When 2 kids try but only 1 succeeds

I’m anticipating a situation similar to ones we’ve experienced in the past, and hoped you’d share your thoughts.

My 2 high schoolers (jr girl/sr boy) are - um - not the best of friends. Not sure it is anything outside the range of normal sibling rivalry, but in a perfect world I would hope they would be more supportive and less critical of each other. Can provide additional detail if requested.

Both of them auditioned for the upcoming HS play. Today we learned that only the boy got invited to callbacks. Any suggestions concerning how to handle things if he in fact ends up getting a role, and she has to do tech work if she wants to participate?

Similar things have occurred in the past, and it is a little awkward because the play takes so much of the actors’ time, and is a natural topic of conversation around the house. But the sibling who didn’t make it acts as tho we shouldn’t even talk about it. We don’t want to make it “too big of a deal” so as not to hurt the kid who didn’t make it, but OTOH, it IS a big deal for the kid who made it.

I’m not sure I’m being terribly clear here. I guess just wondering if anyone had thoughts/experience successfully dealing with teenagers in similar situations.

I don’t have kids, but that sounds like a really tough situation. Is there something else the girl enjoys doing that you can make a fuss over? (Sports, piano recital, etc?)

I’d strongly encourage her to work tech and work hard to be good at it–especially a leadership role. It’s not an consolation prize–theater tech is a real skill, and many that are good actors suck at it. Really, it’d be much better than if he got a big part and she got a small part. They are apples and oranges now.

And if the school’s theater director treats tech as the loser pool so this can’t work, shame on them.

I agree with this. Good theater technicians often have steadier work than good actors. You can hire on with a specific theater and work a lifetime of productions, meet wonderful people and actors and you might not even have to travel.

She seems to be handling it better than I had feared. And he’s not home yet - we won’t know if he made it til tomorrow.
Keeping my fingers crossed.
She’s done tech work in the past, but has never succeeded in getting a stage role. She probably will do scenery this play, as she really gets along well with the teacher who advises that.
It seems so hard for kids to realize that they can’t win EVERYTHING. They deserve so much credit for putting it on the line and auditioning against all the other talented kids. Unfortunately, in life they may likely need to get used to coming in 2d more often than winning.

This is pretty much what I was going to say. I get that it’s tough when it’s your kids, but 16 and 17 is plenty old enough to realize that not everyone is equally good at everything.

Good luck to both of them, and I hope that however each of them wind up contributing, they enjoy the experience.

Hell: lousy techies have steadier work than great actors.

To the OP: Your kids’ situation sounds a bit like me in HS. My senior year, we got a new theatre teacher (for our huge, well-established theatre program) who didn’t believe in seniority. Great philosophy in theory, lousy in practice. You blow off the people who have devoted 20 hours a week to your program for four years in favor of perhaps-more-talented people who might quit the activity after one show. The new teacher started believing in seniority pretty quick after his first show. [/tangent]

Anyway, I got the lead in the show and my girlfriend was not cast. She was very upset, to put it mildly. She and maybe 20 other seniors staged protests: t-shirts were made and letters were sent to administrators. Yes. Petty. I know. (But totally justified in their minds.)

And here I was, stuck in the middle. I wasn’t going to speak out against the director, because I was the lead in his freaking show. And I wasn’t going to criticize my girlfriend of two years, because she had, um, “leverage” on me. So the topic was pretty much verbotten: we pretended there was nothing going on at all.

Fast forward a couple of years: I started a theatre major in college, and realized pretty quickly that I didn’t have the acting chops to make it in the real world. (I am so lucky I realized it early. 90% of aspiring actors won’t be able to pull it off, but won’t admit it to themselves because they regard it as failure. And the 10% who are talented enough will be competing for a job pool half their size.) So I switched from acting to stage management. I was much happier immediately. I was using my problem solving and organizational skills – a mental challenge instead of the emotional challenge of acting. And as a bonus, the stage manager to actor ratio at my school was about 1:200. The directors were climbing over each other to get me to work on their shows.

If your kids really want to be in the theatre world, tell 'em to stick backstage. They’ll be using their brains, they’ll have job security, they’ll be apprecated, and they’ll learn how to use power tools! I stage managed shows in HS when I didn’t want to act. It’s not quite the same as college or professional stage management (whereas acting is pretty much the same across the board), but it IS an area where a sharp kid can do pretty well, and still be able to socialize with all the theatre kids.

I am the oldest child in my family and my next younger brother and I hated each other since we were born. That blossomed into a dull chill now that we are in our 30’s. It has never been ideal and we even look alike but the personalities clashed early in childhood. We were never into plays or anything like that but I did help him get a job at the supermarket where I worked in high school. I took the job very seriously and was proud of my status there at that age and worked anywhere from near full-time to lost of overtime during high school. I always tried to make sure I was the alpha-male at that small-time job even if it sounds stupid now.

There were still nothing but cold fights and even an episode where he seemed to truly break mentally and I was on the floor with a butcher knife to my throat with seemingly very real threat that I was about to die as rage ravaged his face and his tears fell on my mine . A stepbrother happened to come home right them and was able to sneak up behind him and tackle him so that he could be subdued. I am still convinced he was 100% serious.

I don’t think I have ever shared a special moment with him in my life and everyone has grown to accept that. I used to humiliate him at every chance and even refused to let him ride in the cab of the pickup that I bought myself. He had to ride in the back always. If it was raining, he was still welcome to ride in the back but it might be wet and cold (this simple fact help me get out of a false felony charge once). Instead, he bummed rides from someone that cared.

I am not sure if there is anything you can do. Some family members just hate or simply dislike one another for life.

I’m going to be unhelpful and chime in here as a theatre technician: If tech work is a consolation prize at this school, shame on the teachers involved! Being a stage manager is in my opinion harder than being an actor- you’ve got to be incredibly organized and dedicated, smart and quick-thinking, and have that undefinable quality of leadership that makes people want to follow you. And the other areas (lighting, sound, props, costumes, etc.) are just as artistic and challenging as acting for not a tenth as much credit from an audience.

I’m not sure how you could point this out to your daughter without sounding like you’re dissing your son, but the female talent pool is usually larger than the male talent pool, particularly at the high school level. So assuming your kids are equally talented, your daughter is very likely going to have more competition for a role than your son. (And if the play has more male roles than female roles, which is very often the case, the competition becomes even greater.)

I agree with what everyone else has said about techies – from being treated like the loser pool to having a greater prospect of steady work. In college, we were all loathe to put on our audition forms that we were willing to work tech if we weren’t cast, because we were convinced that would seal our fate.

I suggests that if there are problem you should just tell your daughter to suck it up and be happy for her older brother.

And if not genuinely happy then pretend to be.

Your kids arent going to be equals here. They’re learning that life is tough .The actor wins esteem by being the center of attention, but the tech behind the scenes feels left out. But you can help them deal with it.
Try adding a bit of esteem to your daughter’s job. Your going to attend the perfromance for the joy of seeing your son on stage.
So try to “attend” your daughter’s “performance”, and make her the center of your attention. Don’t just drop her off at school–go inside to the theater and ask a bunch of questions about what she’s made, how the lights work, etc.
(She may not want a parent hanging over her while her friends are nearby, but on the other hand, she may enjoy showing you what she’s done)

Thanks everybody.

Well, he got a role - not one of the 2 male leads which he hoped for, but the 2d largest supporting role. On stage in several scenes, several lines - including some of the funniest ones. So I think he’s pretty satisfied, although he said if he wasn’t able to get one of the 3 leads in this play, perhaps he might be better off putting his energy elsewhere other than auditioning for the upcoming drama. HEck, he’ll be working plenty hard at college next year - I have no objection to his kicking back and taking it a little easy!

She applied to be make-up head - haven’t heard yet whether she made it or not.

I didn’t intend to suggest that either of them anticipate/desire a career in theater. I think he may have at one time dreamt of being an actor/writer, but now I think he figures that those would likely make better avocations than careers.

She is very successful elsewhere - in school and music. I’m not big on armchair psychology, but I suspect she may exhibit some “youngest child” symptoms. She wants an acting role because it is more in the spotlight - moreso than her music as part of an ensemble, or her academic successes. And I think she is somewhat frustrated at not having as clear an idea of her future goals as her older siblings. But she’s still plenty young …

The main thing I was concerned about was the family dynamics. They sure aren’t as bad as Shag and his brother Damien. But as a parent you see all the ways your kids could benefit from a close relationship, and how strife/competition hurts them both at home and socially. But they have to work out their own relationship, not what their mom and dad might wish for them.

Being in a play is a huge committment - it impacts the entire family’s schedule. When a family member is involved in something important I prefer it to be something the whole family can openly support them in. To that extent, if one member is harboring a grudge over real or perceived slights, it can cause considerable tension. We’ve experienced it before and hopefully have gained experience that will help us avoid a repeat.

As a parent I find it so hard to deal with what I consider my kids’ unrealistic expectations. They are way more accomplished than I was at their age. Yet they seem to not sufficiently appreciate their successes when they encounter a setback in something like trying out for a play. It is tough to effectively teach them that they don’t always get to win a competition no matter how much they want to win and how hard they work. And you don’t want them to respond to a particular lack of success by not trying in the future.

All in all, I’m very aware of how fortunate I am, that the “problems” my family faces are so minor and that my kids overall are healthy, so successful and appear reasonably content. Thanks again for your thoughts.

You sound like a really wonderful father, Dinsdale. :cool:

Also if she is still upset you may want to point out to your daughter that a lot of casting in theater has nothing to do with your talent but your appearance. If she doesn’t fit the physical requirements of a part (too thin, too heavy, not the right race or doesn’t look like other people cast in a play about family, etc.) she will be turned away simply because they are looking for a specific type.

Greater competition for female parts.

Usually fewer female roles in the play.

Plus, some directors may not want to have sibs onstage together. Do you kids look like brother and sister? If that didn’t work for the play, then that would rule one of them out right away.

What play is it and what part did your son get?

OH and I have a brother who was only one grade ahead of me. He was such a competitive asshole that I, and many other members of the family, don’t even speak to him any more.

I wouldn’t even attend his funeral.

Um, your experience must be different than mine, if you would lightly trip into the battleground of a teenage daughter’s appearance! :smiley:

Thanks, fessie. Nice to know I can at least occasionally come across that way posting anonymously! :cool:

:stuck_out_tongue: I understand what you are saying, but seriously as an actor it really helped to know that I am super awesome but as I am not Chinese or tall or dark haired like the rest of the people cast as members of a family I simply can’t get this role. Now if you approach it as, “You are too ugly to be on stage” she might take offense, but to know that the reason I wasn’t cast is simply out of my hands and I can’t make myself Chinese any more than Margaret Cho can make herself Irish so I really have no reason at all to feel slighted really helped. They don’t have a problem with me, they just don’t have a part that matches my physical type.

One thing that is hard for me is that I really don’t know much of anything about acting or theater, other than as a spectator. I have no idea exactly what factors go into deciding who gets what parts. And it seems to me that there are infinite “soft” elements - as opposed to something like track where the fastest kid wins.

Also, as a parent I’m not sure how objective I can be assessing my kids’ performance. I find I have a very hard time divorcing myself from the reality that it is my kid on stage, instead of just accepting the character. So I fear I may be more critical (internally, not publicly) of my kids’ performances than other cast members. I mean, if my kid does a mannerism on stage, I find myself thinking “That’s that face he makes when we force him to eat asparagus.” Or contrasting his onstage behavior with his normal behavior at home, instead of just accepting it as the character’s behavior.

We’ve admit we have pretty high expectations of our kids, and they have generally met or exceeded them admirably. But we have never been fans of blind praise - especially when we and our kids know they could have done better, or prepared better. They’ve said - and I believe them - that they appreciate our approach. Our praise/ constructive criticism means so much more to them since they know it is not superficial.

I really enjoy going to the plays. And I really respect/envy their willingness to put it on the line auditioning and performing. I never would have dared to as a teen.

But I find it frustrating trying to personally assess exactly what I think of my kids’ ability. If he were the best runner and catcher, I’d have reason to disupute a coach’s decision not to start him. But I don’t know how their acting abilities compare to the other kids. I know I am doubtless being too analytical and should just kick back and enjoy the ride, but that’s the way I am.

I suppose you can tell them that they are, in fact, direct competition for your love. I don’t know if that’s the kind of help you’re looking for.

You can make up all kinds of excuses for them why they both didn’t get cast, but basically they will just have to suck it up and stop being a couple of little bitches. The sooner they realize that they are not guaranteed success just because they want it real bad, the better they will be in the long run.

Waitresses and bartenders also have steadier work than actors.

Very true. Not every actor gets to be Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie. But then not every part requires them.