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  • 1.  Need advice

    Posted 05-11-2024 07:37

    I have a student (junior) who came to me yesterday asking me for special consideration for next year.  A little background: She has played leading roles since her freshman year of high school especially in the musicals.  She is talented, has a strong belt and a strong stage presence and most likely will be considered for leading roles her senior year. She is an only child and has had the privilege to attend summer college programs and enroll in a demanding college prep program last fall.  She is working really hard to get into a musical theatre program, so much so that she decided not to audition for the 2023 school fall musical (I was surprised but had plenty of students to fill roles).  Yesterday she told me that she was sad that she didn't participate in that musical and that she really wanted to be part of  allthe theatre shows next year.  She asked if I would consider giving her an understudy.  Keep in mind that nothing has been cast for next year but she is concerned because she plans to be out of town, auditioning for various college programs including the National Unified Auditions.  

    The thing that is concerning is that:

     1. She presumes that she will be cast in her high school show.  The conversation wasn't - "If were to get a role would you...."  It was "Can you give me an understudy?"

    2. She has begun missing classes this spring in order to visit colleges.

    3. The parents have invested a lot of money to give their child an edge with the theatre college prep program.

    Yesterday, I told her that other students have auditioned and still fully participated in the school's shows. I told her that I would try to work with her conflicts but that it was unfair of her to ask to miss rehearsals and rely on an understudy and that I can't build a schedule around one actor. I also told her that theatre was about connection and that it was important to be present with your scene partners to build the chemistry and trust needed for a strong performance. 

    On the one hand, I want her to pursue her dreams, but on the other hand, I think it was unfair of her to ask for special consideration.

    I have two questions for this group: 

    1. How do I advise and guide this student?  
    2. What would you do if you were in my situation? 

    How do actors balance building their resume with the audition process? 

    Thanks for reading my long story. Any advice is appreciated.

    Marla Blasko
    Director/Teacher Theatre Arts
    Long Reach High School
    Columbia, Maryland

  • 2.  RE: Need advice

    Posted 05-12-2024 12:10

    Hi Marla, 

    I hope you also discussed your first point with her...the difference between presuming, rather than asking "if I'm cast". That is so important.  

    I would stress the problems caused by her already missing rehearsals to audition, and how that behavior could make any director less likely to want to cast her in the future. People need to commit to the production they are in. 



    Linda Apperson
    Stage Manager and Mentor
    Milwaukie, OR

  • 3.  RE: Need advice

    Posted 05-12-2024 12:31
    Edited by Nick Hoffa 05-12-2024 12:32

    for the purposes of this conversation, I'll assume that - despite the fairly tactless request - she's a hard worker with a good work ethic.  Because otherwise, it's a fairly unequivocal no for me to honor the request. 

    There are red flags in the story, but if we assume best intentions, she wants to be in the show to be able end her high school experience in the right way, but doesn't want to let the cast down by being unable to participate should something come up. Fair. What she doesn't realize is that being an understudy is a tremendous amount of work for both the understudy and for you! I'm assuming you don't typically do understudies. I don't because it is so much extra work - I have enough on my plate getting the main cast up to speed. She is asking for her cake and to eat it too, not recognizing the burden she is putting on others, especially you. You have a responsibility to the 30,40,50,60,70 cast, crew, musicians to put on a good show they can all learn from and be proud of. Her request for an understudy risks taking valuable time away from everyone else to accommodate her desire to not feel bad were she to have to bail.

    If she is really interested in a career in the performing arts, this is a teachable moment. Professionally, you do have to choose between projects - and the decision is not always easy. 

    If she really wants the flexibility, I would say to her that if she wants to be considered for a lead, she has to commit as much as everyone else. If she just wants the experience of being in a fun show with her peers, then maybe she should consider auditioning for a supporting part or an ensemble. You'd love to have her in the show but can't rely on a lead who might not be there - not a punishment, just the reality of high school theater. 

    FYI - I had a similar situation a few years back with an excellent actor. He was very stressed about his college auditions, so asked to only be considered for a supporting part. There was one part in the musical that had one or two songs. He got that part and did miss a lot of rehearsals but was clear with me from the beginning about his schedule. Of course he absolutely crushed the role, had a blast, got the experience of his final HS show and fully supported his castmates. He also got into Julliard and is doing very well post college. That has a ton to do with his talent, but just as much to do with his work ethic and general understanding of his responsibilities as an actor to the ensemble and to the production. He does not think he is better than everyone and acts accordingly. To me, this young actor probably should learn this lesson if she wants to succeed beyond the walls of your amazing program. 

    Nick Hoffa
    Drama Director
    South Pasadena High School

  • 4.  RE: Need advice

    Posted 05-13-2024 08:08

    I think it is great that she wants to pursue a career in theater, I am not a teacher but an industry professional, so take this for what it is worth.

    She should never presume to be cast, I don't care how good she thinks she is, life can be full of disappointments.

    Would she be able to be part of the background players/ensemble, usually this can lead to lesser time commitments but still being involved in the production. If she does not accept this, it confirms that she has higher priority for future than participating in the production, but this allows her to make that decision.

    It is nice to see the parents doing what they can to be behind their child, but they need to understand there will be decisions by others High School/College/Community/Professional that will be learning bumps in the road, and the performer must learn to grow.

    Chemistry is needed to make a unified production, what are you willing to need to determine to be under the performers rule or you need to rule the roost to share your vision. Do you want participation or just a person to fill a role.  

    1) All persons should audition. NO ONE is guaranteed being cast, special consideration for ego is not warranted.

    2) All directors deserve full commitment from their performers, yes there are talented people in the industry, but if the schedule does not fit then it does not work for anyone. Being over committed does you or them no favors. 

    3) Possibly look at this student in another light, how do I help them on their college track? Do I have the skills to assist with this? 

    As a director, in the community world, people must balance work and theater, it is no different on the High School level, commitment is commitment, in life there are tough decisions to be made to determine priorities, coddling does not do well for anyone.

    At her age she does not need to fill a resume, she will have college to go after that, if she wants to get into a program, she needs to have great auditions and to be able to interview well, for the colleges, and to interview the colleges to define what program will advance her in the industry.

    Again take this for what it is worth from an outside teaching perspective from the theater world.

    You define your destiny on your own, as we all do with our choices.

    Good luck in your decisions

    Jerry Onik
    V.P. Theatrical Supplies and Equipment
    Heartland Scenic Studio

  • 5.  RE: Need advice

    Posted 05-13-2024 12:24

    I like to remind my students that they are all worthy of being on stage, yet no one is entitled. Worthy but not entitled. 

    Hope this helps. 

    All the best,


    Erik Stein
    Casting Director/Recruitment Coordinator
    PCPA Pacific Conservatory Theatre

    Author of No Caution! A step-by-step guide to preparing auditions for Universities, Colleges, Conservatories, and Beyond!

    Available on and other online booksellers

  • 6.  RE: Need advice

    Posted 30 days ago

    I have had students do the audition process including unifieds. Unifieds is a beast absolutely and will result in missing a week of rehearsal. Beyond that though my students were able to miss a real minimum of rehearsals and wasn't any worse than a student having some health issues. But maybe Im a bit more lenient with my missed rehearsals.

    Joseph Gels
    Theatre Teacher
    Boston Latin School

  • 7.  RE: Need advice

    Posted 29 days ago

    Well my friend,

    Our goal in educational theatre goes beyond giving students a safe place in which they can thrive and tell their truths. It is also a place in which we prepare some of our students for continuing their story telling at a collegiate level and beyond. With that said, if a students assumes they will get a role- asks for an understudy- well, in  college or professionally, that wouldn't fly. Thus, in being fair to all, the best choice may be for that student to not be cast, or be cast in a role that would be fit her challenging schedule. Maybe they could be an understudy/ While this may sound harsh, you have more than just one young human who is watching you- there is a whole troupe. Fairness, application of real world situations, and a deeper understanding that all of us are replaceable in theatre- are essential understandings for all young story tellers. This is an opportunity for this young human to learn. 

    Jennifer Morgan
    Director of Theatre
    Brownell Talbot College Prep
    Nebraska Thespians Advocacy Chair
    Omaha, NE