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Young Performers

How to create lasting bonds and friendships with other actors as a young performer

It’s a big leap from performing as a hobby to becoming a professional performer. Young actors work alongside adults in a very technical environment, and drama school is very different from school or university – with full-time contact hours and mostly practical work.

These extremes can cause immense strain, making forming positive relationships more difficult. Whether you’re starting your first acting job, beginning your training, or trying to support your child through these milestones, these are some tips on how to bond and build relationships at work or drama school.

Working as a young actor

If you’re a young actor, you may be used to your local drama club or school plays – which are great places to have fun and build your skills – however, in a professional production, you’ll be working with older adults that aren’t your teachers.

If you’re cast in a play or musical, the rehearsal room may have stricter rules than you’re used to. If you’re acting in a film, you may be away from home and your normal school for many months at a time, but it’s also a great opportunity to make new friends you wouldn’t meet otherwise.

Tips for young actors:

  • Be polite to everyone
    This is the best way to build strong relationships. Being polite shows that you care about the people you’re working with – whether they’re other actors, stage or film crew, chaperones, on-set tutors, or caterers. Everybody deserves to be treated respectfully, and when you show kindness to others, it’ll be returned to you.
  • Respect people’s boundaries
    Everyone is different and has different ways of working. Some actors like to be in character all the time; others are happy to chat and mess about backstage or between takes. People will usually say if they’re busy or can’t talk – if this happens, don’t pester them. You can chat another time, and they’ll appreciate that you’re being considerate of their needs.It’s also important to note that the friendships you make with the adults you work with won’t be the same as those with friends your own age. Adults have a duty of care towards you. They can’t follow you on social media or spend time with you without another adult present, so don’t get upset if an adult you get on with doesn’t reply to an online message. It’s for your own safety.
  • Be yourself and have fun
    Working as a young actor is an amazing opportunity, and everyone you work with will want you to have the best possible time. Try not to worry about what other people think of you. Take every opportunity to enjoy yourself, and your enthusiasm will be infectious.

Life at drama school

Drama school is a unique experience. You may train with students the same age as you, or with much older students. There’ll also be different challenges compared to school or college. Since you’re all training for the same profession, you may feel like you’re in competition with your peers. Key milestones like final shows and agent showcases come with a lot of pressure – and teachers can have their favourites which can be hard to navigate – but these things don’t mean you can’t make life-long friends on your journey.

Tips for drama school students:

  • Be interested in other people
    Everyone has a life outside of drama school, so find out what else you and your classmates have in common. Showing an interest in others is a great way of making friends and can lead to deeper friendships over time.
  • Be communicative
    You won’t get on with everyone, but you’ll still have to work together for months to years at a time. The worst thing you can do when you have an issue is not address it. Instead, be assertive and talk to the person openly –avoid talking behind people’s backs or behaving passive aggressively.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others
    Not only will you have unique elements to your casting, but you’ll also have different tastes, strengths, and weaknesses than your peers. Instead of comparing yourself to other people on your course, focus on how your own skills are developing. This will give you a more helpful competitive outlet and allow you to foster envy-free friendships.

Support from parents and guardians

As a guardian, you’re a key advocate for the young person in your care. You’re also a key link to the world outside of work or training, so you’re perfectly positioned to help your child adjust to their new normal.

Tips for parents and guardians:

  • Know what systems are in place to support your child
    As your child’s most constant adult figure, you’re in the best position to notice if their emotional wellbeing has changed and intervene if necessary.If your child is working, see what support the actors’ union, Equity has in place for young performers. Know who your point of contact is on the production team to raise any issues, such as your child’s chaperone(s) or the company manager. If your child is applying to drama school, research with them and find out what pastoral care provisions are at their new college.

    Most importantly, listen to your child. You may be their only outlet for any worries they have, and you know them well enough to know if something’s not right. So, be ready to offer support and advice as needed.

  • Show respect towards everyone
    Model the behaviour that your child should be showing to everyone in the production. Be cordial with everyone you encounter regardless of their job and remind your child to do the same.Respect also includes being on time – especially if you’re in control of your child’s travel. Being punctual shows that you value everyone else’s time, so plan for travel disruption and aim to arrive in time to get settled before your child needs to start working.

    By modelling and reinforcing respectful behaviour, you will set your child up for success in their work relationships.

  • Encourage your child to be well-rounded
    The stress of starting an acting job or going to drama school can be made worse by external pressure. Obviously, doing a good performance or getting good marks is important, but it should never be a condition against your child’s self-esteem.Make time to foster other interests outside of performing that make your child happy. Remind them that they are more than their job or marks and help them to keep things in perspective.

Find more tips and advice for young performers and parents on our website.

Michaela Bennison is an actor and writer, whose performance credits include ‘Into the Woods’ at The Royal Exchange, Manchester, ‘Lady of Jazz’ at Hope Mill Theatre and ‘The Dresser’ UK Tour.

Michaela runs a blog and YouTube channel, where she shares her thoughts about the theatre industry and offers advice to actors based on her experiences. 

Headshot credit: John Clark

Main image credit: Alex Charilaou