I'm choreographing a musical (get tickets at www.footlight.org) this fall which opens in four weeks. The show is Willy Wonka, so there are lots of kids in the cast. The little girl playing Veruca Salt has been an understudy on Broadway, is really cute and easy to work with, and a great performer. It turns out that after she auditioned and was cast in our show she continued to audition for a regional theater show (Annie), a professional production starring Wanda Sykes as Ms. Hannigan.
I'll wait a sec to let you all shudder at the idea of Wanda Sykes as Ms. Hannigan (WTF??)
Anyway, the little girl didn't hear that she got the part of Annie until this past weekend, four weeks before our show opens. So...what to do? The choice is simple: you either stay in our community theater show, or you bail and join the professional regional production.
It led me to think: what would I make Avery do? The girl is only 10, so well within the "do what your parent says" arena. On one hand, I greatly appreciate that this little girl has some talent and this is a good career move, not to mention paid, for her, if she's really out to be a professional actress with her life. On the other hand, she made a commitment to our show and this put us in a huge bind scrambling to recast and reteach, and I can't help but wonder what lesson this teaches the girl. In theater, there is a "grace period" for leaving a show when you get a part. You can usually go to the readthrough and maybe a rehearsal or two before you drop out if something better comes along. It's annoying, but not uncommon. However, with only 8 weeks of rehearsals, dropping out halfway through them is really not cool. We had to recast a girl who has to learn the lines, several songs, and at least 4 choreographed dances. Easier said than done when we've built no time into our rehearsal schedule for this kind of make up.
It's hard to say what I would do in that situation. I think the "right" thing to do is to tell the girl that life isn't fair sometimes and that it's better to honor a commitment to our show. With so many people depending on her this late in the game, staying is the honorable thing.
Or, maybe "life isn't fair" is the lesson that we, the production crew of Willy Wonka, are learning throughout all of this....