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Old 10-25-2010, 12:03 PM - Thread Starter
 
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(Please forgive me for the length of this question. It is as much therapeutic journal entry as online support group question. Thanks to anyone who takes the time to read and comment.)

My daughter is a very high energy 9 year-old. Although never diagnosed with adhd, she often has a hard time staying focused. Also she, almost as a matter of course, likes to "test the competence" of adults when she encounters them in new settings. She seems to have a strong need to know what exactly she will be allowed to get away with and how authoritative the adult in question will be in managing her behavior. It happens each new school year and with most extra-curricular activities. I'll be the first to admit it is a VERY boring habit of hers, but usually once she knows where she stands, things move along pretty well. It is most difficult to deal with in short term activities where she doesn't have enough time to redeem herself (she is in reality a very funny, articulate, intelligent, innovative, and kind young lady) after having made her initial bad impression.

In addition to these personality quirks, she is struggling under the weight of a lot of very stressful things that have happened to our family over the last 5-6 years. I don't want to go too deep into the details, but it involves death, loss, financial crisis, and a general sense of instability. Things have improved for us now, but it has taken a huge toll on my daughter's resilience and sense of security. She used to be able to quickly make friends in nearly every setting. Now she constantly complains of being an outsider and not fitting in.

My daughter's favorite thing to do is perform on stage and she is really good at it. She has been involved in many school and community productions in addition to acting classes. Her huge personality can be set free on stage - she seems relieved to not have to keep holding it in. She has had enough success on stage that she struggles with small roles. I have to talk a lot with her about "learning the ropes", "paying her dues", "working her way up the ladder", taking advantage of every opportunity to "make a good impression" for the future, and just feeling grateful she was offered a part. She begrudgingly seems to get it and rises to the occasion almost every time.

So this fall we moved to a city with an awesome children's theater program. My daughter has taken classes in the program before, but we lived too far away and I didn't feel she was mature enough to participate in the larger productions they put on. I consoled my daughter about this most recent move, which was devastating to her, by promising to let her audition for a "big show". I gave her the shpeel I mentioned above to prepare her for the small part she would receive if she received one at all. This was an opportunity to "learn her craft" I kept telling her.

She was offered a very small part as an unnamed extra. She was thrilled at first, but quickly soured on the whole thing and told me she was the only actor in a cast of about twenty-five without lines. I assumed she was exaggerating and told her she made a commitment and she was going to honor it, and she has in her way. The director came to me about three weeks in (the rehearsals were three hours, five nights per week) asking how to manage M's behavior which had become distracted and aloof or alternately disruptive . I told her not to take any crap and to use the fact that she has control over the thing M wants more than anything - the opportunity to perform - to her advantage.

Apparently that worked because there were no more problems until about a week before the preview performance. M received correction from the choreographer and she lost it. She went back stage sobbing and saying she was going to kill herself. This apparently sent the whole cast into a tail-spin which really ticked the director off. Long story short, if M was going to continue in the play I'd have to be there for every rehearsal and every performance to manage her behavior. Although it was a pretty big commitment of my time considering I'd have a toddler and a preschooler in tow, I agreed because I just couldn't bare to think of the long term damage it would do to my daughter if she burned this bridge to the one thing she really and truly loves.

Having the opportunity to watch rehearsals and eventually a full performance helped to put M's behavior in perspective. First of all, the end of every rehearsal, the entire cast has to sit quietly and listen to 20-45 minutes of "notes". Notes are almost exclusively criticism (albeit constructive, usually delivered in an upbeat way and sprinkled here and there, but not at all liberally, with kudos) directed primarily at the 6-8 main actors. Most of the other actors just sit as quietly as they can. I think it would be a lot for a group of adults to take on a nightly basis. For a child like M, who will gladly take negative attention as opposed to no attention at all, it is a recipe for mischief. Still, at least while I was there, she behaved almost perfectly during "notes".

Secondly, and most perplexing to me, my daughter is in fact the only actor in the cast, including several children who are younger than her, who does not have her own line to deliver. As parts were given out in the first day or two, I think it is unlikely M lost her opportunity to deliver a line because of her behavior. I know she did not have a line prior to my being informed her behavior was going south. I'm just not sure what to think about this. Was it just an over site? Were there more line-less actors who dropped out along the way leaving my daughter alone with the distinction? Did the director purposely make this decision, and if so, why?

Whatever the case, in my mind, it would be a rare 9 yo who would not notice being singled out in this way. And while some 9 year olds might let it roll off their backs, mine would not be one of them. She feels very intensely, especially about something like performing which she sees as her thing that she is good at. She told me after her big blow-up "I just want them to notice I'm a good actor". She went on to say how she has worked very hard to make the corrections that are asked of her "but they never say anything."

So basically, from the first day or two of the months long, five day a week rehearsal schedule, my daughter, who struggles to fit in and feel a valued part of a group, was singled out as the only child unworthy of her own line. Although I make no excuse for her behavior, my guess is it would have been much more manageable and would not have escalated to this all time high (or should I say low?) if she had not been marginalized in this way.

I want to be perfectly clear: I did not expect M to have a line in this her first production. I would not have cared if she was part of a group that walked silently through one scene. My only concern is that she feels good about her contribution and that that might be a challenge for her given she is the only child without a line.

I have not and will not say anything to M about what I've observed. She has several performances left, she seems to be enjoying them and I'm proud of how she has worked through her emotional upheavals. I will not add any fuel to her "I'm a misfit" fire.

My question is (finally the question!) should I speak to the director about my observations? I do not want to come across as a hovering stage mom who whines and complains about her little diva not having the best part. That is not at all what this is about. It is about M. having a positive experience doing one of the few things that she really feels good about - no matter the size of the role. M will not try out for another play for quite some time, but eventually she will want to get back on the horse. I would like to at least suggest to the director (who coordinates the entire program) that there seems to be an underlying context to M's behavior that she may not have recognized. My hope is she might see my daughter in a context other than "she was a real pain in the butt the first time I directed her", the next time M auditions before her. Beyond that, while it is a wonderful program, from the perspective of a relative outsider, a few tweeks might improve the experience for all the young actors. I do not believe in excessive gratuitous positive feedback, but these children - there has to be a happy medium.

If I do approach the director, what do I say? Sometimes I feel annoyed enough by the whole thing to ask her to please find a moment or two to give my daughter some little scrap of positive feedback - since at the end of the day, the director's approval is all M really wants anyway. More often I think I should wait until the end of the run and send a gently worded email. Most often I think I should keep my mouth shut lest my message be lost in the delivery and I come off as nothing more than a horrible stage mother.

In a broader context, for those of you with troubled youngsters, do you have any tips for integrating your children into the broader community without feeling like you are inflicting something onerous upon it?

(p.s. M is in counseling and has been for awhile.)
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Old 10-25-2010, 12:14 PM
 
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I can only address the issues of child stage actors, as my sister and I were heavily involved in professional and community theatre from a young age, and you're probably not going to like this.

Her behavior is not okay. It's not up to the other actors, the director, choreographer, or music director to deal with problem behaviors or emotional issues. If a child can't handle having no lines, the stage is not for them. If they can't handle critique, the stage is not for them. If they can't enjoy the rehearsals and look forward to the performances for what they are, the stage is not for them.

A school play is a totally different bag of nuts as inclusion and catering to the kids is (ideally) at the forefront of the director's goals.

9 is not too young to really, really take to heart the mantra: There are no small roles, only small actors. The more you focus on the whys and hows of her lack of lines, the more she'll focus on it.

It can be devastating to be pulled from a show due to behavior (I was, my sophomore year in high school, and it sucked. A LOT. But it was, at that time, the only carrot my parents had, and it worked wonders to get me to sharpen up.) but in this situation, your child's feelings are only part of the equation. If she's disrupting the cast as a whole, it needs to stop, by pulling her or constant supervision.

Doctors aren't out to kill you or your children. Childbirth isn't inherently safe. Science is actually smarter than your intuition. Lighten up. Use sunscreen.

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Old 10-25-2010, 01:05 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for your thoughts ErinYay.

As I mentioned, I have not mentioned my thoughts to my daughter. I have told her told "yes Director" is the only appropriate answer when she is given direction. As I mentioned I have told her over and over again what is expected of her as an actor and particularly in dealing with small roles, and as I mentioned, she rises to the occasion. (I had forgotten "there are no small roles only small actors." I will add it to my repertoire.) She knows nothing of my thoughts about her being singled out as the only actor without a line.

Given the fact that I have spent a good chunk of every day for the last 12 monitoring my child's behavior at play practice while trying to keep two bored little ones happy should give some indication that I respect the process, the time and effort of all the adults involved, and I especially appreciate the need to preserve the positive experience of the other actors involved. I realize her behavior has not been acceptable and I am doing something about it. But yes thanks for reiterating that my child's behavior is not ok.

While this is not a school production, it is also not a professional production either. I have no interest in turning my child into a professional actor. My only goal is that she is able to participate in an activity she feels good about. In my opinion, as a community children's theater, some thought should be given to the emotional needs of the children involved (again I KNOW her behavior was not acceptable). These are children - not adults. They are amateurs - not professionals. Again, I have no problem at all with her having a small part, and at this point she seems happy to be part of the production. But the ONLY actor without a couple of words to say - really?

Your response to my comments, ErinYay, speaks to my final question which was; how do you integrate a child who is going through a difficult time into the broader community? Your answer seems to be - you don't. I am doing what I can at home to help her get on track. She has no "diagnosis" of severe mental illness. She has no learning disabilities. She is not on meds. She is just a kid who has endured a lot of bad stuff and she is having a hard time working through it. At what point will it ok for her to participate in the community? When she's perfect? How will she ever learn to manage her behavior on her own if she never has the opportunity to do things outside of our family? ErinYay, your comment represents exactly the attitude that I encounter with my relatively mildly troubled child and I think many families encounter. Make them perfect children or don't inflict them on the world. It really has caused isolation in our family. I can't imagine what it must be like for families of severely troubled children.
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Old 10-25-2010, 01:49 PM
 
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There's a lot of room between a Stepford child and a child who, by your account, exhibits behavior that initially rubs everyone the wrong way and on occasion becomes disruptive over time. I'm not saying she needs to be perfect, but if her behavior and demeanor in general are setting her apart from the other kids, especially younger ones, then her behavior needs to be addressed.

I'm not saying that kids with issues shouldn't be part of society as a whole, but no child is going to fit in a healthy way for themselves *and* others in every part of society. It may be that this particular program at this particular point in time is a poor fit for her.

A child doesn't get a pass on disruptive, rude, and explosive behavior issues because they like to do a certain thing. Making excuses for unhealthy behaviors that have no diagnosis by calling them "personality quirks" isn't really helping her learn to behave in a positive manner.

You may want to browse around in the special needs forums, with attention to threads about kiddos with SPD and ASD- I'm *not* saying your daughter has either, but those mommas have had to figure out the balance of getting their very high-needs kids involved with the world at large without putting them in a melt-down position *or* by demanding that said world love and support their kids as they do.

I'm not sure how a child can grow and change if their behaviors don't have consequences that they understand. If she threatens self-harm to avoid critique, and not because she's actually thinking of hurting herself, that, IMO (for all of this, of course) needs to be nipped in the bud asap. Manipulating others isn't a healthy expression of self, and, like any other behavior, the more she engages in it, the more difficult it will become to learn alternative coping mechanisms that are healthy.


This must be very difficult for you and your kiddo. I hope this is something she goes over with her therapist- theatre in specific, and ways she can behave in social settings without alienating or angering others while still being herself. Behaving and expressing emotions in a healthy manner (notice I'm not saying "socially acceptable," because they can be two different things for sure) doesn't mean she loses who she is, but she also needs to understand that her actions impact the others around her and, like it or not, impact greatly how she is treated by others.

Doctors aren't out to kill you or your children. Childbirth isn't inherently safe. Science is actually smarter than your intuition. Lighten up. Use sunscreen.

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Old 10-25-2010, 01:55 PM
 
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how do you integrate a child who is going through a difficult time into the broader community?
Community theater isn't the place for this. Not being a part of community theater is not the same as keeping her home until her behavior is perfect and Erin isn't suggesting that.

Secondly, it is not fair to the other children to have one child who is disruptive on a regular basis-I am assuming this is the case since you had to attend all rehersals to help your daughter with her behavior.

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Having the opportunity to watch rehearsals and eventually a full performance helped to put M's behavior in perspective. First of all, the end of every rehearsal, the entire cast has to sit quietly and listen to 20-45 minutes of "notes". Notes are almost exclusively criticism (albeit constructive, usually delivered in an upbeat way and sprinkled here and there, but not at all liberally, with kudos) directed primarily at the 6-8 main actors. Most of the other actors just sit as quietly as they can. I think it would be a lot for a group of adults to take on a nightly basis. For a child like M, who will gladly take negative attention as opposed to no attention at all, it is a recipe for mischief.
It is not unusual to have to sit still and listen to criticism and direction. It seems that you are trying to justify your daughter's behavior rather than acknowledging that perhaps your daughter just isn't ready for this kind of intense program.

As Erin noted, theater outside of school is not necessarily going to be about making everyone feel warm and fuzzy-criticism can be tough. Nor are directors going to spend time thinking, "Hm. M only has one word to say while S has four. Maybe I should be more fair." It could be she got no lines because of senority-i.e. she is the new kid on the block and the children who are more established in the theater get those parts. Life works that way sometimes.

I took ballet as a young girl and loved it. The problem was my feet are slightly turned in and it was simply impossible for me to physically be a good ballerina. The best girls in the class got to be the children in The Nutcracker and I was not chosen. This was not a school performance where everyone gets a part. This was a performance where people EARNED their parts and there is a world of difference.
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Old 10-25-2010, 03:01 PM - Thread Starter
 
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ErinYay - where did you get that I was not addressing her behavior? Where did you get that she is not being given consequences for her behavior? Where in what I wrote did you get the idea I was "making excuses"?

My point in saying she has no diagnosis, despite having been assessed, is that her behavior, while COMPLETELY INAPPROPRIATE, does not rise to the level of a severe mental health condition - and was offered as a matter of context - as in "it is bad but it could be much worse". Also on my mind was the fact that she would not qualify for programming designed for more disturbed children, nor would they be appropriate for her. That leaves us to find growth opportunities for her in mainstream settings.

Perhaps I should have been more explicit but "she won't be trying out for any more plays for quite some time" meant I realized she wasn't ready for this format. And believe me, not being able to try out for any more plays will be a HUGE consequence for her behavior in this one. So Ok - I misjudged what community theater was about - my bad. But I AM NOT trying to rationalize away my child's bad behavior. I laid everything out in my question the way I did to make it clear that my daughter has issues - my saying they are quirks does not in any way imply that I am ignoring them or failing to take them seriously. She has successfully participated in many plays before this, and in the end, after working through her completely inappropriate outburst, her participation in this play will be a success too.

I also mentioned that this is the first time that her behavior has escalated to this level of inappropriateness. To be clear she does not routinely run around threatening to kill her self to manipulate people. In fact this is the very first time she has done it (not sure where I gave the impression otherwise). So I don't think it is out of line to ask what about this particular context caused a child who admittedly has behavioral struggles, but that LOVES performing and has done so successfully many times, to come away with such negative feelings. Is it completely out of line to suggest that maybe this isn't 110% about her horrible behavior and my apparently equally horrible ability to set consequences for her completely inappropriate behavior? Could it be that a very tiny consideration of her feelings could have made this a great experience for her?

Again I ask how many non-professional 9 year-olds would just shrug something like that off? My guess is quite of few of them would just quit. For heaven's sake, when I worked in retail management - managing ADULTS - I had to spend I huge amount of time giving positive feedback to keep all those on my staff working happily in the direction I wanted them to go. Those rules of consideration apparently don't apply in community children's theater.

I am fully aware that children need to learn to take criticism. In hours and hours of rehearsal my daughter had one day when she did not handle the criticism well - and again she handled it COMPLETELY INAPPROPRIATELY on that day. She learned from it and has been doing very well with it since. And for the record, with my younger children in tow, I am not able to monitor her every move. For the most part I am just in the building and pop in for notes after my husband picks up the little ones. It was three performances into the run before I saw the full show. So yeah, I'm not hovering over her to make sure she tows the line, and there have been no issues.
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Old 10-25-2010, 03:36 PM
 
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So this fall we moved to a city with an awesome children's theater program. My daughter has taken classes in the program before, but we lived too far away and I didn't feel she was mature enough to participate in the larger productions they put on. I consoled my daughter about this most recent move, which was devastating to her, by promising to let her audition for a "big show". I gave her the shpeel I mentioned above to prepare her for the small part she would receive if she received one at all. This was an opportunity to "learn her craft" I kept telling her.

She was offered a very small part as an unnamed extra. She was thrilled at first, but quickly soured on the whole thing and told me she was the only actor in a cast of about twenty-five without lines. I assumed she was exaggerating and told her she made a commitment and she was going to honor it, and she has in her way. The director came to me about three weeks in (the rehearsals were three hours, five nights per week) asking how to manage M's behavior which had become distracted and aloof or alternately disruptive . I told her not to take any crap and to use the fact that she has control over the thing M wants more than anything - the opportunity to perform - to her advantage.

Apparently that worked because there were no more problems until about a week before the preview performance. M received correction from the choreographer and she lost it. She went back stage sobbing and saying she was going to kill herself. This apparently sent the whole cast into a tail-spin which really ticked the director off. Long story short, if M was going to continue in the play I'd have to be there for every rehearsal and every performance to manage her behavior. Although it was a pretty big commitment of my time considering I'd have a toddler and a preschooler in tow, I agreed because I just couldn't bare to think of the long term damage it would do to my daughter if she burned this bridge to the one thing she really and truly loves.

Having the opportunity to watch rehearsals and eventually a full performance helped to put M's behavior in perspective. First of all, the end of every rehearsal, the entire cast has to sit quietly and listen to 20-45 minutes of "notes". Notes are almost exclusively criticism (albeit constructive, usually delivered in an upbeat way and sprinkled here and there, but not at all liberally, with kudos) directed primarily at the 6-8 main actors. Most of the other actors just sit as quietly as they can. I think it would be a lot for a group of adults to take on a nightly basis. For a child like M, who will gladly take negative attention as opposed to no attention at all, it is a recipe for mischief. Still, at least while I was there, she behaved almost perfectly during "notes".

Secondly, and most perplexing to me, my daughter is in fact the only actor in the cast, including several children who are younger than her, who does not have her own line to deliver. As parts were given out in the first day or two, I think it is unlikely M lost her opportunity to deliver a line because of her behavior. I know she did not have a line prior to my being informed her behavior was going south. I'm just not sure what to think about this. Was it just an over site? Were there more line-less actors who dropped out along the way leaving my daughter alone with the distinction? Did the director purposely make this decision, and if so, why?

Whatever the case, in my mind, it would be a rare 9 yo who would not notice being singled out in this way. And while some 9 year olds might let it roll off their backs, mine would not be one of them. She feels very intensely, especially about something like performing which she sees as her thing that she is good at. She told me after her big blow-up "I just want them to notice I'm a good actor". She went on to say how she has worked very hard to make the corrections that are asked of her "but they never say anything."

So basically, from the first day or two of the months long, five day a week rehearsal schedule, my daughter, who struggles to fit in and feel a valued part of a group, was singled out as the only child unworthy of her own line. Although I make no excuse for her behavior, my guess is it would have been much more manageable and would not have escalated to this all time high (or should I say low?) if she had not been marginalized in this way.

I want to be perfectly clear: I did not expect M to have a line in this her first production. I would not have cared if she was part of a group that walked silently through one scene. My only concern is that she feels good about her contribution and that that might be a challenge for her given she is the only child without a line.

I have not and will not say anything to M about what I've observed. She has several performances left, she seems to be enjoying them and I'm proud of how she has worked through her emotional upheavals. I will not add any fuel to her "I'm a misfit" fire.

My question is (finally the question!) should I speak to the director about my observations? I do not want to come across as a hovering stage mom who whines and complains about her little diva not having the best part. That is not at all what this is about. It is about M. having a positive experience doing one of the few things that she really feels good about - no matter the size of the role. M will not try out for another play for quite some time, but eventually she will want to get back on the horse. I would like to at least suggest to the director (who coordinates the entire program) that there seems to be an underlying context to M's behavior that she may not have recognized. My hope is she might see my daughter in a context other than "she was a real pain in the butt the first time I directed her", the next time M auditions before her. Beyond that, while it is a wonderful program, from the perspective of a relative outsider, a few tweeks might improve the experience for all the young actors. I do not believe in excessive gratuitous positive feedback, but these children - there has to be a happy medium.

If I do approach the director, what do I say? Sometimes I feel annoyed enough by the whole thing to ask her to please find a moment or two to give my daughter some little scrap of positive feedback - since at the end of the day, the director's approval is all M really wants anyway. More often I think I should wait until the end of the run and send a gently worded email. Most often I think I should keep my mouth shut lest my message be lost in the delivery and I come off as nothing more than a horrible stage mother.

In a broader context, for those of you with troubled youngsters, do you have any tips for integrating your children into the broader community without feeling like you are inflicting something onerous upon it?

(p.s. M is in counseling and has been for awhile.)
Okay from someone who was in semi-pro music at that age and dealing with making/not making choirs/not being a star/etc. here's the reality check. (And by the way, no, most kids didn't quit.)

1. a) She doesn't have a line 'cause she was given a part with no line. It has nothing to do with anything but that - it's not a school play where the teacher makes up whole interludes with tree dialogue so everyone has his or her shining moment. It's simply the only part in the play with no line. That she doesn't get that (and I'm not sure you do) is a concern. It's like if you play the cello and you're playing the Pachebel Canon, you will be repeating the same 8 notes over and over 47 times or whatever, regardless of how great you are. It's how the play is written.

b) Because she doesn't have a line, there isn't a whole lot of feedback to give her in the notes period, and it would be repetitive for the director to be constantly telling her what a good job she did.

2. Now I don't know, but is the mandate of this organization to provide a good experience for the kids, or is it to put on a good production? The two goals are not mutually exclusive but I'm thinking that you may have misunderstood which comes first. I doubt it is their mandate to make sure your daughter has a good time.

3. Unfortunately your child was a pain the butt the first time she directed her. That's going to be her impression regardless of what you do, at this point. I think it's actually really valuable as experiences go and I would probably, at 9, gently lay it out that way like this:

Dearest Daughter, I love you and think you are the bomb. But your director asked me to attend rehearsals because you flipped out. You're lucky to have still been in the play. I've been impressed with how you've behaved since! On closing night you should give the director a thank you letter. And then let's discuss if you want to continue.

4. I don't think any email but "thank you so much for the opportunity and for working through my daughter's difficult evening with us" would be appropriate.

~ Mum to Emily, March 12-16 2004, Noah, born Aug 2005, Liam, born January 2011, and wife to Carl since 1994. ~
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Old 10-25-2010, 04:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all so much.

[Re GuildJenn] "Because she doesn't have a line, there isn't a whole lot of feedback to give her in the notes period, and it would be repetitive for the director to be constantly telling her what a good job she did."

Again, not sure where I gave the impression that I expected my child to receive endless, repetitive pats on the back. As a matter of fact I mentioned explicitly that I am against that sort of meaningless drivel. But, once again, these are children and there has to be a middle ground. There is a lot of ground between constant compliments and being told once or twice in three months "hey - you did X really well." My observations suggest to me that all the children would benefit from more positive feed-back - not in lieu of criticism, but in addition to it. If there is no middle ground, than I don't want my child involved.

GuildJenn, you are wrong about not creating parts in this particular program. It is done routinely to accommodate all those who audition.

If seniority is the issue - fabulous - tell the child that - don't leave her wondering. If her behavior is the issue - also fabulous - perfect natural consequence and incentive to either buck up or get out. Again - I AM NOT UPSET THAT MY CHILD DID NOT HAVE A LINE. I am upset that she is the ONLY child in the entire cast without a line and no one bothered to talk to her about it. Again - it is not a matter of K has four words and M has two. M has zero.

My child has apologized multiple times for her behavior and formally asked for an opportunity to continue in the play after her outburst. She knows exactly why I am attending rehearsals. I'm not sure how else I can get the point across that I have taken all of this very very seriously.

I agree GuildJenn that a thank you letter at the end of the run is a good idea. I will not, however, hold the director completely blameless in this situation by virtue of her title. I am very frank with myself and others about the challenges I face with my daughter's behavior. I am not some push-over who is wooed by her daughters "talent" and blinded to her faults. I can look at the situation with a level of objectivity and recognize being singled out in this way would be difficult for many non-professional children to handle. My child brought with her issues that were made worse by a level of insensitivity that I feel in inappropriate when working with children. It probably would have been wise to discuss my daughter challenges with the director at the start of rehearsals as I have in other contexts. But who's needs are being served if no parent it willing to say "this program is awesome, but you might want to think about......"? If the children are capable of taking endless criticism, certainly the director can take one small suggestion from an interested observer.

And for the record, here is the mission statement of the program my daughter is involved with:

Our mission: The XXXX Conservatory is committed to providing exciting, innovative, and quality theatre arts education for the Northeast Region. Theatre is a fully active art form - it engages the mind and body so that learning is layered and lasting. We have an array of creative, fun, and challenging opportunities for all ages to explore the power of performance.

So yes, providing a "fun" experience is part of the mission. "Quality" only applies to the value of the educational experience. No where does it say that creating quality theater is the overriding goal. In fact I don't see that mentioned as a goal at all.
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Old 10-25-2010, 04:50 PM
 
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Notes are an invaluable learning tool for all actors, whether they're on the direct recieving end or not. That's why they're done en masse. Critique is a huge part of any performing art, and a child who can't handle 50 "uh-ohs" to 1 "atta-boy" is going to be unhappy. As you've said, it's a process, and you don't get to pick and choose which parts you like and which you don't. (Well, you *do*, but it won't change anything.) Sure, sometimes you get bored, but then you read or hang out or something to pass the time.

I may be in the minority (not likely, based on the huge number of kids who, year in and year out, do *anything* to be involved in a show) but I loved it ALL. I loved notes and learned a ton. I liked critique, because I wanted to be GOOD, and it's not possible to grow as a performer if you're never corrected. I loved rehearsals and waiting around watching the others- if any of it had been less-than-fun, I wouldn't have done it for so long.

Performing is the smallest part of performing arts, ironically enough, and if that's the only part she finds fun, again, it might not be a good fit. I'm probably off-base, and there are countless things she enjoys, but if it's causing so much angst, perhaps she doesn't love acting as a whole as much as she thinks she does.

Something you may want to think about is starting a little kids' improv club. Real improv requires a LOT of work, but for a kid who really only likes the performing aspect, it could be a good option until she's developed the ability to take the whole ball of noodles. In a small, controlled environment, it might be easier for her to relate to others and express herself, while still getting the thrill of the spotlight.

Provided your daughter isn't being bullied, it's no one's job but hers to make it fun. I know it sounds mean and harsh, but it's the reality of sports and the performing arts.

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Old 10-25-2010, 04:53 PM
 
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I am not saying this in a snarky way at all-I want to be clear on that because the internet is not a good medium for conveying tone and expression.

I think you need to examine why YOU care so much about the fact that your daughter does not have a line. Like the PP said, she doesn't have a line just because. That's it. I think you are driving yourself bonkers by over analyzing this to death. And I am sad to say it does come across as being THAT Mom everyone rolls their eyes at.

You can not expect the world to change for you. All you can change is how you and your daughter react to the world. That is a lesson she needs to learn and I will gently say you seem way more focused on trying to force the world to change rather than helping your daughter learn and grow from this experience.

At this point I am not sure what you want to hear. From your posts it seems that this is not a good fit for you or your daughter.
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Old 10-25-2010, 04:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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In anticipation of the next respondent's criticism, my child is never ever allowed to wallow in a "I've been done wrong" pit of self-sorriness. She told me in the first week of rehearsals that she was the only one without lines and I told her in no uncertain terms she made a commitment and she would honor it no matter what. She has not brought it up again. That does not mean it didn't bother her though, despite the fact that she was indeed working to honor her commitment - some days more successfully than others. And, once again - I have not offered my thoughts on the issue to her.
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Old 10-25-2010, 05:12 PM
 
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Thank you all so much.

[Re GuildJenn] "Because she doesn't have a line, there isn't a whole lot of feedback to give her in the notes period, and it would be repetitive for the director to be constantly telling her what a good job she did."

Again, not sure where I gave the impression that I expected my child to receive endless, repetitive pats on the back. As a matter of fact I mentioned explicitly that I am against that sort of meaningless drivel. But, once again, these are children and there has to be a middle ground. There is a lot of ground between constant compliments and being told once or twice in three months "hey - you did X really well." My observations suggest to me that all the children would benefit from more positive feed-back - not in lieu of criticism, but in addition to it. If there is no middle ground, than I don't want my child involved.

GuildJenn, you are wrong about not creating parts in this particular program. It is done routinely to accommodate all those who audition.

If seniority is the issue - fabulous - tell the child that - don't leave her wondering. If her behavior is the issue - also fabulous - perfect natural consequence and incentive to either buck up or get out. Again - I AM NOT UPSET THAT MY CHILD DID NOT HAVE A LINE. I am upset that she is the ONLY child in the entire cast without a line and no one bothered to talk to her about it. Again - it is not a matter of K has four words and M has two. M has zero.

My child has apologized multiple times for her behavior and formally asked for an opportunity to continue in the play after her outburst. She knows exactly why I am attending rehearsals. I'm not sure how else I can get the point across that I have taken all of this very very seriously.

I agree GuildJenn that a thank you letter at the end of the run is a good idea. I will not, however, hold the director completely blameless in this situation by virtue of her title. I am very frank with myself and others about the challenges I face with my daughter's behavior. I am not some push-over who is wooed by her daughters "talent" and blinded to her faults. I can look at the situation with a level of objectivity and recognize being singled out in this way would be difficult for many non-professional children to handle. My child brought with her issues that were made worse by a level of insensitivity that I feel in inappropriate when working with children. It probably would have been wise to discuss my daughter challenges with the director at the start of rehearsals as I have in other contexts. But who's needs are being served if no parent it willing to say "this program is awesome, but you might want to think about......"? If the children are capable of taking endless criticism, certainly the director can take one small suggestion from an interested observer.

And for the record, here is the mission statement of the program my daughter is involved with:

Our mission: The XXXX Conservatory is committed to providing exciting, innovative, and quality theatre arts education for the Northeast Region. Theatre is a fully active art form - it engages the mind and body so that learning is layered and lasting. We have an array of creative, fun, and challenging opportunities for all ages to explore the power of performance.

So yes, providing a "fun" experience is part of the mission. "Quality" only applies to the value of the educational experience. No where does it say that creating quality theater is the overriding goal. In fact I don't see that mentioned as a goal at all.
It sounds like you're pretty decided and perhaps it is more of a 'school' than 'theatre' so your letter would be helpful. It does sound more school-y. Is there a non-performance track?

'Cause having said that - no community or semi-pro organization I've been familiar with would discuss with a child why she didn't get X lines (or any lines). It would be assumed that when she took the part, she knew what she was getting.

Nor would a letter talking about how more positive feedback was needed go over that well. Not that everything has to be negative or that feedback should be a horrible experience, but the role of the director/conductor just isn't about that (if it's performance-based).

I don't remember a lot of positive feedback for anyone - even the soloists/stars. I'd almost say lack of negative feedback was the 'win' - but that wasn't true either, really, since sometimes the sign you were doing well was when you were really getting a lot of comments about your performance. The 'win' was delivering a great performance.

And yes, that went for kids. In fact as I write that I guess I just don't feel like there was this negative/positive outlook. None of the comments were particularly personal (well unless they were like you hadn't practiced or memorized enough or whatever in which case you'd get reamed out). It was always about how to improve. ALL the comments were about how to improve.

Because that was the point. It wasn't personal. I feel like you have a disconnect when you say "I can look at the situation with a level of objectivity and recognize being singled out in this way would be difficult for many non-professional children to handle."

I'm not sure I agree. In many years of playing solo, in a group, and singing in choirs, I don't remember being taken aside much to be praised...maybe by an actual teacher. Maybe. But it wasn't an issue because that was generally the norm.

Now I'm not in your shoes and maybe your daughter was treated unusually for that group. But I'm just saying in my general experience, once you get to where you are in a performance-based group, there isn't an attempt to make things fair and even and be sure everyone gets told something positive. That comes with the applause.

Now I don't know; maybe it was sold to you as a school. But you asked the question and my answer is still: If you want your daughter to continue there I'm just not sure I would get into it.

I think the likely result is fewer roles and less feedback.

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Old 10-25-2010, 05:22 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I care because I believe those who work with children should do so with a higher level of sensitivity than they would use when working with adults. I am far far from a model parent or educator but I wouldn't think of singling one child out without explanation. I was not aware going into this that "The Theater" was some sacred bastion where young children are expected to check their feelings at the door. I care because what easily could have been a great thing for my daughter turned wrong and I don't think it was 100% her fault or mine - although we certainly carry most of the blame. I care because I want my child to have something positive in her life. Not to be a star. Not to bask in the limelight. Just to feel good about being part of being part of something bigger that she really enjoys. I care because I think she would like to continue to do this, and there are few other opportunities in our community

And really - "That Mom"? After explaining several times how I've held my daughter to task? Honoring commitments, requiring apologizes, learning lessons, paying dues, working her way up, etc, etc? After sitting quietly at rehearsals, modeling nothing but quiet respect for the director and her process? I'm "That Mom" because I dare to suggest that there might be a teeny tiny space for improvement in the sacred "Theater"? And because I mentioned it here and have never once mentioned it to another breathing soul - not my husband, not my child, not a friend, and certainly not the director - I'm therefore "That Mom"?

That's not snarky at all.
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Old 10-25-2010, 05:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Oh, I will certainly not say one thing to the director, beyond continuing to help out with the production until the end of the run. I will ask my daughter to write her a thank you note. Then I will look for programs that are more fun based (with likely little luck in our small town). When she can get herself to rehearsals on her own, than she can be involved in whatever program she chooses. I really and truly did not realize it would be like this - and that every mother here would agree it is perfectly ok.
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Old 10-25-2010, 05:43 PM
 
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I think you've received a lot of respectful comments.

To me, it sounds like the bottom line is that she wasn't mature enough for this experience. There might be younger children in the program, but they might be there with an older sibling who is able to do some light supervising. Or they might just be more mature.

My DD, 5, has her limits and they're all very individual. I had to make the call twice this summer that certain activities were just too much for her--though they seemed totally appropriate on paper.

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I was not aware going into this that "The Theater" was some sacred bastion where young children are expected to check their feelings at the door.
Well, now you know. Or at least that you/she can't expect the level of positive reinforcement/individual attention (explaining why she received a certain role, focusing on her extra performance) that she needs in a program to thrive. I'm unclear as to whether this is a professional mixed age community theater company or a childrens program with a fee to enter--but I think unless it's fee based, you can't expect much in the way of handholding. Even at 9.

Also, I've turned into an evangelist for this book--The Explosive Child

http://www.amazon.com/Explosive-Chil...8036399&sr=8-1

I thought of it because it's got some good advice for helping your child to work through those big emotions--and hopefully help her be able to reason better in the future instead of melting down. It might be a good step in the way of resolving her authority issues. You mention above that you told the director not to take the bad behavior and to hold her performance out as an incentive--but maybe she needs more than the hard line, you know? The book has helped me a lot--you might find it useful, too.
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Old 10-25-2010, 05:48 PM
 
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So, I'm not a part of the theatre community, but I had a slightly different take than the other mamas here and thought I would put it out there.

my first observation is that you've put a lot of time and energy into figuring this out as well as into putting your daughter's need to participate ahead of your (and your preschool/toddler's needs). That is, wow, not a lot of women would be able or willing to make that commitment and you have my respect for making this happen for your daughter no matter the cost to you. I'm impressed by how much you care and how far you are willing to go to serve her needs.

Also, I agree that a performance-based situation requires certain levels of behavior and all participants must adhere to those behaviors. It sounds like your daughter learned from this experience though it was probably tough.

However, I don't think that an appropriately timed, non-confrontational question (perhaps AFTER the last performance) would be out of line. The director has seen your commitment to accompany your daughter and has seen her behave as needed for the remainder of the run. I'd say something like, "This is how I perceived the situation. This is what my understanding of how my daughter's behavior impacted her role, etc. Do you have any suggestions moving into the future for helping her to fully participate in other productions?"

I mean, I get that directors are very very busy during the production and have a million people to keep track of performance-wise, but I also think that it's a children's production, so he shouldn't be adverse to a reasoned, non-demanding request for feedback. Especially if it's phrased like "you are my ally and you have the experience. I just wanna' know your perspective"

You're only trying to gain information for your daughter to benefit her in the long run. Blame isn't needed. She had an issue and you addressed it. Where's the blame in that?

FWIW, I did not get that you are being "that mom". I just see you as someone who is doing all she can to help her kid be her best and get something positive out of the whole experience.
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Old 10-25-2010, 05:52 PM
 
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This particular troupe may be too hard for your daughter- that's perfectly valid, and I think that is enough, in and of itself. It doesn't mean the whole system is flawed, or that they need to change anything to be a healthy, positive, fun experience. It just means it's not a good fit for your child.



It's *okay* if it's not a good fit. It's not because something's "wrong" with your child or "wrong" with the program. It just doesn't work for her.


I say this because cruelty, unfairness, and bullying are *NOT* okay, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a mom here who thinks they are. We're saying that a) your daughter isn't (from what you've written here) being treated unfairly, and b) that you can't make the world do what you want, when you want, and that's okay, and c) performance arts are hard work that some kids find enjoyable.

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Old 10-25-2010, 08:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Juliebird thank you very much for your comment

Madskye, thank you for suggesting the book. I have it on request at the library. My daughter does pretty well at home, but there is always room for improvement. Since I'm apparently completely out of line to suggest even the smallest thing out of the ordinary in working with my child in her theater program, I'm not sure it will help much there. I'm more than a little gun shy about getting her involved in anything else. Still I am looking forward to reading it.

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It doesn't mean the whole system is flawed, or that they need to change anything to be a healthy, positive, fun experience. It just means it's not a good fit for your child.

It's *okay* if it's not a good fit. It's not because something's "wrong" with your child or "wrong" with the program. It just doesn't work for her.

I say this because cruelty, unfairness, and bullying are *NOT* okay, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a mom here who thinks they are. We're saying that a) your daughter isn't (from what you've written here) being treated unfairly, and b) that you can't make the world do what you want, when you want, and that's okay, and c) performance arts are hard work that some kids find enjoyable.
I know I did not say anything about the whole system being flawed. It didn't even cross my radar. My thought was that a tiny bit of positive feed-back - I think I mentioned once or twice in three months - probably would have gone a long way to helping my daughter to better manage her behavior. And yes, children enjoying the experience is central to the program's mission as I noted above. I also feel, having observed the group, that a tiny bit of positive feed-back - again neither excessive nor gratuitous - would benefit all the children. I can not believe there is not a single children's theater program in the world that has successfully integrated a small measure of positive reinforcement into its system of critique.

You mentioned in another comment: "I liked critique, because I wanted to be GOOD, and it's not possible to grow as a performer if you're never corrected." I could not agree more. I see what you are saying too about en masse notes. But wow - the endless negativity that comes at those kids!

Also, I never implied my daughter was being treated unfairly. It is perfectly right and fair for the director's to cast the play however she likes. What I did say is that I felt it was insensitive and I will add here, a little unkind to single a child out in that way. Not end of the world mean. Not wholly thoughtless. Just a tiny bit insensitive. Again, I don't think we should hold young children to the same standards as adults. And a measure of sensitivity could have turned this whole thing into a win-win.
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Old 10-25-2010, 08:39 PM
 
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I should start this out by saying that I became involved with the theatre community at the age of 10 and have an extensive theatre background in both acting and directing. I am surprised that your daughter wasn't removed from the production after repeated disruptions that culminated in that kind of traumatic outburst.
I agree with the poster that said all you should say to that director is "Thank you". I think that kind of emotional outburst is disturbing and uncalled for and is indicative of underlying problems that being in a competitive arena such as acting will only exacerbate.

What you described about notes sounds very typical of what that portion of a production is like. It is important for everyone to hear what is being said because even if the director isn't speaking to them personally they can benefit from hearing critiques of others' performance. When I give notes I am looking at things that need to be fixed. If an actor does something that they haven't done in the past and I like it I mention that as well. However, it is predominantly about improving problem areas.

As far as her not having lines. That is very normal as well. There have been times that I have given people lines or had additional lines given to me and it is never out of some sort of pity for the actor it is because it adds something to the production.

It doesn't sound like your daughter is at a maturity level that she can cope with live performance and it sounds like doing more research before she becomes involved in an activity in the future would benefit you both.

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Old 10-25-2010, 09:28 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm curious to know what you mamas think the value is in continuing to tell me how horribly inappropriate my daughter's behavior is? I'm all for constructive comments in direct response to what I've written (and not an interpretation of what you think I meant to say).

But, after reiterating over and over again how seriously I have taken this situation, how I have neither minimized nor ignored it, how I expect my daughter to take responsibility for her actions no matter the cause and how I am doing the same, how I mentioned in my original question how concerned I am about integrating my child without inflicting her on others - and further, how this is obviously causing me great heartache, and how I alluded to how my family has really really been through the ringer - how can continuing to tell me how unacceptable my child's behavior is be anything more than kicking another mama when she is down?

I mentioned above that I will read the recommended book, that I will take the advice to have my daughter write a thank you note, that I appreciated the point about en masse notes, that I will look for other performing opportunities because she is not ready for this one, and that I will say nothing at all to the director about my concerns. I think most would be hard pressed to argue that I am obstinately refusing to hear what you all are saying.

I got it - there is no room in children's theater for a child who is struggling - got it. I'm more than sorry I brought it up. If anyone has constructive advice on helping my mildly troubled child find a place in the world where she can feel good about herself - I'd love to hear it. As it is now I feel more isolated with her than I ever have.

And Juliebird - thank you again.
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Old 10-25-2010, 09:40 PM
 
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I got it - there is no room in children's theater for a child who is struggling - got it. I'm more than sorry I brought it up. If anyone has constructive advice on helping my mildly troubled child find a place in the world where she can feel good about herself - I'd love to hear it.
Hey I'm sorry if that's the message you got from my posts.

What I was trying to say really is that performance-oriented community theatre is its own culture. Whether your daughter is a good match for that or not will entirely be your family's and the troupe's call.

But if you haven't been in that culture before, it can be hard to understand how - not-personal - things are. Like the line thing, or the way feedback is given to the group.

I did like Juliebird's approach - rather than "more positive feedback is needed" having a talk about "my daughter found this hard - how can we proceed?" might be just the thing...it will still depend on the actual culture but I don't think that would be a problem. I would definitely try to make it a conversation though and not just email.

Also try to remember that a lot of people will still be responding to the first post and not have read the thread.

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Old 10-25-2010, 11:27 PM
 
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She needs to feel good about herself first. A dedicated children's theatre isn't a therapy specifically for your daughter. While it could be very beneficial for a child with emotional and behavioral problems who is getting the intensive help she needs elsewhere, it's not anyone's job to make her have fun or feel good about herself. This is true for adults and kids- we need to find peace and happiness in ourselves without any expectation that those around us will do it first.

I'm not seeing a lot that she likes about this program. She doesn't like her part, she doesn't like notes, she doesn't like critique. While there's certainly something to be said for fulfilling obligations, it shouldn't be done at the expense of her well-being.

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Old 10-25-2010, 11:54 PM
 
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Look for a different company. See what is in town, talk to the the people managing them, maybe go watch some rehearsals when she is ready. Some are going to be more fun/uplifting environments that others.

And even within this company, a different director (if they use different directors for different shows) may be a different event.

I have a quite cynical view of theatre in general. I was a theatre wife and am now an ex-wife. Theatre and the powers that be will use you as it/they so desire without much regard for anyone's feelings. It is all about THE SHOW. And DRAMA. And the hours for rehearsals are just nuts--especially for kids. Someone was trying to recruit one of my son's last year and rehearsals went about an hour past his bedtime!
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Old 10-25-2010, 11:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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ErinYay - Again - my child is receiving therapy. Your comments suggest to me that you think my child should resolve all her issues before she can be engaged in the outside world. That is not realistic. Even her therapists have recommended she find activities she enjoys. How do you suppose anyone, but especially a child, should learn how to function in the world without opportunities to be in the world? And where did you get the idea that I am asking this program to be therapy? Because I want her to have an activity that she feels good about - a place where she feels good about herself and being part of a team? You think because I said that, that I am using this program as a substitute for professional therapists? Well I guess you will continue to read what you want to read in what I've said.

As I already said a couple of times before, my daughter is enjoying the play now, and for the most part has enjoyed all but a few days of rehearsals. She had a few bad days and she is working past them. This was her first exposure to the note system, and it has been a steep learning curve for her, but since that one outburst, she has been behaving impeccably. From what I understand she behaved well for notes before the outburst too. You seem to be implying that a child that doesn't like something on first exposure should not be encouraged, or even have the opportunity to work beyond that issue.

Thanks for your input Erin.
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Old 10-26-2010, 12:08 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for your suggestions Irony.

Yes, I am wondering if all the drama is good for her. I'm also wondering, especially in light of this thread, if being involved in the theater will be helpful in instilling in her the kind of ethics and spirit of kindness I hope for her to have.
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Old 10-26-2010, 12:15 AM
 
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If she's fine, what's the problem?

You posted a query by exhaustively detailing your daughter's behavioral issues, but since they're actually not issues anymore, what *is* the issue? Her lack of lines? The director not taking a personal stake in your daughter's happiness? I really don't understand what you're asking at this point.

If you just want to be heard and validated, in the future you may want to put
"Rant, no advice sought" in the beginning of your post, as passive-aggressive snarks that you (paraphrased) don't want your daughter to become like those of us who have years and years of experience in juvenile performing arts after the fact isn't helpful.

Doctors aren't out to kill you or your children. Childbirth isn't inherently safe. Science is actually smarter than your intuition. Lighten up. Use sunscreen.

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Old 10-26-2010, 12:25 AM
 
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OP I'm sorry to hear about the hard times your DD and your family have been going thru. I'm going to buck the trend here and say that if performing is something that your daughter loves and finds joy in, she should continue to do it. Either at this theatre or in another venue.

I am a professional theatre director (that's my job) so I'm going to talk about the issues you raised, regarding the rehearsals, in your original post from that perspective.

I have to deal regularly with professional actors who freak out over notes! Actors are emotional and vulnerable...it happens, handling it well is part of my job as a director. Your daughter isn't unusual if she struggled with not getting enough notes or having a hard time handling a critical note. All actors (kid, adult, pro, non-pro) struggle with these issues--it's part of the process. What separates the good performers from the mediocre ones is how they handle that struggle. Anyway my main point here is that yes I would have been concerned and irritated by an actor running off stage sobbing (as your DD did) and if it sent the cast into an uproar that would have been a pain in the a$$, but I've seen worse (from grown ups, mind you), and I don't read it as this horrible thing that means she shouldn't do theatre. She's just 9 and she's passionate about this, she'll mature.

(For the record it's also completely normal for notes to last over 45 minutes sometimes over an hour, and yes I expect everyone to be quiet and respectful while notes are happening.)

I agree with you that positive feedback is important. I have found that including positive feedback in notes is essential to the process. An actor needs to know when what they are doing is working so that they can continue to move in that direction. They also need to know what isn't working. Both are vital. So I think you've made an astute observation there. However I absolutely would not mention it to the director. Unless you are paying some kind of fee or tuition for participation in this program, in which case by all means mention it!

I would suggest being gracious with the director, and maybe taking some of your own advice about positive feedback when you look at the process. What are the things about the rehearsal process and show that were positives for your DD? Whatever those are can go into a short thank you note, if your DD wants to write one (it should be from her not you and should only be written if your DD genuinely wants to do it). One caveat: I'd steer clear of a thank you that's of the "thanks for forgiving my mistake" variety--those never work I've both written and received them and it's a big yucky feeling from either end. If your DD doesn't want to write something but you still feel like you need to do something, closing night flowers with a simple "Congrats on a great run!" card is plenty. And if you don't want to do any kind of thank you at the end that's fine--it's (usually) not expected.

I would also suggest pursuing classes and performance opportunities with different teachers and directors if that is possible within this community theatre.

Break a leg to your DD! Theatre is really hard but if she truly loves it she should keep doing it.

Edited to add: You know who else mightlike some flowers on closing night? Your DD! Just don't hand them to her during the curtain call, my Dad used to do that back in the day and it was mortifying!
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Old 10-26-2010, 12:29 AM
 
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As the parent of a child with special needs, I read the situation differently. Yes, you need to behave, but if there is a real disability (physical, mental OR emotional) I believe that children's programs have a duty to accommodate children with handicaps. No, they don't have to change everything to meet the needs of one, but really, is it that hard for a children's program to be inclusive and positive for kids of all abilities?

That being said, I think the people involved need to be informed of the special needs (and I think it is very clear that your daughter has special needs, and their is NOTHING wrong with that!) AHEAD of time so that they can adequately prepare and accommodate them.
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Old 10-26-2010, 12:37 AM
 
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At the end of the production I'd just move on. I wouldn't say anything to the director now or after as it would do no good & could cause more problems for your dd to get picked in the future.
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Old 10-26-2010, 12:45 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mom2GCNJ View Post
Thank you for your suggestions Irony.

Yes, I am wondering if all the drama is good for her. I'm also wondering, especially in light of this thread, if being involved in the theater will be helpful in instilling in her the kind of ethics and spirit of kindness I hope for her to have.
I'm not criticizing, just sharing my experience with childhood and arts.

I think arts programs can help with ethics, but not necessarily kindness...if by kindness you mean the kind of thing you've outlined here with seeing relentless negativity in how feedback is given, sort of looking out for everyone feeling great about themselves a lot. (Not being there, I can't say. But from what you've said what you've consistently called negative I'd call simply feedback. It's just that after a certain point, the process of refining is mostly about pointing out what isn't working.)

There definitely are arts programs that are way more focused on collaboration and process. For a child under 8 I think I'd only look at that. From 9-12 or so it really depends on the child. Some thrive (after adjusting) on it. Some don't. I'm not suggesting you should have known in advance or anything; I think trying things out is wonderful.

It's just that once you move to a group/whatever where they focus on product (performance) then no, it's not about certain kinds of kindness. It's more about the kindness of direct, clear, meaningful communication. The focus is much more on mastery and skill-building. Personally, although I didn't pursue music at a very high level, it did wonders for me to participate in it and learn to be okay with that kind of feedback. Sort of okay anyway; I mean I'm not endlessly zen in the face of critique.

That said, one reason I didn't continue is that it can be exhausting. And - there are people out there who are not so pure of spirit, but rather petty and controlling and mean. But I didn't see that in anything you said - the petty director would have just let her go, I think.

I'm an editor now and I do try to be relatively kind to my writers in terms of communicating warmly, remembering they are people first and writers second, making sure they get their money on time, nuturing talent and being sure THEY shine (or at least their piece, to the best of my not-perfect abilities). But my first responsibility is to the audience/journalism/quality of the story.

Between amateur and pro there's just a whole bunch of shades of that.

I get people all the time who really, really want to be writers but are completely unprepared for even the simplest basics - like asking for sources to fact-check, or rewriting a lead - and it is sometimes truly tragic. Because I know there is a writer in there, but it's buried under defensiveness. It's incredible sometimes to see how personally some people take what is the normal editorial process.

I actually think that's one of the best things about arts education - to put it perhaps a little over the top, losing one's ego in service of the work. (At least until the curtain falls and then the ego gets its turn. )

However - I don't think this is something that has to be mastered at 9 years old. It really doesn't. Especially if she is having other issues. I think it's wonderful that you're trying it. I'd hate to see it be a missed opportunity just over adjusting to the perspective.

But I would consider her first. If she's adjusting and now enjoying it, that's a really good indicator. If you're feeling like it's all going to bring her down, then it's not good at this time.

~ Mum to Emily, March 12-16 2004, Noah, born Aug 2005, Liam, born January 2011, and wife to Carl since 1994. ~
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