So, your young actor has auditioned for a play. They have their heart set on being cast as X part. It’s all they talk about, sing about, dream about… But when the cast list comes out and their name isn’t on it you find your self living with an inconsolable drama queen.
You might hear phrases like: “I’m terrible!” “I knew they wouldn’t pick me!” “It’s not fair! I never get what I want!” “I’m never auditioning again!”
How should you respond? Of course, your instinct is to protect and help make your child feel better, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but there is an important life lesson embedded in this situation that could help or hinder your child in the future.
We suggest the following:
1. Allow your child to feel upset. Honor their feelings of disappointment with words like, “it’s okay to be
sad/angry/disappointed” “I’m disappointed for you.” “Do you want to talk about how you’re feeling?” “Can you think of another time you felt this way?”
2. Process the disappointment with your child. Let them talk about their experience in the audition and listen. You might hear them say things like, “I was awful!” or “The other kids were more experienced/better than me.” or “The director didn’t like me.” In these instances, we recommend a re-direct; talk about the things your child can control. For example, did you feel confident? What would have helped you feel more confident? Did you follow directions? Did you find it difficult to follow the instructions? Do you feel like you tried your best?
After you’ve established the things your child can control in the audition, create a plan to help improve for the next audition (you really want to encourage your child to try again, rejection is a life long challenge and giving up isn’t a good solution). Your plan might include some special training, an audition prep workshop, seeing more shows and discussing the performance values, etc. You want to show your child that you take their disappointment seriously and want to help them succeed in the future.
Our directing team has a set of criteria when it comes to casting; some of the things we look for the child can manage or prepare for, and some are simply out of their hands. For example,
- Passion. Does this young person demonstrate a genuine desire to put in the time and work to produce great theater?
- Time. Does this young person (and their family) have the ability to make the time commitment required?
- Attitude. Does this young person have a positive, supportive and inquisitive disposition? We want to work with kids that want to work with us.
- Talent. Every kid has talent. Does this young person display an aptitude for performing arts?
- Appearance. This is always tricky, but some roles demand a specific “look” or physical feature that not every child has. And sometimes parts are limited and we can only cast three girls with blonde hair who are 5’4″, even if 20 auditioned.
- Opportunity. We have been privileged to work with some extremely talented young people and while we love every single one of them, we don’t always have a part for them. And it may be someone else’s turn to do some theater and life-skill learning.
Processing disappointment will help ease the situation but your child may still demonstrate feelings of anger and frustration for a couple of days. Don’t let this behavior linger. We recommend you ask your child to make a list of activities they can do over the course of the next week that will make them happy. Maybe it’s a family game night or a craft project or an extra hour of friend time. Whatever it is, make a plan to do at least one of those activities every day until you feel your child has moved past the disappointment. Even a list of upcoming activities and events that are looking forward to can help redirect feelings of rejection and disappointment.
We recommend you avoid:
- discussing the merits of other people with your child, including other actors or the directing team. You can’t control others so don’t waste energy questioning their motives.
- over indulging your child in treats or superficial praise. Listen and validate feelings but don’t inflate skills and abilities to try and make your child feel better. Treats are great on occasion, but avoid using them to make a child feel better, this behavior can great dangerous eating patterns.
- dismissing your child’s natural feelings. Phrases like “get over it” “don’t be so sensitive” “you’ll live” shut down an opportunity to teach your child healthy emotional processing. Validate the right to feel sad and then create a plan to move past it.
And remember, every experience is an opportunity to learn and improve.