the feedback form, and 'phrasing the comment they way you would want to hear it if you were the actor' always stands as a rule of thumb.

    2) To focus the audience- middle school and up, have them write down the teacher side-coach comments. At the end of a class or the end of the project (after all scenes have been performed), code the comments under classification umbrellas (voice, movement, etc.)  Have the class determine their ensemble strengths and challenges from the totality of your side-coaching comments.

    3) Teach the kids to take on the job of side-coaching while you write comments. (This one takes a lot of trust in your actors.)  After modeling how to side-coach, scaffold the skill by picking a student to side-coach, and give him or her one specific area on which to focus comments (it will take awhile to develop language and deliver comments when you are not also giving the 'real' comments.) The audience will be interested in what the novice side coach is saying, lessening their aloud contributions. They will also be thinking of how they can phrase things if it were their job.... as well as watching their peers. 

    Those are a few that I have had some success with.  Good luck. It is tough to break the kids out of engaging in the practice you are modeling regularly.  (If they are doing it well and with good intent, it also says a lot of good things about the relationship you have with your kids.)



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    Suzanne Katz
    Washington DC
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  • 3.  RE: Side coaching vs Audience Ettiquette

    Posted 06-06-2019 09:11
    My role is they NEVER give any anything notes in rehearsal.  I do require feedback in the classroom.  I train them in how to give said feedback and allow responses to the feedback.  It works out well.

    I will shut them down quickly if they try any of that in rehearsal.