Memphis holds a myriad of opportunities for budding young thespians. If the idea of first time auditions brings on stage fright, here’s our playbill to help guide your little star.
Be a Good Communicator
Audition day brings excitement, anticipation and quite often, the jitters. Parents might find they have a few butterflies themselves when it comes to their kids’ auditions. Jason Spitzer, director of Theater Memphis’ A Christmas Carol, says knowing what to expect will help calm fears. “We look for kids who follow directions well and are good communicators. Practicing speaking clearly and getting comfortable in front of a crowd are two ways parents can help their kids ready beforehand.”
Learn the Show You're Auditioning For
After you find an audition, give your kids as much information as possible. Help kids learn about the production by simply discussing the basics: Who are the characters? What is the setting? Is there a certain accent you should work on? “Knowing the material will help kids go in with confidence,” says Spitzer, adding that even young nonreaders can go into an audition feeling comfortable if they have memorized their lines and are familiar with the story.
Fight Stage Fright with Preparation
Just about everyone experiences stage fright at some level, and the best remedy is preparation. “We will help draw them out of their shells once they get there, so the best thing parents can do for them is to help them practice at home.” Bartlett mom, Vicki Dabney, recalls her son, Luke’s, first audition.
“He was in second grade when the Missoula Children’s Theater (mctinc.org) came to town. I reminded him to just do his best just before he auditioned for Jack and the Bean Stalk. When he got the part of a cow, we were proud; he was hooked.” Now 12, Luke has been in dozens of productions, each audition preparing him for the next.
“Thinking of each audition as practice for the next audition is another way to help break down inhibitions and make kids feel more comfortable,” says Spitzer, adding that it will also help them handle the disappointment should they not get the part they wanted, or even any part at all.
Consider the Role Your Child Is Best Suited For Parents could also prep their kids by encouraging them to consider a lesser role. “I think it is important for kids to learn that they don’t always have to be the lead,” says Dabney. “Luke doesn’t mind the smaller parts, and I am proud of him for that. He just wants to have fun.” Dabney is quick to add that if he’s not having fun, it isn’t worth all the time and effort.
And time and effort is a big part of the production process. “I once had a parent tell me at an Annie audition that she just knew her daughter was right because she was so loud,” says Spitzer. “Well, loud is wonderful, but the truth is doing the homework to investigate the show and the roles available is what really wins the part.”
“Parents have to take the rose-colored glasses off and see if the child is a really good fit. Just being able to sing, dance and act isn’t enough,” says Spitzer, emphasizing that being a good fit has to do with age, personality, and even the right look to match the other cast members.
And what if your child doesn’t get a part? “Try and stay upbeat and find another opportunity — there is always one out there somewhere,” says Spitzer. “If it is really important to your child, equip him with acting, singing, or dance lessons.” (If the budget is tight, try Theater Memphis’ or Playhouse on the Square’s inexpensive after-school sessions) “Above all, keep trying. There will be a part if you’re good at what you do.”
The Show Must Go On, So Be Mindful of Schedules
When that part does come, prepare your kids (and yourself) for a rigorous schedule around show week. “Show week is tiring and very difficult,” confesses Dabney, who remembers Luke pulling a double for parts in Harry Potter and Guys and Dolls simultaneously at two different theaters last spring. “He was gone from 7:15 to 9:30 p.m. before and during show week. We just kept reminding him that after it’s all over the weight of the world will be off his shoulders and things will get back to normal.
Thankfully, the experience taught her son how to juggle but the importance of realizing how other people depending on you. “And aren't those things just part of growing up?”
Dabney also recommends giving teachers a head’s up during show week. “I send notes to Luke’s teachers and explain what is going on, that it is only for week or two and ask them to please let me know if he falls behind.” Parents should help kids stay on top of the chaos by managing their schedules as much as possible.
Theater is not only a huge confidence builder in kids, but also a great opportunity for affirmation from family. When Luke’s dad took off work several times to come watch his performance, then drove back across town to return to work, the value of the whole experience was clear.
“You could see it on his face as he scanned the audience to find us, then saw us watching,” says Dabney. “That is worth it all.”