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How do you handle distracting kids during rehearsal?

  • 1.  How do you handle distracting kids during rehearsal?

    Posted 01-31-2019 10:13
    I'm directing Annie Jr. with 60 3rd through 5th graders. We rehearse twice a week right after school from 3:30pm to 5pm. I have a handful of boys who are always distracted. They'll wander off, start chatting, get into rough housing. I always have at least 1 - 2 volunteers working with each group but they're focused on getting the work done not babysitting these boys. How would you handle these kids? Despite being distracted/distracting they do pick up the choreography and do great when we run through their scenes. I've considered making them assistants to each volunteer so they have to stay close to them but then they might lose out on time learning what they need for the show. The other group I'm dealing with is our younger kids who regularly tell me they have a stomache or a headache and want to sit out. It's about 4-5 at each rehearsal. There are cases where we've called parents because the kid really looks unwell. But a lot of the time the kids sit out and just space out and socialize. I'm going to require them to do homework or read a book but not sure how to address this.

    If anyone has any ideas on how to handle these kids, I'd greatly appreciate it!


  • 2.  RE: How do you handle distracting kids during rehearsal?

    Posted 02-01-2019 09:08
    I've no idea how you get anything done with them all there all the time! I've done this since 1979 and only have all calls a week or two before opening night.

    My motto is you aren't middle schoolers, you are actors. I have the kids for 5-8 grade, so the older ones tend to keep the younger ones in check. You need to think not in terms of behavior, but respect for others, respect for themselves and respect for the art. Know in your heart that they ARE children and don't expect more of them than they can deliver. I have found 4:30 is the witching hour and rarely ask them to stay longer.

    That being said, and you can't change your rehearsal process, give them jobs to do. Start and stop the cd. Follow the script for line call, cue people for entrances, paint scenery, etc. All the kids need to have a sense that it's THEIR show.

    If you CAN change your process, here is what I have found to work a trick!
    I name the choruses and have them rehearse the music and choreography. In Annie (I've done it twice) I think there are just 2–orphans and NYC.  So you divide your kids into two choruses.

    Then I go thru the script and make a list of characters in each scene.  post it on schoology or whatever you have, email it to parents and hang one on the call board.

    Then, making your schedule, rehearse all the scenes with the same characters on one day. (The scenes don't need to be in order, just think of it like you are filming a movie. ) Doing this gives you uninterrupted time with those scenes and characters.
    Schedule all the scenes this way. You won't believe how much you get done in ONE rehearsal.

    As you go along, you can add the choruses to those scenes. It's fun to see the kids faces when it all comes together. It also gives respect of the actors by the choruses and the choruses by the actors.

    I usually divide the script in to Act I and Act Ii, which let's you put it together with even fewer people without 'jobs'. I've yet to get thru a whole show the first time we put it together, so Act I one day, Act Ii the next and then the whole thing the third.

    I wish you much success!! The Jr. shows are so fun and sooo much better than anything I could find before they came out.

    Mary Todd Kaercher
    Mound MN

  • 3.  RE: How do you handle distracting kids during rehearsal?

    Posted 02-02-2019 09:49
    When I taught at summer camps and had similar groups to yours all day long, I would figure out what scenes I wanted to work on and whoever wasn't in that scene was working with another teacher on choreography, vocals, or they played drama games.

    I know that you are worried about the kids missing out on time rehearsing, but playing drama games really helps in the long run.

    This is a great book filled with games and activities for kids. (If the kids had too much energy, then we played a game that required them to run and get tired.) They really respond to theatre games and it gives them something to do that is still helping them grow as little actors.

    I tried saying bring a book or something quiet to do, but with that age group, they need more structure. It might also solve your stomach ache problem when they have the option to play games.

    I've done Annie Jr. twice and I know that Annie is in almost every scene, so you and your volunteers might need to rotate who plays games with students not currently needed.

    Jennifer Nitschke
    Drama Teacher
    Baldwin Park High School
    Baldwin Park, CA

  • 4.  RE: How do you handle distracting kids during rehearsal?

    Posted 02-03-2019 06:39
    Edited by Suzanne Katz 02-03-2019 06:40

    Rehearsals can be strange things for young kids:  When they are with the director their time is highly structured and they know exactly what to do because we are there to tell them... Then we send them off on their own until we need them again. Most 3rd-5th graders have no idea how to handle that independent time on their own in the theatre space, so we have to teach them how to do it. Whatever task you give them during their independent time (play theatre games, memorize lines, smaller rehearsal groups, etc.) take the time to norm what that task will look and sound like before you separate into your groups. If you have them play a theatre game, clearly delineate a space, have a demonstrator group start playing, practice the voice level allowed, and go through how to handle a problem-of-play (not following rules, etc.)  If you want the kiddos to memorize on their own, give them a strategy or two, show them what they look like, identify what successful work will sound like, and again, identify the space where the activity will take place. Take time and be specific.  You will have to do this for a few days until kids internalize the processes, but after awhile, they will have the confidence to do it on their own.

    Look at it this way. When elementary kids work comfortably in stations in the classroom (one group at the math manipulatives table, one group working with the teacher, one at the computer station, and one practicing at their desks,) it didn't happen by accident. The teacher taught the kids at the beginning of the year what to do in each area, they practiced it, and they critiqued it before everything fell into place. As directors, we tend to believe that all actors, no matter their age, will be able to transfer this type of process to our rehearsal spaces, but that's not the case with most younger kids. With the elementary set, we have to teach them how to rehearse as well as how to put on a great show. 

    Suzanne Katz
    Washington DC