PARENTS Q&A: My daughter is scared of her scene, how can I help her?
My daughter is concerned about her scene for Saturday. She doesn’t want to do the sad scene with the burned stuffed animals, as it is too sad for her. Please know that I’m not at all criticizing the scene choice, I get that it’s a very useful teaching tool. I think Chloe is sensitive and good at imagination, so getting there is not the problem, but getting back might be. It’s got me wondering what techniques you can use with young children to help them leave the work when it’s over? Chloe is interested in going to auditions, so it would be good for me to have a few strategies at some point.
I chatted briefly about the scene with Laura and Julie (the other instructors at Biz) yesterday, we thought the scene was quite innocuous so your email was a good reminder that imagining that your toys *might* be burnt up can be a scary thought. I think you could very easily make the choice that the dolly is okay, her dad asks “Is this it?” and her last “Dolly!” could easily be joy and relief. That’s the best choice if your daughter doesn’t is feeling uncomfortable about being sad.
As for helping young children “leave” the work, at the beginning the fear for most actors is that they will be swept up in uncontrollable feelings that will take them over, but then the reality of the acting experience is that it’s controlled, quite brief, and really fun to throw yourself into. So that body experience acts as a counter to the fear, and over time the body learns that experiencing strong emotions “in character” is a safe thing to do. In my experience even when kids do get swept up in the feelings in their scenes, the familiar routine of acting class helps them snap back pretty fast. That’s part of the safety-building that allows a young actor (or any actor) to go further and further with their emotional choices as they get more experience.
As a side note, that level of safety is why actors are often more capable of giving a genuine, emotionally connected and nuanced read to a scene when they’re at home, and then have trouble bringing that same degree of connection to the scenes in class or in an audition. Again, that physical sense of safety is something that will come with experience.
Occasionally in one of my classes something in the material we’re working on will trigger a strong emotional memory and the actor will continue to be quite emotional after the scene. It’s very rare, but it has happened. In those cases it’s not about helping the actor process the memory, since that’s really not my specialty (or my business) but instead about gently bringing their attention back to the room. Almost all the time what actors want is to return to the familiar routine of class, and in five minutes they’ll be back playing games with the rest of us. If it ever did happen that whatever memory was coming up was so traumatic that the actor was unable to bring any of their attention back into the present (and safe) moment of acting class, I would step out of the room, call the parent, and wait with the actor until the parent arrived or until the actor wanted to return to class. That hasn’t happened to me in ten years of teaching this way, but it may at some point.
Thank you for the good question! It got me thinking this morning.
“Helping young actors book work in film & television.”