If you are directing a show for beginners or children, here are a few tips for how to go about blocking your play in a way that can be grasped by your youngest actors. Even if you are new to directing yourself, these steps should help you make sure you put on a great show.
Familiarize Yourself and Your Cast with Vital Blocking Terms
Working with children and theater beginnings guarantees you will have some learning curves. One of those challenges will be communication.
You will find yourself wasting a lot of time and energy if your cast is not on the same page about how to deliver and receive instructions. You will do well to learn (if necessary) and spend time teaching key blocking terms, such as:
- Stage Right: This is an actor's right when they are looking at the audience.
- Stage Left: This is an actor's left when they are looking at the audience.
- House Right: This is the audience's right when facing the stage.
- House Left: This is the audience's left when facing the stage.
- Upstage: This is the rear portion of the stage.
- Downstage: This is the part of the stage closest to the audience.
- Center Stage: This is the middle of the stage.
You may consider playing games and taking time to find creative ways to teach these terms. Whatever method you use to help your cast learn them, the entire experience will be better for everyone when the cast knows where they are going.
Understand How Blocking Helps Tell Your Story
By directing a play, you are taking a story off a playwright's page and bringing it to life. The story will be told in many ways, none the least of which is the way in which it's blocked.
Where actors stand, how and when they move, and the nature of their movements all contribute significantly to the way in which the story is communicated to the audience.
It will be important to think through how close your characters would be in real life as strangers, friends, or partners. You want to make sure your actors represent their characters through body language and other movements. Everything matters when it comes to communicating your story.
Plan Your Blocking Before Rehearsal
With children and beginners, you want to use as much time as possible for learning lines, movements, and terms. You do not want to be planning the blocking as you go. Here are some tips for planning your blocking before rehearsal:
- Visualize how blocking tells your story.
- Draw diagrams.
- Seek help from others who have blocked your show or something similar.
- Consider how well your young, in-experienced cast will be able to traverse the stage.
- Lean toward making things simpler.
Plan When to Move (and When Not to Move)
Blocking is not just about positioning and getting from point "A" to point "B" efficiently. Your actors need to know when to move and how timing affects the way the story is told.
When there is something important happening between one or two characters downstage, you do not want actors moving upstage, taking attention away from the main scene. Learning the timing of their movements will be as important to your actors as memorizing their lines.
Simulate Your Set
It is likely your set elements will not be built in time for rehearsal. In fact, it is not uncommon for the final touches to come together on the day of the first performance.
To make sure kids and beginners have a vision for the stage on which they'll perform, you may have to find ways to creatively simulate those set elements.
Remember to Have Fun
Introducing children to performing in a play can result in a lifelong love for theater and the arts. If you are the director, you have a lot of weight on your shoulders.
You want to make sure each performance goes well, parents and school administrators are happy, and the audience is entertained. Remember to help your young cast have fun.
If you are a parent or director, you may know children who would excel in a program dedicated to helping improve theater skills. Asheville Performing Arts Academy has year-long programs and shorter weekly summer camps that help instill skills and appreciation for theater and the arts.
If you would like more information about our programs, contact the team at APAA today.