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FAMILY MATTERS:
        A FAMILY GUIDE TO THE MAGIC OF THEATRE
                    - Text courtesy of Music Theatre International

Introduction
It happens in a moment.  A notice gets posted reading “Auditions for the next show!”  Anticipation bubbles as visions of singing, dancing, acting, and standing ovations run rampant in the minds of children near and far!

Participating in a musical is one of the most rewarding experiences a young person can have.  The director and other adults working on the production care about your child’s future and want to invest time and energy into his or her development.  

Your child is about to take a journey that, with a little help from you, could have a positive, long-lasting impact on her or him and the community in which you live.

This packet is designed to provide you with information to assist your child from auditions through closing night.  It’s also an overview of the process of producing a musical and suggests ways in which you can get involved.  Most importantly, it’s an opportunity for you and your child to share some quality time together on an activity that is fun and inspires the imagination.    

            CURTAIN UP!  LIGHT THE LIGHTS!  LET’S BEGIN!

Why a musical?
Musicals are fun! They also provide young people with many valuable development opportunities.  

A musical brings together all of the arts in one comprehensive program.  Music and dance introduce basic performing arts.  The design and creation of sets, costumes and props integrate the visual arts.  Rehearsing and performing dialogue develops language skills. Integrating sound and lighting explores the use of technology.  As you can see, a musical celebrates many diverse disciplines in one arena.  

In addition, the process of presenting a musical offers young people the opportunity to develop social skills and learn valuable life lessons.  Some examples follow:

o    In a musical, everyone’s contribution is important.  The child operating the sound system is as important to the overall success of the production as the child who plays Cinderella, Annie or Aladdin.

o    Everyone must work together for the greater good, encouraging collaboration and community.
o    Children learn the importance of listening to each other speak and waiting one’s turn.  They take positive risks and conquer fears while building self-confidence.
o    Assessment in a musical is nearly instantaneous in the applause and standing ovations participants receive at the end of the show, meaning they don’t have to wait months for a grade, praise or feedback.  

But the best part?  A musical is a lot of fun for everyone involved, whether your child creates sets, stage manages, sings in the chorus or plays a lead.


The process:
X    audition announcement
X    auditions
X    posting of cast list
X    rehearsals
X    technical rehearsals
X    dress rehearsals
X    performances
X    strike
X    post show blues

Audition Announcement and Preparations
•    A musical is a commitment of time and energy.  Make sure you review the rehearsal and performance schedule in advance.  Do you anticipate any conflicts with soccer, music lessons, or other activities?  If so, it’s important to be honest and let the director know of conflicts in advance.  If this is the case, you might also want to encourage your child to take on a less time-consuming position with the production.  Remember, every contribution is important!

•    What function or job is your child curious to explore?  For example, does your child want to perform onstage as an actor or offstage as a part of the crew? (A detailed list of various functions and tasks follows.)

•    Aside from the support and guidance you’re bound to offer your child, any extra time you have to volunteer on the production is more than welcome (i.e. signing up for ushering, concessions, cast snacks and/or letting us know if you have particular artistic/design/building skills)!


Glossary of possible jobs:

Stage Manager – assists the director in all show aspects  – planning, rehearsing, running
Stage Crew – prepares sets/lights/sound and works backstage during show
Dance Captain – Assists the choreographer, sometimes leading dance rehearsals
Costumer – helps to build and maintain costumes for the show
Actor – performs in the show


Don’t be a Mama Rose!
Mama Rose is a character from the musical Gypsy.  She’s a bossy “stage mother” (a term for a parent who pushes his/her child into the performing arts in a negative manner). We’ve all seen these types at Little League games, beauty pageants and everything in between.  Some of us have probably even acted this way to some degree without even knowing it!  When our heart is in the right place, we’re sometimes blind to the fact that we might be stepping on someone else’s toes or pushing just a little too hard.

Theatre is a collaborative effort, but it’s important to remember that it’s the director’s role to see the big picture and guide every aspect of the production.  If the cast, crew and volunteers do their best to work within the director’s vision, the production will be a rewarding, resounding success!

Remember, having your child participate in theatre has little to do with creating a “star”.  The objective of rehearsing and presenting a musical is to provide children with opportunities to develop life skills and have fun.


Auditions
Most likely the director has sent out information about the audition process.  Auditions are held in many different ways, but in general, you can expect something like this:

Students will sing a small part of a song or be asked to prepare a number of measures (or bars) from a song of their choice.  They may also be asked to learn a short dance together, bring in a prepared monologue (a scene in which only one person speaks), or do a reading of “sides” (script pages of a scene that the director provides far in advance).

Audition Techniques:
Directors respond positively when your child can do the following:

BE PREPARED – memorize the lyrics and melody of your song; communicate the story.

SMILE AND ENJOY YOURSELF – the auditioners want you to do well!

SHOW GOOD BEHAVIOR – directors are often more concerned with your attitude than how well you sing, dance or act.

TRUST THE DIRECTOR’S CHOICES – do your best at whatever you are asked to do, even if you find it challenging or awkward.




Announcing the cast
The announcement of the cast can be a difficult time since the role offered may not meet your child’s expectations.  You know your child best.  If he/she is upset about the casting decision, empower your child to talk to the director one-on-one to discuss the decision and how to enhance future auditions.  You’ll ultimately know best how to comfort your child, but here are some tidbits that might help open new avenues of conversation.

                   Making the best of casting decisions

•    Trust the director’s judgment.  The director is casting an ensemble, not just one or two “lead” roles.  It’s important for the cast to understand the importance of working together as an ensemble and to see the production as a whole – not as individual parts that seem less or more important than others.

•    Remind your child that everyone’s contribution is important and valued.

•    Let your child brainstorm ideas for characteristics for his or her role.  Is he/she a peppy or an indifferent kind of character?  Confident or awkward? Ultimately the director may have specific character qualities in mind, but this will introduce your child to the basics of acting.

•    Take the role to another level by encouraging your child to create a “back story” for his or her character.  Where is the character from?  Why is the character in the show?  Half the fun is that the audience never has to know the character’s back story, but this exploration by your child will round out the character even more.  Again, have fun, but create a story that works realistically within the directors’ vision for the show.  



Surviving the First Rehearsal
At the first rehearsal, kids in the cast receive their scripts and get to know the rest of their collaborators. Some cast members may want to count their lines, but this should be discouraged.  The authors created every character for a reason, and each role impacts the entire production.

As the famous Russian director and acting teacher, Konstantin Stanislavski (1863 – 1938) advised, “THERE ARE NO SMALL PARTS, ONLY SMALL ACTORS!”


Rehearsals
The cast is set and now it’s time to get to work.  Here are some ways to help your child:
1.    Place a copy of the rehearsal schedule on the refrigerator or family bulletin board.
2.    Make sure your child arrives at rehearsal on time, dressed appropriately and prepared for the rehearsal.
3.     After rehearsal, ask your child how it went and if there’s anything you can do to help.  
4.    If your child is assisting with tech or crew, make sure to get a schedule of when he/she is needed at the theatre and that he/she comes dressed appropriately for the task at hand.

Memorizing
Usually, children memorize lines, songs and dances easily.  If they are struggling, however, here are some solutions:
•    Encourage your child to review songs, dances, and scenes outside of rehearsal and in front of a small supportive group.  You can even do it at dinner time and you’ll have your own dinner theater!
•    To memorize scene work, have your child break down the point of the scene: what’s the most important information presented or action taking place?  Answering all these questions will help your child better understand the scene and improvise if something goes awry!
•    Have your child read over scenes before going to sleep at night and first thing in the morning.  This is a great way to memorize parts.
•    It’s helpful to practice dialogue, songs, and dances out loud and in front of a mirror, rather than “in your head.”  This enlists kinesthetic (muscle) memory, as well as visual and aural memory to help learn the part.

Technical Rehearsals
At these rehearsals, known as “tech rehearsals”, the director adds the technical elements to the productions.  These may include sound, lights, hand properties (or “props”) and even special effects such as fog.  Tech rehearsals can seem long and tedious, but are where the important details of the show are ironed out.  If your child is on the tech crew, this is the time to shine! Here are some ways you can help:

-    Send your child to rehearsal well-fed, but avoid sugary snacks and soda.
-    Because there will be a lot of down time, encourage your child to bring homework, a book or another quiet activity to help prevent excess noise that could distract the director and fellow cast/crew.


Dress Rehearsals
By the time the production reaches dress rehearsals, the show is really coming together!  Costumes are now added to complement the technical elements already in place.  With actors in “dress”, their characters come to life in a magical way.

•    Since your child has spent a lot of time rehearsing and developing his/her character, it’s possible that a costume might look or feel awkward at first.  But it’s important to be patient and grateful for the costumers’ hard work since many hours have been spent sewing, creating and shopping for costume pieces.  While a costume might seem silly by itself, it will blend in or stand out beautifully in the overall design of the show.
•    Because some fabrics stain easily and are difficult to clean quickly, it’s a general rule to avoid eating or drinking while in costume.

Performances:  PLACES EVERYONE!
There are very few events in life as exciting as opening night. Cherish it, embrace it, and make a big deal out of it!  Your child will experience a huge range of emotions and look to you for support and encouragement.

After opening night, your child will still need your assistance and guidance.  A musical is a lot of physical and mental work, so children need help pacing their energy.  Make sure your child eats well, takes vitamins, drinks plenty of water, and gets enough rest.

While it’s tempting to throw a cast party on opening night, try to hold off until after the show closes.

                    Opening night checklist:
1.    Make sure your child gets plenty of rest prior to opening night.  A good night’s sleep or a nap will help.
2.    Make sure your child arrives at the performance fed, but avoid any “junk” foods.  A light meal might serve better than a heavy one.
3.    You may want to present your child with flowers or a small gift directly after the performances.  (As a fundraiser, you might want to organize a flower sale in the lobby before the show or at intermission – a lot of other parents will thank you!)
4.    Invite lots of friends and family!

Closing night/Post Show Blues
The closing night performance is as exciting as opening night, but also bittersweet.  It’s the last time the show will be performed and marks the end of what can be months of mental and physical investment.  After final bows, the cast and crew will take down – or “strike” - the sets that helped bring the show to life.

It is normal for your child to be emotional leading up to, during and after the final performances.  This lingering sadness after a show closes is called “post-show blues.”  You can help relieve these feelings by planning a cast gathering after the closing performance.  A pool party, potluck or simple picnic will give the cast something to look forward to in the future and ease their separation anxiety.

What’s next?!
After the last performance many kids immediately ask, “What’s the next show?”  These words are a good indication that your child has had a wonderful experience.  (Check in with your theatre staff to find out what the upcoming schedule holds!)

It’s our little secret that they also learned a great deal and explored some very important life lessons….

Congratulations on a job well done!

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