Stay Sharp: Practice Acting at Home
How often should my kids practice acting? If you’re learning an instrument, daily practice is probably best. Take the violin, for instance. If you don’t practice your bow work at home and only play during orchestra class, you won’t sound too great when recital time rolls around!
It’s the same with acting. Actors’ instruments are their voices, bodies and imagination. It takes time, coaching and practice to learn to use each well and together. Even child actors need to put in the work to develop their acting skills and learn how to “play” …themselves!
Actors should practice their skills every day. However, it’s unusual to find a daily acting class. Even the best acting schools for kids or teens in Los Angeles expect acting students to spend some days out of class. Actors who really want to improve and get cast more exercise their acting skills every day and in many different ways.
Acting is like playing an instrument.
So, just as you’d seek a coach, teacher or class to begin learning the violin, young actors should start with an acting class. And just like learning the violin takes home practice, you’ll want to find ways that actors can practice acting at home.
Actors should be in class at least once a week, no less than that– particularly if they’re auditioning.
Consistent training is the only way for them to develop the tools they need to be competitive. Acting isn’t as easy as it looks, parents! Young actors need to be studying regularly to improve their skills, hone their technique, and keep their instruments tuned. That way, when that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity rolls around, they’re ready to reach out and grab it.
Regular acting training is of especially great importance for children who are already signed with agents. Landing an agent is no reason to sit back and stop training. If your child has signed with a talent agent, congratulations. Now get that youngster back to acting class! And talent agents say the same thing.
In addition to attending their regular classes, the best results come from also studying outside of class, at home.
Take scripts to take home to practice.
You work on scripts in your acting class. Ask your coach or acting teacher for scripts to take home and practice. Your coach will know what material is best suited to your skills and will give you ideas or acting skills to focus before your next class.
Find material on your own.
If you’re between classes or acting coaches, you can look for scripts online, in script anthologies at the library, or even pull material you see in movies, commercials and television shows that fit your actor type.
There are plenty of websites that offer free monologues and scenes for children. Or simply open up a magazine and practice reading ad copy out loud. Once you start looking, you’ll find that opportunities for your child to practice their craft are everywhere. Also, cold reading or quick memorization, both incredibly important for any actor, can be practiced with any written material.
Deep learning comes from repetition, imitation, and innovation.
One challenge for actors who get material they’ve watched other actors perform is the temptation to match their performance or mimic. It’s great to explore acting choices other actors have made. However, be sure to try other choices, make the part your own, so you continue to develop your instincts, listening and ability to make strong choices in your own performance. This will also help your flexibility when a director tells you to, “go a different way” or “make it your own.”
By stretching within a role or scripted material in practice, you’ll know better how and how far to do it when it really counts.
Make Time to Practice!
Set aside time for your child to work on scripted material at home. Turn off electronics or remove other distractions to help them focus the time well. Remind them of acting techniques you know they’ve learned or worked on with their acting coach. Invite siblings who can help to participate, or give siblings something else to do so your young actor can work, whichever is most appropriate.
Find Time to Practice!
It’s amazing what five to fifteen minutes of practice can do, and it does add up! Maybe you’re in the car, stuck in a waiting room, or find yourselves with a chunk of time. Use these “found” minutes to your child actor’s advantage. Encourage enunciation techniques or vocal warm-ups in the car, at home, at the dining room table. Make a game of them.
Even most school work can advance acting techniques or skills, even if it’s just reading aloud. Remember, the actor’s instrument is the body, voice and imagination. No matter where you go, your child’s acting instrument is available.
Record and Review!
Record them (any video device will do). Or, better yet, have an older son or daughter tape a few takes of their performance with a video camera so that your little one can see their progress for themselves.
Having a sibling or friend run the camera can help parents stay in the role of parent and out of the role of critic. A parent in the director’s chair, giving note or pushing for improvement, can nullify the effectiveness of home practice for young actors. Child actors are children first, and what children need at home may be very different from what they need in an acting class to stimulate their skills and growth.
Practice often, and let home be home.
Good acting classes create an atmosphere of safety and comfort where developing actors feel free to make strong choices and still build confidence. Gymnasts must practice somewhere they can be corrected and fall safely. Musicians must practice somewhere they can exercise the full range of their instrument. Actors are equally specialized.
Home is a great place to practice acting, which is essential for mastering any skill. Apply these techniques to help your child actor stay competitive! However, like all specialized skills, acting is most effectively learned and developed an environment designed and suited to keeping the young student experimenting, growing, and safe.
Stay in Acting Class!
Practicing at home does not take the place of class time with a qualified, experienced teacher. If your children are serious about getting into commercials, TV and film, they need train in a professional setting. And as young people, they need family support in that commitment.