Have you ever been told, “Your kiddo is such a ham” or “He is such a natural”? On your child’s report card does it say “She loves to express her ideas every chance she gets!” After hearing this 22 jillion times, you may think to yourself, Maybe I should channel this energy into something productive.
One way to hone in your little Chatty Kathy (or Kevin) is through theatre. While you can literally find a pee wee football team on every corner, sometimes it may be hard to navigate how to get your child involved in theatre, so here are some tips from stage moms that may help.
1. Do it for the right reasons.
Some stage moms put their child in theatre to help them come out of their shell. Others do it because their child is drawn to the stage. Both are great reasons to experience acting. But, you should not push your child into acting because of a long lost dream you had to make it in Hollywood. Just because you were one audition away from being on Hannah Montana, does not mean your child is automatically interested in acting.
2. Find a theatre group that will nurture your child. Theatre teachers are like coaches. The best ones draw on the child’s natural abilities, nurtures those abilities, and pushes them to places they never thought they would go; all while being their cheerleader. We have found our home at Lyric Theatre, but there are many programs throughout the city that do an amazing job.
3. Practice, Practice, Practice. Natural ability only goes so far. Theatre kids need to take voice, acting, and dance lessons to stay on top of their game. They need to experience auditions, call backs, acceptance, rejection, and long rehearsals to fully understand what it takes to be a theatre kid.
4. Books before Broadway- Rehearsals run long and it can be easy to skip daily reading, or skimp on a school project when time is short. It is critical that your theatre kid manages their time in order to make sure they succeed in school as well as the stage. The great thing about theatre kids is that they will work with each other on breaks to make sure everyone is prepared for school the next day.
5. Don’t fall for a scam- Unfortunately, some organizations will do a “bait and switch” that have your head spinning. They will “bait” you with dreams of a lead in the next Disney show, or The Lion King. After they have filled your head with compliments, they hit you with fees to become your child’s agent. These organizations rarely make good on their offers and you could be out thousands of dollars. Agents normally don’t ask for money up front. They make money from the bookings your child earns. So, do your research. Find local agents like Magna Talent, who specialize in children and review their prerequisites to representation.
6. Control what you can, don’t stress about the rest- Casting for a part is unpredictable. Sometimes a casting director will want an actor who “looks the part” and sometimes they will intentionally go in a different direction. You can’t control the casting director, but you can control being on time, being prepared, and being professional.
7. 24 hour Pity Party Rule- Inevitably, your child will not get the part they were dyyyyying to play, or not get a part at all. Give your child 24 hours to be upset (less if rehearsals begin in less than 24 hours) and then they should go and be the best 3rd squirrel from the right that anyone has ever seen! Remind your child how awesome they are and your attitude (good or bad) will be felt by the directorial staff (see also #6)
8. Theatre is Life, but…..- A well-rounded child is a healthy child. Find ways to engage your child in their other interests. Maybe they take a semester off to play soccer. It’s a misconception that if your child takes a break from theatre they will be forgotten. That’s not the case at all. Casting directors and theatre companies like to see students who have other skill sets to bring to the stage.
9. Make Friends- This one isn’t for your child. They will make theatre friends in 3.2 seconds. This one is for the moms. You will be with the other theatre moms for hours each week-get to know them. Volunteer to make cast gifts, braid hair, help with backstage costume changes. These are all great ways to get to know the other theatre moms who will be your resource for laughter, advice, and a heads up on the latest audition.
10. Trust your gut- Everyone will have an opinion about your child’s career. Take advice (even mine) with a grain of salt. You know your child; their strengths and limitations. You will know whether you need to push your child to memorize slides for the next role, or whether its time to call it quits. You will know if your child just likes theatre as a hobby, or whether it’s time to pack your bags and move to NYC or LA. Do not be pressured into doing something your family is not ready for.
The life of a theatre kid is no different from the life of a football, softball, or academic team kid. It takes desire, dedication and love. So, go out there and break a leg!