One of the biggest questions I get is how do I know my kid is talented enough or has what it takes to make it in this business. Having raised two actors, I understand that these questions are valid and ones I asked myself many times. I asked them mostly to make sure that my kids were on the right path, one they both chose around the age of 7.
First, let’s talk about what it means to “make it.” If your child will only be happy performing on Broadway, then I think some revaluation may be in order. Broadway is the dream, but it shouldn’t be the main goal. The main goal should be making a living doing what they love. There is more to be said on this issue that I will go into in another article.
As their mother I am of course a little biased, so I knew to get a real assessment of my children’s talents I would need to get feedback from professionals. I spoke with instructors, whom I trusted, and who I knew were not going to blow smoke up my behind just to keep making money from me. Instructors can be a great resource and if they are ethical, they will be honest about your child’s talent level and can assess what areas need improved upon. But be cautious as, unfortunately, not all instructors are ethical. I have personally seen instructors who cared more about getting parents money than anything else. I’ve seen parents be given exaggerated input on their child’s talents to keep those dollars rolling in. That’s why it’s important to not just rely on one person’s opinion, especially if they can make more money by telling you what you want to hear.
In addition to instructors, I would speak with professionals my children had worked with to get their impression of their talent and skill level. Now I would never think of bothering a professional actor they were working with whom I didn’t know. It was always someone I had organically developed a relationship with. There were many times these professionals would offer unsolicited feedback, which was always positive, but you knew it was genuine because they felt compelled to give it.
Another thing that I recommend is getting them out of their bubble. What I mean by that is have them audition for things outside where they are comfortable, especially if all they have ever done is their school shows or worked with just one theater company.
I did this with both of my children. My kids started young and had a lot of experience auditioning for local community theaters as well as regional professional theaters. If your child hasn’t had those types of experiences, I recommend them, if for nothing else, to give them experience auditioning for people they don’t know.
I would take my kids for “reach” auditions, ones I was certain that they had a 90% chance or less they would book. (be cast) I would take them for open calls for Broadway or National tours. I did this so that they could see first hand the level of talent and skill that people doing this professionally have. I also wanted them to know what it felt like to not be cast because they were always cast, and my son was almost always a lead. I wanted them to experience rejection while they were young, so I could help them learn to deal with it, but also, so they could see what their future held and make educated decisions about if they wanted to live their life that way. It’s a hard business, and they need to know that ahead of time. Part of “making it” in this business is surviving rejection over and over again.
Another reason I did this was, so they could see for themselves how they measured up against professionals, or at least people with professional training. When my son was 14, I took him to an open dance call for the national tour of Newsies. I didn’t think he would be cast but one, you never know, and two, it was a great experience. What came out of it for my son was a greater appreciation of his dance classes and a strong commitment to improve his dance skills. He saw clearly where his current talent and skill level was and where it needed to be so that he could be competitive in the industry.
Another thing that can help assess talent level is having your child submit auditions for nationally known summer programs that are very hard to get into. We did this with our daughter, not to assess where she was because she was genuinely interested in going, but it did open our eyes as to her talent level. She auditioned for Artsbridge 2 her sophomore year at the suggestion of her acting coach. We were shocked when she was one of only 30 chosen that year, especially since the studio where she trained treated her in a manner that made her feel as though she was no where close to that level of talent. The acceptance alone was a good gauge of where she was for her age group. But also at the end of the program, the various professionals who taught there gave each student a hard critique on areas they should work on before college audition time rolled around.
The simplest way to really get an honest gauge of where your child is talent and technique wise is to hire an independent consultant to watch performance videos and give feedback. I highly recommend doing something like this before their senior year. If done early enough, say Freshman, Sophomore or Junior year, the consultant can give your child areas of training they should focus on to make themselves more competitive for college auditions.
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