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Lessons From A Stage Mom

What do you think of when you hear: “Stage” or “Theater” moms. I think they suffer from bad publicity. We watch reality  TV moms who put make-up on their babies and strap tutus to their diapers and we think we know what a stage mom is. But if we were to peek inside the home of a really talented teenager who is asking to pursue a dream, a passion, like acting or singing, we might just understand. For parents of kids like these, there is no choice. Moms (and dads) drop everything to support their children’s ambitions and, yes, become stage parents.

I recently spoke with Lisa Pisano, a dedicated mom who has been supporting her son, Chris, a senior at Noble and Greenough School in Dedham, Ma. Chris’ passion is musical theater and he will attend the highly selective Cincinnati Conservatory of Music in the fall.

 

When Chris told his mom “this is what I want to do” in ninth grade, Lisa did her own research and found programs in the area to support his interests. For three plus years, in addition to performing every chance he got, Chris took weekly dance, voice, and musical theatre acting lessons plus additional classical acting classes, giving up sports and the violin in the process. Lisa was by his side, managing her son’s calendar of dance, voice and acting lessons every day of those three plus years.

With the full support of his mom and family, Chris prepared for the intense musical theater audition process by learning seven songs and five monologues (after sifting through hundreds of choices). However, as it turns out, the preparation, the driving to and from the hours of lessons, was the easy part. The college application and audition process was more complicated and time-consuming than anything Lisa had yet encountered: “At one point, I put my head on the kitchen table and thought, this is simply not possible!” After applying to 17 schools and auditioning at nine musical theater programs, “Chris was accepted at 12 (six musical theater) schools and had a lot of great options,” explained Lisa.

I asked Lisa to share her lessons learned from this process to help other parents as they navigate their way through the world of musical theater lessons, auditions and support:

  1. “Training cannot be underestimated.” At this level, they have to start serious training in dance, voice and acting in their freshman year of high school or even earlier. Then they need to commit to the three disciplines and participate religiously. Your child needs to lay the groundwork for the eventual audition process. It’s really helpful to have a coach who’s familiar with the business. Chris worked with Chrstine MacInally from The Performance Factory.
  2. “Don’t start too early, but don’t start too late.”  We started the college music theater application process in Chris’s junior year and that was a good time to start. Some parents start earlier, but you need to let kids experience high school. You need to let them grow.
  3. “As a parent, you can’t get on their roller coaster.”  In this business, it’s not always the most talented person who gets the part. They also choose based on who looks the part. You have to be ok with that. He might not be the star.
  4. “Have an exit strategy.” They need to have a back-up plan for their talents in case they don’t “make it.” Ask anyone in the business, it’s a tough life. Even if you are successful you don’t make a lot of money. Chris’ back-up plan is to teach theater and do community theater on the side. He’ll do something on the stage or he’ll shrivel up and die!

8 Responses to “Lessons From A Stage Mom”

  1. Holly

    Great ideas and very supportive mother to help Chris achieve his goals! Thanks for sharing such valuable insights

    Reply
    • Laura Lamere

      I have met so many cool parents who are supporting their creative kids – it's all about making sure they are happy and confident – whatever they chose to do!

      Reply
  2. Angie

    Great article. I think it's important not to 'failure-proof" your child. They may not be successful at something they pursue. Let them know that is okay and there are lots of other ways to be a part of it.

    Reply
    • Laura Lamere

      I agree – I encourage my kids to try lots of new activities – but always take the cue from them if they want to move on to something else!

      Reply
  3. Brandon John

    My wife and I want to be the parents who help their children identify their dreams and pursue them. We want to be involved, but not directing or sheltering them. I think you have found a great balance

    Reply
    • Laura Lamere

      You're exactly right! Lisa, the mom in this article, worked hard to help her son achieve his goals – they aren't her goals!

      Reply
  4. miriama

    “As a parent, you can’t get on their roller coaster.” Boy, is that the truth and one lesson I wish I could learn. For anything. Not just my daughter's sports or plays or concerts…but just her life. LOL

    Reply

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