Dinah Lohan move over … there’s a new mom in town!
OK, do I have your attention? Good. Now forget what I just said about Dinah Lohan … I have no intentions of following in her footsteps.
In fact, I’m not even sure about this whole stage mom thing in the first place. It quite frightens me if you really must know. What am I talking about? Well, my third-born, AKA Thing 3, has decided he wants to pursue acting. Yup, the kid who was dancing in his high chair at six month and has continued to dance, sing and entertain the adults in his life ever since, wants to give the whole life in the limelight thing a try.
When did he make this momentous decision? Well, he came to me this spring, asking me if I’d take him to a Disney audition? Say what? “Yeah,” he tells me, “I really want try acting professionally.”
Not wanting to crush any young dreams, I ponder this for a few minutes, we browse the internet for open calls and then I start thinking like a mom. “If you are serious,” I tell a hopeful Thing 3, “then I’d like you to try out for some local productions. See if that interests you, and then we’ll go from there.”
Well, I forget that the “sun always shines on Thing 3.” I mean it. Want to win the lottery? Have Thing 3 pick your numbers. Raffles? Thing 3′s name always comes up. Try out for a sports team that his parents say he has a small chance of making, he’ll make it. Try out for his school’s version of American Idol, he’s a class favorite. This kid just oozes charisma, so I should have known when he wanted to try this acting thing, he would charm the pants off those casting him.
The first test, a production of “Cinderella” at our local children’s theater. Thing 3, surprisingly, got a speaking part, added humor into a character that didn’t originally have any, and I was told, “He’s a natural on stage.”
I shrugged it off. It was fun. It was small potatoes in the theater world, but Thing 3 had fun and that was all that mattered. School began and Thing 3 returned to life as usual — and football practice.
Test 2: Thing 3 was asked to perform (along with his fellow school chorus-mates) in a professional singer’s Christmas show at an absolutely gorgeous local theater, The Colonial, and then was part of the reduced company to be asked to perform the show at the famed Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge. I was impressed.
But it was last month, when a sickly 11-year-old (it’s been a long winter) stated he wanted to try out for the part of a 10-year-old boy in Barrington Stage Company’s 10×10 New Play Festival. Hey, why not? I love the company, and this would be a great opportunity for Thing 3 to see what a real audition was, and to realize there were a lot of talented kids out there who were as good as, and better, that him. You don’t get everything you try out for.
So we got our “sides” (I didn’t know what those were until I received part of the script via email with big red lines and “Side 1″ and “Side 2″ marked indicating what Thing 3 was supposed to read at the auditions). Thing 3 and I read them through a few times and headed off to the auditions on a mini-adventure. “You know, there’s a good chance you won’t get this part,” I said, ever the “optimist.” “But it will good to see what a real audition is like.”
“I know,” Thing 3 said very seriously.
We entered the theater lobby, signed in and Thing 3 sat chatting casually with me, while others young actors ran through their lines with their parents. When his name was called, he walked off with a smile to meet with the strangers on the other side of the curtain. Ten minutes later he emerged with a smile.
“How’d it go?” I asked as we got in the car.
“Good,” he said. “You know, I don’t mind if I don’t get the part. I just wanted to see if they thought I was a good actor, and they stopped me a couple of times and told me they liked how I read this line or that line.”
“Cool,” I said. “Good for you. It’s a good experience.”
“Yup,” he replied. And then the conversation turned to basketball, as the two of us sang along to the radio.
The next morning my cell phone rang. Not recognizing the out-of-town number I ignored it, and soon forgot about it. Later in the afternoon, Thing 3 found my phone and reminded me there was a missed call and message on it. I tapped the message button and began to listen, but before I made it through I called to Thing 3.
“I think this message on my phone is for you,” I said, careful not to reveal the excitement churning inside in my voice.
I handed him the phone and soon saw his big brown-eyes widen and the dimple in his right cheek begin to appear.
“For real?” he asked. “I really got it?”
The next couple of weeks were filled with phone calls and e-mails. Explanations of contracts and requests for headshots and bios. We received a script and a schedule. And this past Tuesday, Thing 3 attended his first read-through and rehearsal, and met his fictitious mom and dad (Scott Drummond and Elizabeth “Lizzy” Aspenlieder).
Since then we’ve had rehearsal every day, and we’ve both learned about blocking, calling for lines and leaving your body open for the audience. Thing 3, not only has learned his lines, but he has successfully taken on the emotions and mannerisms of a young boy who has experienced something Thing 3 has only see in the newspapers and on YouTube videos. But he is doing it with a professionalism I didn’t know he had, and frankly I am utterly impressed. He is really serious about this stuff, and I am surprised at what he has accomplished in a very short amount of time. The show is set to begin this coming Thursday and run for three weeks. Thing 3 is already planning his next audition and I have casually looked into a few agencies in Boston, e-mailing one with questions.
But there is still so much to learn at Barrington Stage before we move on. Tech rehearsals begin soon. I’m curious to see how those work, and I was just asked yesterday whether I was taking notes about Thing 3′s blocking (oops, is that what a Stage Mom does?). This is all new to me and Thing 3, but I’m willing to learn together if this is what he wants to do. But my main goal in all this, is to keep heads and egos in check (mine and thing 3′s). Thing 3 is a small fish in a very big pond, and if this is as far as he goes, I’m good with that.
My problem? I think he has totally been bitten by the bug, and wants more. Wish me luck!
For those of you living in the Berkshires. Learn more about the 10×10 New Play Festival set to open this Thursday, Feb. 14 and run through March 3 here.