By Annette Hinkle
Susan Galardi who will lead two eight week workshops for young actors and singers at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor beginning next week — a Theater Arts Class & Showcase and Sing The Song! Vocal Performance and Live Concert.
You’ve worked as a professional actress — but teaching acting to kids is a whole other challenge. How do you keep young people focused on stage?
It has to be extremely interactive and you want to keep them engaged.. It’s not like sitting in a class and being lectured to on the Hagen method. You have to get them on their feet and improvising through theater games.
Their attention span for watching one another is limited — they get so excited and want to do them themselves. So you can’t have them in long scenes. It’s all about creating an idea and getting ready to go.
What do theater workshops like this do for kids self-esteem and confidence?
A lot of kids I’ve seen come into the class are shy. But when they get behind a character, it frees them. When they have a role, whether it’s defined as an accent or a purpose, it makes it easier for them to get outside themselves. Some kids are not shy, and already really out there — for them, it’s about reeling them in and getting them to stay true. I do a lot of exercises where I give them some physicality or some type of speech pattern and they build a character from there. Because I love comedy so much, they can take it as far as they want.
There’s also a writing component to this workshop — how do you inspire kids to create original material?
I lead very simple writing exercises in class — things like “Where are you? Who’s there? What happened and how did you feel? What did everyone do?” A lot of kids in the last class were very silly about it. Even their silly ideas where they are just showing off with their friends ended up going somewhere surprising. Then we would start improvising dialogue. I’d say “You’re this person, you’re that person, now go.” Other kids came in with things they wrote, but the majority liked the collaboration in class with fellow students.
I intentionally made this class no singing, because some kids love acting and improv, but not signing. There are kids who I know can sing, but they’re not comfortable with that yet. It’s improv and its comedy, and as a result more boys are taking part.
But singers aren’t forgotten — you’re also offering a workshop on that. How is that class structured and who’s drawn to it?
With shows like American Idol, Glee and The Voice, singing’s gotten popular. I think even the boys are getting a little braver and starting to gravitate more toward singing. This class is mostly coaching — working on a song — but some kids might come in without having basic technique, so I will work on things like breath and support with them while others might be refining songs.
The goal is for every kid to sing at every class. And they all learn from watching others and listening. Each kid will bring their own needs and own challenges, so it’s more like a master class.
I encourage every level — from the kid who wants to work on a song either for their own enjoyment, or to audition for the high school musical or an agent, or even as a soloist in their church choir. Most important is that the kid connects with the song and want to sing it. Once the passion and interest are there, we can work on the rest.
The acting workshops meet Wednesdays starting January 16 with a session for 8 to 12 year olds and another for teenagers. The singing workshops meet Thursdays beginning January 17, also with sessions for 8 to 12 year olds and teens. The cost is $275. To reserve, call 725-0818.