Open Forum

Family Affair

  • 1.  Family Affair

    Posted 11-22-2019 10:36
    Hello all,

    I have a situation that has gotten increasingly worse and hope that you can help by sharing any similar experiences.

    Here is the set up. I have been in theatre since I was young. I have produced, performed, directed and designed many productions throughout my career. My children were bit at an early age. At age seven, my daughter could run any standard lighting board and was quite a help during focus days.

    They both are older now, 11th and 8th grade respectively. They have invested in their craft through workshops, seminars and years of vocal and dance training.

    Six years ago I got the dream job as designer for a storied high school theatre in the community. As a kid growing up I attended many shows, and though at a neighboring high school, always wanted to be a part of their magic, and I got my chance.

    My daughter now attends this high school, and has been for the last three years. My son is going to a different highs school.

    Anyway, it started her freshman year and has continued through her junior year, the whispers that she get her roles because I work at the theatre. I am not a part of the audition process and make sure that I am not in the building during the auditions. It puts me in a very precarious position and her even more. She has earned a few leading roles but has also been in the ensemble or as dance captain. The director, I assure you, casts the best people based on the auditions and does not play favorites.

    I, in my mind think and know, this happens in any sport, club and even in the workplace.

    My daughter takes 3.5 hours of dance and an hour of vocal coaching every week to refine her talents.

    Anyone else been in a similar situation? Would love for you to share.

    Crit Fisher
    Lighting/Sound Designer
    New Albany High School

  • 2.  RE: Family Affair

    Posted 11-23-2019 06:18

    While I don't directly have that issue about casting family, I have dealt with this issue before. My producer's and helper parent's child(ren) have been cast before. 

    The thing I realized is, unfortunately, you can't stop people from saying what they are going to say. However, I have always made known the following to everyone at the parent meeting in writing:
    1. Everyone is given a fair shot at casting
    2. While rubrics are used at auditions and crew interviews, there are other factors that go into casting a show.
    3. I encourage you to support your child no matter what role or position they receive
    4. I empower your child to discuss with the director what they can do to improve their work. 

    While I know this won't stop everyone from saying anything, unfortunately sometimes it's just the way it is. 

    All the best! 

    Karen Wiebe
    Drama Director
    Burlington KY

  • 3.  RE: Family Affair

    Posted 11-23-2019 10:17
    Oof. This is tough. I know your pain. From a parent perspective, it's difficult because we can't really do anything in the moment. We know our kids are hearing it and getting the side eye when we aren't around. Several times I WAS the director, but when it came to my kids, I would step out/not be part of their final casting decision because of just this reason - which is sort of silly, but felt appropriate at the time. There were several times when she was not cast and I had to go home and tell her I didn't cast her. Talk about hearbreak! BUT, she was aware that if she DID get a role, it was because she was the best actress for it. I asked my daughter (now college age) about it, and she said to tell your daughter that "hard work beats talent that hardly works" and SHE knows that she earned the role. Mags said that she was aware of my policy towards casting her or not, and if your daughter knows that your involvement doesn't sway the casting directors, then that has to be enough. People will talk. Theatre can be petty. But knowing that she's doing what she loves, knowing that she's putting the work into it, she can feel confident and gracefully say, "I'm sorry you feel that way, I work really hard and will keep working hard." Chin up dad!

    Megan Upton-Tyner
    Drama Instructor
    Newton KS

  • 4.  RE: Family Affair

    Posted 11-23-2019 11:07
    Oh my heart breaks for you. It’s too bad that it puts a damper on you both doing what you love! I am in a similar situation. My children go to a very small high school and when they entered there was no theater program. My kids, along with several of their friends really wanted to do drama and so I started the theater department. The first production in which my daughter received the leading role, I was worried about the whispers of her receiving it because she was my daughter. I always have open auditions and my vocal director and tech director audition and cast with me. They actually were the two that ultimately made the decision to put my daughter in the her first lead role. Truthfully once everyone saw the show they saw that she was the right person for that particular role. Since then, my children have been in all the productions, some leads and some not.

    My advice to you and your daughter is keep doing what you are doing. She obviously shines on stage and is qualified or she wouldn’t be receiving the roles she’s getting. Those whispers are hard, but you are not the one who’s giving her the part, she earned it! I don’t think there is anything else you can do or not do. Very easy for me to sit here and say this...hopefully when they see the show they see why she got the role she did.

    hang in there!!!

    Karin Neal
    Theatre Director
    Trinity Catholic Jr. Sr. High School
    Hutchinson KS

  • 5.  RE: Family Affair

    Posted 11-23-2019 17:58
      Both my son and daughter were a part of my program. I was their director but I never cast the shows they wanted to be in. Both of them did tech as well as acting. For the most part the other students recognized their talent and my distance from the casting process. My daughter was always a force to be reckoned with and everyone respected her.  My son was so we'll liked that there were no complaints.  When I did get wind of complaints I took the student aside and pointed out my non involvement and her talent.  Generally the complainers would not have gotten the part anyway due to lack of work ethic.  Keep letting her know she earned the parts and you had no part in the casting!!
    I loved working with my kids. It was worth the minor dramas which resulted.

    Cathy Archer
    Rutland VT

  • 6.  RE: Family Affair

    Posted 11-24-2019 17:15
    I don't think you should worry about it.

    I always ran a one-person department.  When he was in high school, my son worked as a paid technician (along with several other students) for non-theatre performances and rentals.  All the technicians were under my supervision because I was the only one who trained and supervised students doing lights and sound.  He went on to major in theatre in college, and he has been employed in the field since graduation, currently as the assistant technical director at a university.

    If your daughter decides to major in theatre, she will be auditioning for college programs next year.  And you won't be writing her a letter of recommendation.

    Let the jealous people talk.

    C. J. Breland
    Retired Theatre Arts Educator
    Asheville NC

  • 7.  RE: Family Affair

    Posted 11-25-2019 08:25
    I had the same problem when my daughter and son were in high school. I used other sources to run auditions, required all the same prep work, etc.  The critics were surprised when my daughter was chosen for state competition in speech as a freshman, but by her senior year, critics had accepted her talent. When my son came along, those same critics accepted his talent and participation. I think it's harder for girls.

    Be fair, stick to your standards for your program; the critics will get over it. Good luck to your daughter!
    Debbie Corbin
    Retired, Branson High School
    Past president, EdTA

    Debbie Corbin
    Drama & Musical director, retired
    Spokane MO

  • 8.  RE: Family Affair

    Posted 11-25-2019 18:08
    Haters gonna hate. People will talk. Nothing you can do about it.
    My daughters are currently a senior and a freshman here at Singapore American School, where I am the sole HS Drama teacher and DO sit in on the audition process. I just had the great pleasure of directing them both in our Fall production. 

    We joke about it openly, ("Can you say 'nepotism'?), with cast, crew and the adult team. There is a panel helping me cast, a mix of people who know the program and some from outside. We routinely have to cut about 25-30% of the students who audition, and we do big shows. There are always those who will claim 'we have our favorites'. 

    As long as the majority of people believe the casting process is fair, and people get what they have earned, that's the best you can do. I wouldn't lose any sleep over what a few are grumbling about. Sounds like you are very much in the clear. It's hard on the kids too. But a valuable life lesson as well.

    I hope this helps a little.

    Tom Schulz
    High School Theatre
    Singapore American School

    I am currently reading,Tools and Weapons: The Promise and 
    Peril of the Digital Age" by Brad Smith and Carol Ann Browne (forward by Bill Gates)

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  • 9.  RE: Family Affair

    Posted 11-28-2019 07:32
    Kids are only whispering?!  :) My exchange student is incredible and I wrote her into a show.  We all have talented students who we "favor" with responsibility, roles, time, and extra respect.  It's time to talk openly to your students as a group.  Invite them to express their feelings openly.  Talk about how you were favored, how math teachers, coaches, everyone has different talents which are respected.  Remind them you will gladly be writing wonderful recommendation letters for them.  Everyone is invited for training and more skills.

    Honestly, be open about your feelings, your choices, your needs.  Be human.  Use your compassion, your words.  Get it out of secret so you are approachable and relatable.  Let the training include all freshmen entering the program and let your child train.

    Carol Knarr Gebert
    Jay County High School
    Portland, Indiana
    Thespian Troupe #574

  • 10.  RE: Family Affair

    Posted 11-29-2019 06:34
    Absolutely love Carol's response. Open, honest & transparent. Life lessons and an authentic experience. Who could ask for anything more?!?

    Garry Tiller
    Theatre Arts Teaching Artist
    Sidwell Friends
    Washington, DC

  • 11.  RE: Family Affair

    Posted 11-25-2019 09:54
    I feel your pain. I own a dance studio in addition to teaching high school theatre. I have 2 kids, both very talented. My son doesn't get the flak that my daughter gets, though. Boys that dance are in high demand, so he is respected for his talents. However, my daughter has had a very similar experience to yours. We have outside people come in for auditions, I make a big deal of sitting with the other parents in the waiting area during the auditions, etc. Still we have the same little whispers here and there, and we have lost some students because of it. There have been several times where she has NOT gotten a role that she truly deserved so that we could keep the piece, but I decided about 2 years ago that being fair meant being fair to her, too.

    SO - we have a meeting BEFORE auditions with the parents, and explain what we are looking for (breakdown) for each role, what level of dance the student needs to attain to be considered for each role, and then we talk about fair casting. I have gone so far as to ask outright if my kid should not be cast at all, or should she be treated fairly, as well. Generally, the parents feel that she should be treated fairly, and then it comes down to the fact that everyone wants their kid in a lead role.  We can all understand that, but how do we decide who gets it fairly, and what if that happens to be my kid? We have a decent conversation, and they leave hopefully getting it.

    On a separate note, I took a workshop this fall at the National Conference, and the fellow who led it does something I definitely want to start doing this year. He has a few parent nights throughout the year, where theatre parents come in and experience some of the theatre stuff, learn how they can help, and more. ONE of the things he does is have a "Learn about auditions" night. He talks about how auditions are run, what we look for from a show persepctive, maybe a little about our vision for the show, and then he shows 3 videos of different actors playing the same role - like, for example, Tyne Daly, Bernadette Peters, and Patti LuPone all doing Rose's Turn from Gypsy. Then he asks what if all three of them came in for the audition, who would they cast? He lets them talk about it for a bit, asks them questions like which meets the needs of the show best, which was the one that suited the image of Rose you were looking for, etc. He lets them kind of vote, and then asks what they do with the other 2. :-)  All 3 are great, but you can only cast one. That is the same thing we deal with at school.....and it comes down to picking one that best meets the directors vision. He then has 2 kids with prepared songs come in to audition for the musical in front of the parents, does a mock audition, and then asks the parents how they would cast those 2. I think this is an incredibly valuable tool!!!!  Hope this helps!!!

    Tracy Friswell-Jacobs
    Theatre Teacher
    Middletown DE

  • 12.  RE: Family Affair

    Posted 11-26-2019 09:53
    That is a great idea, letting parents know what it feels like to sit in the decision-making seat. It brings a whole different dimension to the parents.

    Jean Klein
    Playwright/Founder HaveScripts/BlueMoonPlays
    Playwriting Teacher in MFA program, Wilkes University]
    Virginia BeachVA

  • 13.  RE: Family Affair

    Posted 11-27-2019 14:23

    I started my Directing Career when my daughter was in 7th grade and was cast as Snoopy. I held auditions with my assistant & everyone auditioned together so the kids saw each other. At the end of the 2 days, I asked the group “who was the best” they said “Karen”, my daughter. The next year I chose Godspell since it was more an Ensemble. She was so mad I didn’t cast her as Jesus. The next year I cast the assistant director’s daughter as Annie Oakley. She was clearly the best

    Maria Stadtmueller
    Kendall Park, NJ

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