Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Don't Put Your Daughter On The Stage, Mrs. Worthington

Joy Dewing (@jdcasting) asks:

If Krumholz expresses a desire to be in showbiz, how will you react and how do you predict you will handle it?

Very easy.  The second the kid expresses any interest in show business I will ground it until it's 18.

Here's the deal, it's not that I think children are necessarily ruined by becoming professional actors.  I just think that children should be children and not have professional careers of any kind until they can have a better understanding of what they might be getting into.  You can't tell a 9-year-old that while acting is lots of fun now, at some point it will become their means of survival and be a whole let less fun and whole lot more work (if they decide to continue with it, that is.).  It's like telling a 5-year-old they can't be a unicorn.  Good luck getting them to understand logic.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about theater training programs for kids.  It's one thing to sign your kid up for ballet or tap or jazz classes, it's another thing all together to to have your kid taking audition preparation classes.  There are a lot of classes that are marketed around getting your kid on Broadway and I just think that's the wrong approach.  If a kid does express an interest in acting, why not bring them to the next round of auditions at the local community theater?  Why do they suddenly need to become Baby June?  I wonder how many child actors actually said "I want to be an actor" before their parents decided for them that that's what they would do.  I think the majority of child actors were pushed into the business very young by over zealous parents and don't know life any other way. 

That said, I have friends who teach those "how to get on Broadway" classes, and I don't mean to disparage their chosen profession.  If there are suckers who want to pay you to teach their kid "the art of auditioning", teach away.  It's their money to waste.  Though I wonder if it might not be kind of the teachers to gently pull some parents aside and say, "You're kid is never going to be good at this.  You might want to save your money."  But of course that doesn't happen. 

I can only speak from my experience.  I was lucky in that I had no training at all and just thought trying acting might be fun and I got the first bunch of things I auditioned for.  That may sound boastful, or whatever, but it's actually the way it happened, so don't go hyperventilating.  I was in the right place at the right time and I had a lot of luck.  Many of the kids I worked with who were specifically trained to be actors/singers/dancers had parents who were insufferable shitheads.  I saw parents get into physical fights over auditions their children had or didn't have.  I was the victim of one stage parent who couldn't handle the fact that I got The Secret Garden over her kid that she ended up TELLING PEOPLE I WAS A HEROIN ADDICT.  She actually cost me work and hurt my reputation.  ANYONE who worked with her kids will tell you she was a hideous monster.  Literally, you say her name and people cringe.  I am willing to bet a lot of money that you will not find a single person I worked with who has anything other than lovely memories of my parents (except possibly the house manager at The Broadway Theater who got REAMED by my mother when she locked me in my dressing room and forbade me from taking curtain call or going to dinner because she decided my dressing room was too messy.).  That's because while my parents were supportive of my choice to be an actor, they were not typical stage parents.  They were just as surprised as I was when I gained success so quickly and they were mindful that school should come first.  If, when I was in Les Miz, my grades had suddenly plummeted, I doubt I would have even had the chance to audition for The Secret Garden.  My parents' priorities were in the right place.  And they were able to carry on conversations with adults I was working with about other things than my career.  No one cares that your kid just had a callback for a Frosted Flakes commercial.  Open a newspaper.

Maybe that's what I have the real problem with; the stage parents.  Spending thousands of dollars on lessons and headshots and everything else they think it takes to "make it" in show business, when the likelihood of ever actually "making it" is miniscule, is asinine.  You want your kid to take karate after school?  Or learn how to play the piano or speak French or play chess?  Fine.  You want your kid to be a Broadway "star", go take a deep breath and reassess your priorities.  

There are those kids who have a bit of a career when they're young and somehow manage to escape show business as they get older.  If someone could guarantee me that this would be they way it would go for my kid, I'd be okay with him or her trying out acting professionally.  But the stresses of show business are not stresses I would wish on anyone.  Little kids can't make informed decisions about their futures, so why would we think they should begin a career in any field, let alone one that sucks out your soul and leaves icy, cold air in its place?  Please understand, I love acting.  But I wouldn't wish a life in show business on my worst enemy.

That said, college tuition is likely to cost over $300,000 by the time my kid is 18, so you can bet your ass I'm going to try to get my kid in as many commercials as I possibly can until it's about 5-years-old.

If that doesn't work I am going to start gently suggesting a career in plumbing or exotic dancing as early as I can.