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June 2012

LiterAry roUnd UP, miNNeSota StYLe

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Star k c u str hild When your c otlight craves the sp {page 28}

From agents to headshots to continued reje ctio here are some n, ti on how to kee ps p sanity when p your arenting a wanna-be a ctor By Julie Kend rick

Be A StAr d

evin Kelley is a working actor (her latest movie, the horrorthriller Chernobyl Diaries, was released on Memorial Day). But she still recalls the sting of not getting a role she wanted, in a community theater production, when she was in fourth grade. “I remember crawling under my bed, crying. My mom let me go for a while, then assured me there would be more acting opportunities ahead. Then we did something fun together to take my mind off it,” she says. Kelley, who grew up in Eagan and now lives in Los Angeles, says the routine hasn’t changed much. “I still don’t get some roles I want, and while I don’t crawl under the bed anymore, my mom has her ‘it’s not the end of the world’ speech down pat.” In Kelley’s estimation, her parents achieved a good balance between supporting their daughter’s dream and not pushing too hard. “They opened up the doors and let me choose which ones to walk through. My mom always said it’s the parents’ job to be behind the child, not in front, and they managed that very well.” Achieving a perfect parental balance is the goal, of course, but things can get complicated when the glamour of show business enters a family’s life. “Everybody thinks their baby is beautiful,” says one of the Twin Cities’ top show business agents, who asked not to be named in this article. (Her

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clients can be seen in Target and General Mills commercials, print ads, and even some feature films.) She is often contacted by parents who are convinced that their darling should be the one modeling new clothes in the next Target print ad; or that their tween could be a breakout star on Disney Channel. Her biggest advice to parents is to keep things professional to avoid jinxing a child’s career. “If I have 10 great candidates who have easy-to-workwith parents, and one child whose parent is difficult, who do you think will get recommended to the casting agent?” “Hoping that your child might get to have fun on stage or in a commercial is a terrific goal,” says Beth Chaplin¸ actor and author of The Acting Biz: A Career Guide to the Twin Cities, “but deciding that your child is going to earn enough to pay off your mortgage is a terrible idea.” She adds, “In the Twin Cities, acting work is sporadic even for adults, and for kids it’s even more so. If your child is lucky and lands some jobs, perhaps there will be enough to start a college fund, but that’s probably about it.”

one word: theater Parents often wonder about the best way to prepare a child for a show business career, and the experts agree on a single word: theater. “School plays, church shows, synagogue revues, whatever lets your child gain experience in front of an audience—that’s good,” Chaplin says. Kelley focused her youthful acting efforts with Minneapolis-based Youth Performance Company (YPC) and was part of

“if someone tells your kid they don’t have what it takes, let it go in one ear and out the other. Just show an interest in your child’s interests, and be gentle in seeing where it leads.” Brian Goranson

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Informing families and students of resources for a safe and strong summer!

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their Young Artists’ Council. There are also a plethora of kid-focused theaters in the Twin Cities, however (see our “Kidfocused” sidebar for a list). Jacie Knight, YPC’s founder and artistic director, remembers that Devin Kelley’s parents did a great job of vetting her organization, introducing themselves to her, and then letting their daughter make her own way with the group. She says that parents should, “First, make sure your child is in a safe, nurturing environment, and then get out of there. If you want to help, ask about volunteering or serving on the board, but don’t sit in on classes or rehearsals.” But even kids who are thrilled at the idea of being in front of an audience can find the audition process daunting. Children’s Theatre Company has taken steps to change that experience from frightening to fun. “We are committed to making the audition experience here an absolutely joyous one,” says Peter Brosius, artistic director. He credits associate producer Nancy Galatowitsch, who

your child is cast in a production, it may mean hours in the car, an outlay of capital or arranging your schedule endlessly,” Brosius says, “but try to keep the larger perspective that arts experiences are so positive to a child’s overall development, no matter what career they pursue as an adult.”

Performing arts education

Submitted image

Minnesota-born and raised actress Devin Kelley.

handles youth casting. “She calls back every single child who auditions with us, even if we have 500 kids show up. She lets them know if they didn’t get a part, but mentions what they did well and encourages them to keep trying,” he says. Once a child is a working actor, the parent also takes on another job, too. “If

If your teenaged child has decided on acting as a career, it might be time to investigate a dedicated high school, such as Perpich Arts High School in Golden Valley or Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Arts (SPCPA). Brian Goranson is the artistic director for SPCPA, a charter school serving grades 9 through 12. His students enter at all levels of ability, from those who have appeared in shows at the Guthrie, to those who are just beginning to think about acting. “We tell our students that if you have a passion for acting, and can’t imagine not doing it, then stay committed and persevere and ultimately your life’s calling will find you.” Still, there will always be more rejections

Parent, beware According to Beth Chaplin, author of The Acting Biz: A Career Guide to the Twin Cities, it’s important to do some research before contracting services for your child’s show business career: Don’t give money to anyone who promises that your child will find work or “be discovered.” Don’t pay an agency to represent you, because agents get paid when your child gets work. Don’t pay anyone to put your child’s photo in a book or on a website unless you know they have lots of clients who hire actors. If any person or organization wants money from you upfront, they are probably more interested in your checkbook than your child’s career. Additionally, Susie Mains, a talent representative with 25 years of experience in New York and Los Angeles, and who discovered and nurtured the careers of celebrities such as Tobey McGuire, Seth Green, and Tia and Tamera

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Mowry, offers a few more nuggets: Make sure your child is interested in being in the spotlight and being an actor. The desire must come from them, not you. Kids as young as four can know what they are passionate about. Find a good local acting school and enroll your child. Check for summer acting programs and youth theaters. Acting classes will teach your child their craft. Acting schools can also be a place to make professional contacts with talent agents or managers. You may want to work with an acting coach. Find out about local opportunities for getting your child involved in theater, commercials, print, or films. Sometimes local universities have film departments and students are looking for kids to appear in their film projects. Have a high quality headshot (head and shoulders) taken of your child. Create a resume for your child including your child’s height, eye color, hair color, weight, school plays, acting or musical training, modeling, and

special skills such as dancing, singing, bike riding, sports, skate boarding, juggling. Check with the Screen Actors Guild ( for recommendations on reputable agencies in your area. Your child will need an agent to get auditions for commercials, television, and film. A talent agent will take 10 percent commission of anything the child makes. Agents do not charge upfront fees. If you are willing to travel to Los Angeles or NYC and possibly relocate, email your child’s picture and resume to agents and managers with the dates you will be in town. Those interested will contact you to schedule a meeting. When your child does get an audition make sure he is on time, polite, and prepared. Be sure you are both ready for disappointments. The parent must be the child’s biggest cheerleader. Not all auditions turn into bookings.

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At the Chan DT Musical Theatre Camp this summer, kids will be given the rare opportunity to audition for eight youth roles in CDT’s upcoming production of Bye Bye Birdie opening in September.

Kid-focused theaters Want to see a play? Sign your child up for an audition? Here are a few theaters in the Twin Cities area that have great programs and plays for your wanna-be actor.

The NARI logo is a registered trademark of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. ©2008 NARI of Minnesota.

Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, Chanhassen, Children’s Theatre Company, Minneapolis, Harmony Theatre Company & School, St. Louis Park, Hennepintheatretrust, Minneapolis,

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StageCoach Theatre Arts, St. Louis Park & St. Paul, Stages Theatre Company, Hopkins, Steppingstone Theatre, St. Paul, Youth Performance Company, Minneapolis,

than “you got the part!” phone calls. “Our rule of thumb,” Goranson says, “is that for every 10 theater auditions, you’ll get one role, and for every 20 commercial or print auditions, you should be getting about one job. The message is that most of the time, if you’re not getting cast, a director or casting agent is looking for something very specific, and that ‘something’ isn’t you.” Goranson reminds parents that talent is a highly subjective commodity, and says that, as long as your child is having fun, keep at it. “If someone tells your kid they don’t have what it takes, let it go in one ear and out the other,” he counsels. “Just show an interest in your child’s interests, and be gentle in seeing where it leads.”

I still want to be an actor Still, the one certainty in show business is that there will be disappointments. Kelley says her worst day as an actor occurred when her uncle, who worked in advertising, offered Kelley and her brother a chance to appear in a Mall of America commercial. “We were going to ride the roller coaster for free and be on TV,” she recalls, “and I thought, I LOVE being an actor.” When they arrived at the shoot, however, five-year-old Devin was too short for the ride, and had to sit it out on a bench, watching her uncle and brother zip around on the coaster. “It was awful,” says Kelley. “I watched them ride by, time after time, and I thought, ‘I don’t care. I still want to be an actor.’”

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Star Struck  

Tips on how to help a budding child star navigate show biz.