Some activities in life are easier if you have a script. That’s why veteran “drama mama” Katherine Teel is sharing her list of 20 questions to ask directors of acting, theatre, and performing arts camps, classes, and programs.
By Katherine Teel
Once you’ve got the answers to these questions, review them with your kids, and ask for their thoughts. If, for instance, your middle schooler doesn’t feel comfortable working with kids who are driving and dating, maybe acting classes in the 12 to 17 age range aren’t the best fit for her. In parenting as in acting, trust your instincts, and make choices that make the most sense for your character!
1. Is the program open to anyone or is prior experience needed? If experience is needed, how much experience and where? Are different levels of experience accommodated — such as beginner and advanced?
2. Is there a targeted age group for the program? Is it designed for young children? Teenagers? Adults? Senior citizens? If different groups are included in one session, how are they divvied up? Are high school kids mixed in with middle schoolers — or elementary school kids with older children or preschoolers?
3. Is the goal to “have fun” or to learn the craft? (Either approach is fine, depending on what you want, but it’s important to enroll in one that best serves your child’s goals.)
4. What is the enrollment process? Do kids have to audition, or are slots filled on a “first-come/first served” basis? How quickly does the program fill up? Or, more accurately, when do I need to think about enrolling if I want a spot? Is there a waiting list for applicants who didn’t register in time?
5. If you’re looking at a camp, is it a day camp or an overnight program? If it’s an overnight camp, where are the accommodations? Are commuters welcomed if your kids aren’t fans of sleepovers?
6. If you’re looking at classes, are they several hours, half-day, or full-day courses? Do they meet every day for a week or two? Or do they meet once a week? Is attendance at all sessions mandatory in order for your child to participate in the end-of-session showcase or performance, if there is one?
7. What is the focus of the curriculum? Does it include, for instance, drama, musical theatre, choral work, movement/dance, and acting theory — or just one or two of these elements? Is each focus taught over several sessions or does each session have a different focus? How long is each session?
8. What are the topics being taught? Are they general topics like commedia dell’arte, Broadway-style auditions, Japanese puppet theatre, and improvisation? Or does the program focus on honing crucial acting skills, like building a character, playing objectives, and expressing interior emotions?
9. Can you sign up for just one session, or as many as you want? (This will depend in part on how long the sessions are, how many kids are vying to get into each session, and how many staffers are available for each session.)
10. What are the credentials of the faculty members and staff?? Are they working professionals in the industry, cush as actors, directors, teaching artists, musicians, dancers, or designers? If so, what kind of experience do they have and for how long have they been in the business? What is their most recent work and where was it done? Do they have additional credentials as educators?
12. Who typically attends the program? Are students mostly local, or are they drawn nationally or internationally? Connections can be made at camps and classes — where does your camper want to build connections, socially or professionally?
13. Who is sponsoring the program? Is it a local performing arts group, a university or performing arts school, a church, or a private individual?
14. Does the program — or the faculty — have any famous or locally known alumni? Have they endorsed the program? Do they come back to teach sessions or portions of sessions — or to scout new talent?
15. Is a particular method of acting being taught? Are the purveyors of the method also the people sponsoring the camp? (Different actors and directors subscribe to different types of acting theory and methodology. If you’re not familiar with them, ask your child’s music teacher/director, acting teacher, or director for guidance.)
16. If your child has disabilities, can they be accommodated?? Inclusive camps are required by the ADA to make reasonable accommodations for people with any disability or need. (Check out “5 Signs a Camp Really ‘Gets’ a Kid with Disabilities” for more ideas on what to look for.)
17. Is financial aid offered? Are there scholarships? Does the program accept a payment plan or can they offer classes at a reduced fee, if financial need is established?
18. Will there be a final showcase? Do they work to produce a play, musical, concert, or recital?
19. Are there costume or clothing requirements? If so, are costumes provided? Or will kids create their own costumes or wear, say, all black or a camp T-shirt?Is the showcase a casual or a formal affair? Are family and friends allowed to attend, or is it only for camp participants? Where and when will it be held?
20. What happens after the program is over? Will instructors be willing to continue to have contact with students after the classes end? Are there other continuing education opportunities? Are former participants given priority enrollment for future sessions?
Performing arts programs help kids of all skill levels to have fun and develop their talents — as well as lifelong skills such as teamwork, resilience, and the ability to communicate clearly. Start your search here — and get ready to expand your child’s acting resume!