Working With ChildrenBy Ty Unglebower • Jan 7th, 2009 • Category: An Actor's Advice
There is an old adage in the acting world. “Don’t work with animals, water, or children.” While I have had no occasion to do much with the first two, I have had my share of experiences with children. And I am, for personal reasons I shall expound upon herein, very much prepared to accept this advice from now on.
Now, this is not to be a column wherein I describe all of the troubles that arise when working with children. I am sure the reader can deduce such a list of problems without my aide.
This column is, however, about respecting your own temperament as a person, and realizing that it is not going to simply vanish once you are cast in a show. This sounds obvious. Yet I know many actors who want to be in a show so much, that despite elements which they know will be objectionable to them, the audition anyway. When cast, such actors are determined to ignore what they hate “for the sake of the show.”
You can guess what happens to such people who ignore their own constitution. They spend the next 8 weeks being miserable, instead of enjoying the production. As a result, their performance suffers.
I speak with authority on this subject, because I have at times been guilty of it. In my case, I have worked with children in productions, though I knew I was unsuited to do so before I even auditioned. And I paid the price for it in a variety of ways.
That is not to say children are never good to work with. There are a few special young actors that I have had the pleasure of performing with that would serve as a great example to all other children on stage. Yet such children are so uncommon on stage, I feel that my preferences are fair.
Does my almost universal dislike of stage children under the age of 13 make me an evil person? I leave that up to the reader. But what I can say is that right or wrong, dealing with children is not in my temperament. I therefore must be willing, despite all temptations of cast, director, script, and time frame of a production, to respect this aspect of my personality. I must never again audition for a play when the cast contains children below a certain age. (Unless, as mentioned, I am aware that the kids are of a particularly pleasant persona.)
It may not be children for you. Perhaps you do not enjoy shows with small casts. Perhaps you cannot stand performing in the summertime. Or those ghastly receptions that one theater in town makes all of its actors attend. The list goes on.
Whatever your particular weakness is, do not be a stage martyr, and run headlong into it, simply to show the world what a consummate professional you are. You, your cast mates, and the production will be weakened by this.
The true consummate professional is aware of his limits as a person and an actor, and respects the show, the cast, the theater in question, acting in general, and most importantly, himself enough to refrain from becoming involved in such misadventures.
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Ty Unglebower is a Maryland native and has been acting for nine years, having studied it at Marietta College in Ohio. He has been schooled in Shakespeare, improvisation, public speaking and voice articulation throughout his career. His credits to date include over 30 plays and readings as well as 2 films. You can also read his blogs offbook.blogspot.com (for theatre related thoughts) and tooxyz.blogspot.com (for thoughts on personal success from an outcast). Follow him on Twitter @TyUnglebower.