Most actors find their love for performance in theater. It is where I believe all children should discover and develop a passion. In theater, children experience the foundations of acting technique and grow as not only performers, but as individuals. There are many acting opportunities accessible to children in theater. These four different types of theater provide unique experiences for actors and allow them to create a diverse résumé.

1. School theater. School is a great place for young performers to get their start in theater. Introducing children to the fundamentals of theater in an already familiar place with friends is a perfect way for them to catch the acting bug. Even if your child isn’t just starting out, schools are an excellent opportunity to gain experience. Many schools have a generous budget along with volunteer crew members and choreographers. Usually the school’s acting and music teachers direct and produce the production, which enable your child to build a positive relationship with their teachers. School theater is a safe and fun space where children can build on existing relationships and create new ones with their peers and mentors.

2. Community theater. Community theater has been a longtime gem in the performance world. Countless successful actors started in community theater when they were young. It is usually a step up from school theater, due to more available resources and a greater time commitment to the production. Community theater is a valuable acting resource because young performers have the opportunity to act with cast members of all ages. They may work with material they haven’t yet experienced and can develop different emotional relationships in their scene work.

3. “Pay-to-play” theater. Pay-to-play theater, where you pay a fee to be in the production, has become a popular choice for young actors, as there are fewer theater opportunities for children in the professional sphere—especially teenagers. Pay-to-play theater has a wide range of performance opportunities, from community theater to semi-professional theater. There are community theater venues that specialize only in kid’s theater. They have a large budget from performer fees, donations, and projected ticket sales and they are able to put on high-quality, commercial-style productions. There are also semi-professional theaters, in which performers are charged a fee to participate but are working with other working actors and experienced directors and choreographers. Both of these pay-to-play opportunities serve as a great way for children to experience high-quality theater taught by professionals. With a more rigorous rehearsal schedule, children put on a production that attracts industry professionals who frequent children’s theater. It’s a popular way for reps to discover new talent working in their element, instead of typical meetings and interviews with potential new clients.

4. Professional theater. Of course, for aspiring actors, there is no better place to launch a young star’s career than in professional theater. Many Hollywood staples got their start in professional theatrical productions. If your child has representation, they will most likely audition for any professional theatrical opportunity. If your child does not have representation, almost all professional theaters will see nonunion children at the end of the day in an open call. At the professional level, I recommend your child take class regularly and/or see a private coach to hone their acting skills and prepare for auditions. Once your child is cast, you will need to arrange schooling, living arrangements, and adjust your lifestyle to your child’s budding career.

The bottom line is don’t miss an opportunity to perform. Whether you are involved in school theater, semi-professional, or the big leagues, performing live in front of an audience is what will feed a young performer’s love and passion and take them the distance.

Master your craft, empower yourself, and enjoy the journey.

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