Rehearsing with Kids and Teens

Mary Gray • June 2023Musical Theater • June 12, 2023

In a typical adult rehearsal for a musical, the actors are told rehearsals are twice a week from 8 to 11 PM, with maybe an additional rehearsal once a week for lead roles only. Everyone shows up at about the assigned time and sits around studying their lines until they are needed on stage. 

Anyone who has directed a musical for 30 or more children or teenagers can tell you this doesn’t work for kids. The kids who are not on stage, and some who are, will get bored, start running around, talking loudly to one another, and the teenagers will get so caught up on their cell phones they do not respond to stage calls. So, what is the alternative?

First, it is unlikely you will get kids, especially if they are middle or high school age, to come to more than one rehearsal per week. They are involved in so many activities that asking for more than one rehearsal night is asking too much for most of them. For that reason, it’s best to take several months to prepare for a show and do only one rehearsal per week up until the dress rehearsals. Second, it’s a good idea to talk to various parents about what nights the schools have their musical activities such as band, show choir, or orchestra, and work around those nights. Most sports programs are immediately after school, but you might also check if there is a big sports night as well.

Once you have picked a night, figure out how long the rehearsal needs to be to give everyone a chance to go over their parts. Start early and try to end by 8 or 9 PM, as most parents will not want their kids out later than that because of homework and for younger kids, bedtime. 

Schedule as many rehearsals as possible in out-of-sequence pieces. Divide the scenes into groups of actors who are on stage during those scenes and rehearse, if possible, in separate groups. In our theatre group, we use older teenagers to work with chorus groups while the director works with stage scenes and the music director works with soloists. Have the youngest students come first to rehearse their scenes and songs so they can leave early. Try to arrange it so only the lead roles must stay at rehearsal for more than an hour.

Before dress rehearsals, you will need to have three or four full cast run throughs, start to finish. This will involve everyone being there at the same time. If you are working with young actors, you need to occupy them waiting in the green room by organizing drawing contests or other quiet games and finding someone to supervise the green room to make sure kids who are needed on stage don’t miss their cues. 

Our final piece of advice – find a director who has the patience of a saint. He or she will need it. But the rewards of seeing the kids on stage, shining and enjoying the accolades are well worth the effort.

The Latest News and Gear in Your Inbox - Sign Up Today!