Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Guest Writer: Deb

A huge thank you to Deb, for sharing this experience with me and with those reading this piece. I have the child Deb describes in her first sentence: thoughtful, quiet, introspective type and so I know what it's like to parent that kind of person. I needed to read this and broaden my perspective.

Look At Me! Look At Me! Look at Me!:
Life With Two Kids Who Love Performing
By Deb Renkey

If you would have asked me before I had children which type of child I’d expect
to have, I probably would have said a thoughtful, quiet, introspective type. I would say this because my husband and I are that way. Granted, we have our outgoing, silly, and Type A personality moments, but we are definitely not people who seek the limelight.

Alex has been a ball of energy since I could first feel him kicking during pregnancy. As a baby, he did not sleep anywhere close to what many babies do and was ALWAYS interested in what was going on and wanted to be in the middle of things. As a baby and toddler, he always loved music, wiggling and dancing his way around. With his energy level, I knew we would need an outlet.

I first enrolled Alex as a toddler in tumbling classes at The Little Gym but quickly realized he was not content to just participate. He always wanted the teacher to watch him, along with the other parents and kids in the class. Of course it was a given that I should be watching too!

Thank goodness St. Louis, Missouri is so supportive of the performing arts! There are dance studios, acting classes, camps, music teachers and music studios, plus theaters and performing arts centers with shows ranging from amateur to professional, throughout the metro area. One dance studio, Performing Arts Centre in our part of town, St. Charles, caught my eye because
I saw boys in the advertisement. I didn’t want Alex to be the only boy in a sea of pink tutus.

Long story short, Alex has loved dance since he was 2 ½ and is now in his fifth year, studying ballet, tap, jazz, acro/tumbling, and hip hop. He also plays piano. His other activities outside of school include Cub Scouts and swimming so he’s a busy guy and happy that way. In his spare time, he loves playing with Hot Wheels and other vehicles, Transformers, Legos, reading, and making up characters and plays with Shannon.

Shannon was born a few months before Alex started dance so she has been exposed to dance since she was an infant. As a baby, she would peer in the classroom observation windows or door cracks to see what the dancers were doing in class. She also has high energy like her brother, but she is more of a wiggler than a kicker! Also like her brother, Shannon is happiest when she’s busy.

In addition to dance (she’s in her second year of ballet, tap, hip hop, and tumbling) and piano, Shannon also loves to pose for the camera. One of my husband’s hobbies is photography so he is always taking photos. Shannon happily poses for photos, often striking poses reminiscent of models and actors. She is ALWAYS in character. Be it something from movies (How To Train Your Dragon is her current favorite), something she read, or something made up from her imagination, she is always in dialogue and pestering Alex, Greg, me, or her friends at preschool to play the characters she assigns and follow her script!

Greg and I have talked about getting the kids an agent for years, mostly because they are very outgoing, always want an audience, and love to perform. It doesn’t faze either child to step out on stage in front of (literally) several hundred people at their dance recitals. In fact, they love it and shine onstage.

We put off the decision to pursue an agent until recently. We wanted to make sure Alex and Shannon were old enough to decide for themselves, rather than us deciding for them.

Greg did some research online during the 2010 holiday season, found a talent/modeling agency in St. Louis with an open audition scheduled, and asked both kids if they wanted to try out. Alex said, “No” but Shannon said, “Yes”.

Shannon attended the audition, along with several other kids, varying in age from preschool to high school, and was (in typical Shannon fashion), cute, outgoing, and fearless.

Callbacks to find out acceptance to the agency were the following day and we were floored to find out Shannon, at age 4, was one of only 12 applicants (out of 365 people of all ages) to be accepted! So, now on to the next phase of Shannon’s performance experiences: modeling, and possibly acting.

We are new to the entertainment industry and are learning as much as we can, from the financial, legal, professional, and personal perspectives. Fortunately, our local library has lots of books on the subject (see the “useful resource” list I’ve added below). These are just some of the books that contain a wealth of information on the business of show business.

Like our observations and intuitions suggested, the books I have read indicate Shannon has the right personality type for show business. She loves attention, is outgoing and aggressive enough to perform in front of an audience (large or small), and is willing to do her best, even if it means she doesn’t get the job.

Oh, and before I forget, Shannon loves the song, “There’s No Business Like Show Business”. It sums up the business quite nicely and Shannon doesn’t mind a bit. That’s a good thing. Not all aspiring performers will be stars. If being a star and/or being rich are not your goals, but performing for the love of it are your motivators, then you’re cut out for the work. It seems we are taking the right approach. In other words, we won’t quit our day jobs and Shannon will keep doing her usual activities and school while she pursues this venture on the side.

The best advice I have gleaned from the books I have read is to treat a career in performance like you are in sales. You are the product, marketing yourself and your performance skills, and even the best salespeople experience a lot of rejection before they make a sale final. As they develop a clientele and gain more experience and credibility, salespeople usually earn a decent living. The same is true for actors, models, dancers, or other performers.

Perhaps Alex, once he sees Shannon in action, will want to pursue performance with an agent himself. Perhaps Shannon will tire of auditions and decide to pursue other activities. Perhaps she will do very well in the industry. Whatever the case, we will provide a grounded home life where our kids will have love and stability.

We are curious to see where our kids’ paths will lead! They are colorful people and have certainly spiced up our lives! On with the show!

Useful Show Business Resources

1. Children and the Entertainment Industry, by Karen Miller
Pages 90-157 address children employed in the entertainment
industry; the beginning of the book examines various effects of
entertainment on children as viewers.

2. Wake Me When It's Funny: How to Break into Show Business and Stay
There, by Lori Marshall
Memoir of Garry Marshall; lots of great information throughout the

3. Get That Cutie in Commercials, Television, Films, and Videos: Breaking
Your Talented Child into the Entertainment Industry, by Kandias Conda
Lots of great information throughout the book, geared toward parents.

4. The Business of Show Business: A Comprehensive Career Guide for
Actors and Models, by Cynthia Brian
Great information throughout, with lots of details about union
operations and dues, audition process and tips, etc.

5. An Actor’s Business: How Show Business Works and How to Market
Yourself as an Actor, by Andrew Reilly
The author is a bit jaded but there is a wealth of information in the
book; definitely worth reading.heather.albeescott@gmail.

1 comment:

  1. I wish you and your family luck with your daughter's pursuit of stardom! I have seen children who I think should have an agent and wondered why their parents haven't pursued things further. I'll bet that was not an easy decision to make but if you have a child who loves to ham it up I say why not go for it.