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Dear stage parents…

By: -Columnist
/ 12:50 AM February 23, 2017
matilda

Scene from “Matilda”

Accompanying this article is the kids audition notice for Atlantis Theatrical’s production of “Matilda,” which will be staged in late 2017. It contains all the necessary information, including requirements that parents need to submit to allow their son or daughter to audition. To you all, I wish you the best of luck.

Seeing a notice like this makes me think of what my own mom must’ve gone through in getting me ready for auditions. If I recall, I was left to my own devices to prepare and memorize songs (I was quite driven, even back then)—and what my mom did was to make sure I got to where I needed to be on time.

She helped map out quick changes with the stage crew, going so far as to timing everything to music, just so I’d get to my entrances with plenty of time to spare. Best thing was, she wasn’t being a witch about it. She kept her cool.

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Last weekend during our “Songs from the Stage” concert—oh, thank you for coming to watch—director Bobby Garcia and I were trying to convince her to give a seminar on how to be an effective stage parent, as Atlantis is about to get an influx of “revolting children” for “Matilda.”

I can almost feel the nightmare start: the competition between parents as to who the most talented child is; which child is going to get speaking lines; who’ll be standing in front; and so on and so forth.

For sure, it’s something Bobby will not enjoy dealing with, at all. However, in the instances that I have seen him directing smaller groups of children (like in “Fun Home,” where he had to deal with six), he stresses one thing: Support one another. This is not a competition.

Doing things right

So, please allow me to use this space for prospective stage parents, to share with you what my mother has done in the early days of my career. Given that it’s spanned nearly 40 years, I reckon she’s done a lot of things right.

Once your kid is cast, the competition is over.

My mother wasn’t insecure in my abilities, and trusted the casting process. She also honestly didn’t care what role I happened to bag, putting her faith in the hands of the director and musical director to make the right decision.

In those days, we kids were encouraged to play together (jackstones with the small beanbags were the only competitions we engaged in backstage). We could just be kids.

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It’s important to start teaching the kids and their parents that, once in the show, you must form a bond with the other parents.

This experience should be wonderful for everyone, that after the final curtain falls and it’s time to say goodbye, you’ve made good friends for life. It doesn’t always happen that way, but I’ve kept quite a few mates from past productions.

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Make sure your kids are awesome to work with. Start building that resumé, and reputation. Word gets around fast.

The best stage parents are team players. They make the effort to treat everyone with kindness (not just niceness, as Sondheim has written in “Into the Woods”: “Nice is different than good.”).

Bobby keeps a mental log of the actors he loves working with because they know the meaning of “collaboration” and “teamwork.” He avoids the spoiled, entitled brats who have caused trouble with coworkers backstage, making the experience unsavory for everybody.

Sure, he might work with some OK children, but when their parents become too big for their britches, they’re blacklisted. As with others who work in this small industry, if word gets out that you’re not fun to work with, your career could very well be over.

I’ve been one very lucky kid to have worked on musicals, plays, commercials, concerts and movies with other children, and to have had those experiences color my life in fantastic ways. Work was actually fun, because everyone endeavored to make it so. It fostered a love for what I do.

So to you, dear stage parent-to-be, try to make whatever theatrical career your child will have as fun and wonderful as possible. A lot of it will be because of your participation.

Your child could passionately fall in love with theater and performance; you’ll have to, with as much passion, fall in love with it, too.

To the young people auditioning for “Matilda,” I wish you a hearty “break a leg” on March 18!

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