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Stage managing Bugsy Malone with secondary school age kids (crew included) and I'm already worried about them misbehaving or stressing. How do I make sure they can ask me questions, they feel important/ comfortable and how do I make sure they don't send me to an early grave?

Looking for tips, coping mechanisms or anything like that so I don't implode in the first few weeks of 2023 🙂

Edited by GingerCampbell
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Are you a volunteer, staff or a teacher? If not the latter, sit down with the director and agree what the standards of behaviour are required, and also what constitutes something dangerous. Get the teacher/director to lay it out to the kids with you present, with the firm message that any transgression will put them out of the show. 

If you are responsible for tech, make absolutely certain that those helping back stage understand the risks, but also that they must ask, not guess. 

At a late rehearsal, try to create an incident to see how they react, then go through the learning points. An unexpected DBO is a good place to start. 

Good luck.



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As someone who spent 6 years making theatre with 12-18 year olds:

Set clear expectations - both safety and behaviour - it can be useful to explain why you've put specific rules in place, which can be as simple as "we all want to have a good time, so..." and "I'm here to help, so do ask questions, even if you think it's a silly one" (have a system for managing replying to 30 simultaneous questions - you will want a queueing system!)
Think before you speak - ensure what you're about to say makes sense, if you have time consider how they might react to it.
Have boundaries - both for safeguarding and for your own wellbeing.
Be aware that your behaviour and mood will influence their's - use this to your advantage. You can energise them, calm them, focus them. For example signalling for quiet can work better than shouting over them. Similarly - model the behaviour/energy you want to see.
Remember that they're kids. Still learning, full of hormones, confused by life. One day they might super confident and need winding in, the next day anxious about getting something wrong. Sometimes someone might need a minute of quiet time.
Every kid is different. That's means if you're working more closely with any of them you'll want to learn what works best for each of them. You might need to move them around to find the job that excites them.
Know your escalation route - if you can't handle a student/situation, who are you going to?
Roll with it, and accept that it's a learning experience, not a professional show. Allow space for mistakes.

Lastly, have fun! Most kids are utterly lovely, and they want to do well and have fun. Doing theatre can be a massive confidence and skills booster for kids, and hopefully it'll be a really important part of their year.

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The best and worst bits of theatre can be working with young people. Start at Jon's Have Fun and set the ground rules immediately. Just as with any adult crew new to a space or situation there has to be some form of induction; "Do this, don't do that, go here, don't go there" etc. I found it helpful for me and them if there is also a set schedule so that "We do this, then we talk/ask questions/take suggestions/clean up" otherwise you can spend entire days answering the constant "Why" getting nothing done. I always tried to explain the reasoning behind instructions and procedures in all work, with amateurs, pros and youth but they also were made aware that sometimes "Just do it, I shall explain later" was the order of the day.

Discipline is vital in any co-operative endeavour and especially with those less capable of self-discipline. Similarly safety concerns grow as youth and inexperience increase. Set the boundaries clearly, stick to them equably and know your own limitations. As Jon writes, know your escalation process. 

Try to relax and enjoy the experience, kids are like wild animals, they can smell fear and it scares them too.

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At our theatre we have a young players group (8-18yrs), and they are led by an excellent actor who has worked professionally. She instils in them that it's important to listen, to do what the stage manager and crew tell them and to always be quiet when they're not actually performing and are waiting to come on. By the time the end of year (public) performance rolls around they've spent many weeks (often a whole year or more) learning with her, and she has explained to them the whys and wherefores of being in a theatre and on a stage. Having a group leader who is respected by the troupe and who is directing the performance, separate from the stage crew, helps to make things run better.


That's not to say the rehearsals aren't often chaotic and frustrating to begin with, but year after year they get it right on the night, as it were.

Edited by alistermorton
Correct typo
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Treat them like adults, but don't get angry when they behave like kids. Some will, some won't. Do a personal assessment of those who will be reliable and support you and which will be liabilities. Some may have volunteered, many won't have - and you can discover the old rule - can you sing, dance, act, learn lines, be reliable? If not, in the crew you go.

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