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My Journey As A Child Actor

March 12, 2013

I was chatting with a childhood friend from elementary school yesterday, and it really took me down memory lane. It made me think about growing up as a child actor.

My brother got into acting when he was 8. He was always someone I looked up to when I was little. My parents were never actors, but they supported my brother and me in whatever endeavors we got into. I grew up listening to all the classics on cassettes- “Into The Woods”, “Annie”, “Fiddler On The Roof”, “Carousel”, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat”, “Les Miserables”, “Gypsy”, etc. I really didn’t discover any other kind of music beyond “show tunes” until I was about 15 or 16. I wanted to start acting when I was 3, but my Mom felt I was too young, and she worried I was just trying to copy my brother. She told me I could when I was older. As soon as I turned 4, I snuck into an audition at a local theater. We were there because my brother was auditioning. I was cast in my first role as Carrie Ingalls in an adaption of the story “Little House on the Prairie”. I continued to do community theater. I was cast in my first professional role at 8. I have such fond memories of doing community theater. In total, I did around 20 regional theater shows from the age of 4 to 10.

I remember sitting in class, just waiting for the classroom phone to ring- which would signal that my Mom was waiting in the office to pick me up and take me to rehearsal. We would grab a bite to eat on the way, then work on my homework together in the theater parking lot before rehearsal. It was never a problem juggling school and acting. However, by the time I was in 4th grade, the school district informed my parents that I was missing too many days of school. My Mom gave me the choice- I could either stop acting and continue going to public school, or she would homeschool me and I could continue to act. Of course I chose to be homeschooled! This definitely made acting a lot easier. My schedule was more flexible, and I could continue my schooling. When you are a child actor, any spare moment you are not rehearsing or working- you are tutoring! I remember being on set for a feature film, and every time we would wrap a scene, all the kids were sent back to the “school trailer”. Most of the time, we spent more time tutoring than actually on set!

You grow up fast in this business. Even though there are some things that vary, such as how many hours you can legally work, most of the time you are treated like an adult. You are expected to act like a professional. Times have changed, and I’m sure things are different compared to how they were when I worked at these theaters. However, I didn’t have a child wrangler until I worked on Broadway at the age of 13. Up until I was 8, my Mom would sit in the green room during the shows. She would help me with my costume changes, have snacks for me, etc. Once I started working professionally at age 8, I was on my own! I would write down what scenes I wore each costume for, check to make sure all my props were set, attach my own mic (I always carried my own roll of medical tape to attach my mic.), and make sure I was backstage in time for my cues. I learned a few vital rules during my work in regional theater- 1.) Take care of your wardrobe. Hang everything nicely on the hangers! 2.) If it’s not your prop, DON’T TOUCH IT. 3.) Be careful what you say. You never know who is listening! When I was on Broadway, I remember asking my child wrangler (who was awesome, by the way) if I should check to make sure my props were set before the show. She replied that if the props weren’t there, it was not my problem! I was shocked. After 5 years of doing everything on my own and being responsible for my own props, wardrobe, etc., it felt strange to not have to worry about my props being pre-set and having a child wrangler to tell me what I needed to do. In a way it was nice, but I also worried I would grow lazy and lose the independence that regional theater instilled in me. Thankfully, I didn’t.

Being a child actor can be difficult sometimes. Most people wonder how I dealt with the rejection at such a young age. I fully credit my Mom for helping me get this far. She was always there to say, “There’s always next time!” when an audition didn’t go well. I have so many fond memories of our day trips into the city for auditions or callbacks. She was never a “Stage Mom”. She stayed out of the drama and just let me do my thing. My Mom went to countless EPAs with me. We would sit and wait for hours, sometimes only to be told they weren’t seeing Non-Eqs that day. She did everything in her power to give me every opportunity available.

If you are reading this and wondering how you can get your child into acting, I’m sorry but I won’t be much help. It has been many years since I was considered a child actor, and many things have since changed. The only advice I can give is do not pay anyone to manage/submit your child. There are a lot of scam artists out there who would be more than willing to take your money and do absolutely nothing for your child’s career. There should be no reason for you to pay someone until your child is getting work.

I met a lot of wonderful role models growing up in this biz. Of course, I also met some rotten eggs, but that’s to be expected. It really makes me more aware of how I act in front of young actors now that I am older. I am still in contact with most of the awesome adult actors I worked with when I was a kid, and I hope to be as inspiring of a role model as they were to me.

The Growing Artist Signature

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 10, 2015 1:08 am

    You grow up fast in this business. Even though there are some things that vary, such as how many hours you can legally work, most of the time you are treated like an adult. You are expected to act like a professional.


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