You don’t have to be a trained actor to be a good reading partner for your child. Even if you have your own acting talent, while reading with your child, remember to keep the focus on them. In the supporting role of “great reading partner” for your child, the following tips will help you help your young performer shine.
1. Stand or sit offscreen. You should not be seen on camera, so position yourself right next the camera. Unless directed otherwise, sit where the actor can look at you while speaking, instead of them appearing to address the camera. She should be speaking and connecting with you, so stay at her eye level.
2. Speak softly and give the actor a microphone. As a reader, you don’t want to steal the focus. It is your child’s audition, not yours. Since you are positioned closest to the camera, the device will pick up your voice more easily, making it sound louder than the actor’s. Remain aware of this when reading and speak softly. You are not co-starring in this scene, but rather providing a framework that supports the actor’s purposes. In addition, it is wise to use an external microphone for the actor’s voice, to tip the sound balance in his favor. Microphones can be purchased for as little as $10 each and are well worth it. Not only do you get more clarity with a mic, but microphones with sensitivity-control have the flexibility to make great recordings in quiet and chaotic settings alike.
3. Read fluently. Practice your lines. The more familiar you are with the script and lines, the more effectively you will be able to support your partner. You are there to help the actor do the best job he can do, so invest the time needed to prepare. Pace is important, especially in comedy, so you also need to know the timing. If you are reading too slowly or too quickly, it can throw the actor off and kill the humor. Ask for help if you are unsure of the best pace or timing. If another family member or friend has better acting or comedy skills than you and offers the time, allow him to do the readings with your child! Remember, this is not about you, and it is important that your child have a competent reading partner.
4. Read all the other parts, and skip the stage directions. One person reads for all of the characters in the scene. Having additional people play other parts is confusing and unnecessary. Keep in mind that stage directions are there for information only! Make sure you and your child have read and know the stage directions, but stick to the usual protocol and do not read stage directions aloud on camera.
5. Don’t judge or criticize. This is not the time to offer advice on your child’s performance. An actor should not be distracted by concerns of the reader’s perceptions during this process. If you have an idea or healthy suggestion to offer, feel free to take notes for discussion at a later time, as long as jotting your thoughts down does not interfere with the flow of the reading. While reading, your focus needs to stay on playing the character(s) opposite your child, and providing the support he needs.
There are many ways that parents support their young performers, and being the reader is just one of them. Always remember my motto below, and keep things fun while you work together to reach their dreams.