Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hmm....a parenting conundrum


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....

4 comments:

Francesca said...

That is indeed a mind boggling thought! I guess, like what you said, it really depends on what her parents are going to tell her (since she is still very young, and might not be able to make own decisions). I am keeping my fingers crossed that things turn out for you and her.
As for me, since I have a 3 years old son, I want to teach him and instill in him independence. If I was the little girls mom, I'd ask her what she thinks then maybe I'll go from there. Hope you keep us posted regarding what happens with the show and the little girl.

Michelle Forkner said...

Did the parent bother discussing it with your director as a professional courtesy?

I've been in shows where that's happened, and someone is (luckily) there to fill the empty shoes. However, the person that left usually gets black-balled from further shows.

I think the lesson for her will be one of unemployment/not being cast. Because everyone knows everyone in theatre circles.

I think your theater is probably better off without her (not that bringing a new girl in halfway through the process is a cakewalk). ... and then I found five dollars.

Anonymous said...

Apparently, you are new to the theatre world. It is well accepted, and sometimes even expected, that professional theatre roles take precedent over community theatre. Leaving with four weeks notice is minor as professional theatre only has three weeks rehearsal in total.

Most importantly, I hope that this little girl never hears of or reads your blog as it is mean.

Ali said...

Well, I'm aware that this post upset some people. But, after re-reading it, I don't really think it's "mean". I think I said what happened and questioned what the right decision was, as I'm sure the mother of the daughter did, as well. It must have been a very difficult decision for her to make, and I clearly said that I don't know what I would do in her situation, although I would have leaned toward not quitting our show. But, again, I stressed that I don't know what my reaction would have been. If my daughter had as much talent as this girl, and truly wanted to make this a career, it might be a different story. I simply don't know. I just wanted to present the dilemma in order to provide anyone who reads the blog a chance to ask themselves the same question.

In any case, the girl is going to be fantastic in her professional role, and I wish her all the success in the world. I was sorry to not be able to work with her more because she was very good and fun to work with. We found an amazing replacement who is such a good character actress that I laugh my butt off every time she's on stage. So, it worked out for everyone involved.

I'm sorry if anyone was offended by the post, but I'm pleased that the topic brought up such an interesting debate. If nothing else, I have learned a bit about the common acceptances in the world of professional theater, so thank you for teaching me a little bit!