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Don’t grow! – The Biggest Child Actor Dilemma

July 25, 2013

Speaking as a previous child actor- I think one of the hardest things for child actors to face is growing out of a role. This is usually something that only happens to child actors in theater. When a child actor is cast in a show, their contract specifies that they MUST stay within the height and weight requirements for the show. When I was cast in my first Broadway production at 13, I knew I had to stay within the height and weight requirements specified in the contract. Luckily, since it was a limited engagement, I never had to worry about the effects of growing. However, I know many child actors who did have to face this dilemma. One girl I knew was told that she would be leaving the show due to outgrowing the role, and she was so upset she didn’t even tell her parents! They began to notice mood changes, and soon found out from the creative team that she was being replaced. It was very hard on her. I think the worst part was that she had to watch another girl go on in her place. I watched her interact with the other girl, and though they remained friendly- you could see the hurt in her face when her replacement discussed her experiences during the show.

Another dilemma that can occur as child actors grow is puberty. Girls don’t usually struggle with vocal changes, however this is a big problem for boys. A note that used to be no problem to hit can suddenly become squeaky and crack. When these changes begin, it’s time for the role to be recast. Girls have to worry about another kind of change when puberty rolls around. When a girl begins to develop into a woman- the costumes begin to fit tighter, and the appearance of the actress begins to be a bit of a stretch in the young role she could once portray.

As a child, it’s hard to understand how you can have a role one minute and be out of the show the next. One of the worst things you have to deal with are the questions from others- specifically stage moms who are just trying to bring you down. “Weren’t you in that show?” “Oh, why aren’t you in the show anymore?” “Well, little Susie does a wonderful job in the show now.” I also remember an ensemble member coming up to me one day during rehearsal for a show and telling me he hopes when I’m no longer in the show his niece can play my part. Why would someone say that, especially to a child? It’s all mind games, and parents have to explain to their child that they can’t take it personally. Let it go in one ear and out the other. My Mom often explained these things to me. A child actor needs that support.

My advice for child actors? Being a child actor can be an amazing experience, but one thing you have to realize is you can’t change your body! You can’t stop your body from growing or your voice from changing. It’s a natural occurrence that can’t be helped. You are a unique, talented artist. If you outgrow a role, it’s not the end of the world! You will be cast in another role. As you grow, you will be maturing into new roles that weren’t available to you before. Don’t feel bad. Acting is a business, it’s nothing personal. You had your special moment in that role. No one else can ever play the role the way YOU did. Give the last performance(s) your best and leave with a smile. It’s not the end of your career. There will always be another show.

The Growing Artist Signature

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