As the Artistic Director of The Young Actor’s Studio, I see time and time again kids between the ages of five to eleven possessing an incredibly unique imagination that many teen acting classes and adult acting class try to emulate. Picasso once said “Every child is an artist,” and that is so true, but why are kids so great at creativity and free thinking? What happens to us as we get older and grow up?
My first guess would be life’s demands. We have to achieve, get hired, fit in with society, and conform to the ways that will make us succeed. And unfortunately, the ways to achievement are not always synonymous with creativity.
I learned this at a very young age. At the ages of seven to nine, I had a very creative life. I put on shows in the basement for my family, (I had no idea whether I was good or bad, I only did it because it was fun), created wonderful Haunted Houses in that same basement that kids in the neighborhood would pay to see. I would go into the woods bringing home stray cats, dogs, frogs, toads, and turtles whom I enjoyed communicating with. I went to a farm and brought home an egg and hatched a pet chicken. The world was so amazing, and I was truly happy.
Then one day I found something else that I thought would be wonderful and that was acting. I began that journey that I’m still on to this day. When I hit age eleven there was a definite change occurring in my natural curiosity and imagination. And that was the need to succeed. With the hiring of agents, managers, auditions, call backs, rejections, being hired, cancelled projects, delayed projects, critic’s opinions good or bad, my imagination slowly fizzled out and I was left mechanical, trying to please the people who were on the other end of the audition tables and on the set. My attention wasn’t on creativity but on people pleasing.
To this day, my studio has been a haven for protecting the unique imagination and creativity that kids naturally possess. But I’ve recently noticed something particularly extraordinary. Since beginning the virtual acting classes (due to the Covid 19), I have noticed a huge uptick in unique creative imaginative kids. Why is this? Why am I so proud of these kids? What was missing that caused this? And the only answer I could find was, isolation. I’m not saying that isolation is good, but I noticed that when you take out the casting director, agents, critics and judgements, then you are performing for one reason only. Joy.
There is sanctity of safety and exploration when you are allowed to act from joy. And explore rather than trying to please. Some of our youngest kids in the studio online classes have watched “stage fright” disappear because there wasn’t a job to book, an audience judging, or a right way to do something. In fact, there was nothing to lose! There was exploring, creating and imagination. And the result was some really beautiful acting.
Now as our world slowly opens up, we are focusing on protecting that and allowing that joy and exploration to come into the audition rooms, the film sets and the stages.
And for all the child actors out there, here is a link of some wonderful creative acting exercises that you can practice and enjoy from your home. Do them because they are fun and because you have an imagination that is to be cherished.
Wishing you every success and happiness.