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Many children get bit by the acting bug early and are eager to sign up for drama classes or participate in plays. Drama classes can be an excellent way to become a more confident speaker, to learn how to memorize more efficiently, and simply to learn about acting. A slightly shy child may find his or her voice in drama classes and gain more confidence, and the overly dramatic child may have an outlet for his or her passion that gives parents a bit of a break from too much drama at home.
A child’s interest in taking drama classes should be the first signal. However, one might encourage a child who lacks a bit of confidence to try out drama classes in a safe and non-performance setting. If the child however does not wish to take drama classes or participate in plays, there is no point in forcing the issue.
A very shy child might find drama classes far too intimidating. Unless the child really wants to learn how to act, drama classes could end up being the source of many painful moments instead of happy ones. One can occasionally find classes where participation is encouraged but optional. A child who is very shy, but still loves the idea of acting might gradually become comfortable enough with other students in the class to try performing a bit, or might find comfort in performing in a group setting.
Drama classes where a performance is mandatory may be too much for a child who is afraid of public speaking. Stage fright can be a very real, very scary thing for a child. Instead one might look for ways in the home setting to allow the child to act until he or she feels comfortable enough to venture opinions or perform before others.
Like all classes offered for children, drama classes will vary in method and quality. Looking to other parents for recommendations, and speaking directly with instructors prior to enrolling a child in drama classes is a good way to get a sense of the appropriateness of the class to your child. One should look for instructors who express patience and truly enjoy the teaching process, especially when a child is taking introductory drama classes. The goal is to foster continued interest and for the child to have fun.
Drama classes can definitely serve a child in many different ways. For example, in schools, children are often graded on their ability to memorize things, like math facts, and on the fluency with which they can read text. Learning memorization and fluency skills in drama classes can naturally transfer over to other aspects of the child’s life. But as Hamlet said, “The play’s the thing.” Allow drama classes to at first be play as well as instruction.
My daughter didn't enroll in a local drama school, but she did join her school's drama club. They met for an hour or so after school, so I'd have to pick her up on my way home from work. She got over a lot of her shyness during her three years in the club, and actually got to participate in community and college theater productions. She did get tired of it after a while, however, and became more of a musician.
I'd say parents should allow their children to pursue drama classes, but they should realize that many children move from one interest to another. Only a small percentage of children ever decide to pursue acting as a career.
When I took drama classes after school, I had to spend a lot of time away from home if I was rehearsing for a play. If I didn't have a part in a production, I'd only have one or two hour-long classes per week. I could walk to the studio from school, but one of my parents had to pick me up at night. I'd say if a parent wants to enroll his or her child in drama classes, they should be prepared to do a lot of transporting to and from classes, rehearsals and performances.
On the plus side, I'd say I gained a lot of self-confidence by attending those classes and performing in those plays. I
made some really good friends, too. But like in any other social group, there can be some really difficult personalities to deal with. I'd say parents need to be aware that their child may come home from a rehearsal with an emotional story to tell.
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