What to say to Your Child When They Don’t get the Part They Want

Auditioning for musical theatre is difficult. Simply working up the courage to put yourself out there creates a huge hurdle to surmount even before the actual rehearsal process begins. Even more unfortunately, casting is a highly subjective process, meaning that most audition goers end up disappointed in the end. While adult actors are relatively conditioned to brush off such upsets and keep going, for young actors, the disappointment attached to casting can be crushing.

Many young actors quit shows and never return to performing in the wake of cast list catastrophes. They might feel like they’ve exerted enormous effort for no reason, or like they’ve embarrassed themselves by doing poorly, or that they simply weren’t and can’t be good enough to land the roles they want. These feelings can end passions for acting before they even have a chance to catch on!

If your child has been burned by a poor audition experience and unmet casting expectations, they might be inclined to turn away from acting altogether. However, theatre is a great opportunity for young people for a multitude of reasons, and this is a great opportunity to teach your child about the growth mindset and the value of “failing” with grace. Here’s how you can turn a seemingly negative cast list into a positive life lesson for your child!

If your child says,“I’m only in the ensemble,” say…

  • But you’re still in the show, and that’s something to celebrate! You put yourself out there and auditioned, that’s already plenty to be happy about. A lot of people don’t have the guts to do what you did!
  • There’s no “only” about it! Every single person involved in a show is important, from the ensemble to the leads, to those helping backstage and offstage. The ensemble plays a huge part in establishing the world of the show and keeping the energy high, in a variety of ways. The ensemble in Wicked is a great example, because they’re important for creating lots of different moods: fun, scary, and somber, all at different points in the show. Without them, the show would look and feel radically different! If the ensemble shirks their responsibilities, entire shows can suffer. Take pride in the important role you play!

If your child says, “this role is a waste of my time,” say…

  • It absolutely is not! As is mentioned above, every participant in a show is 100% important.
  • Your performance skills will only improve by practicing them! If you want to get the role you really want next time, look at this as a learning opportunity. Everyone can learn about acting, dancing, and singing in ANY role in a show. Being in the show period means you also have the chance to master about the rehearsal process. It’s best to master the art of keeping track of scenes, entrances, and set changes you need to help with early, rather than taking on a big part before you’ve got the hang of them.  Actors can also learn a lot by observing the others working around you. Pay attention to the other performers who are doing well– see if you can spot what makes them good! Be the best you can be in the role you’ve got, and learn as much as possible!
  • You’re still going to enjoy yourself!
  • The production staff put you in that role for a reason. Backing out because you think you’re above a certain role sends a horrible message, and many directors will keep such behavior in mind the next time you audition for them.

If your child says, “this won’t be any fun,” say…

  • Of course it will! If you quit or go in with a bad attitude because of casting, you’ll undoubtedly miss out on tons of cast shenanigans and rehearsal fun.
  • Many actors are often disappointed and think supporting or ensemble roles won’t be enjoyable. However, non-lead roles are often the most fun! You likely have to do way less memorization, but still get to be on stage for all the ensemble song-and-dance numbers, which are always the most fun anyway. You can enjoy a much lower-stress experience!
  • Your full participation in the show will still be expected. If you’re worried about being bored in your downtime, you can always try to help in other places, for instance as a member of the run crew (“stage hands”).
  • Your role might actually be bigger than you think it is, or more fun than you think it is. For example, the mersisters in The Little Mermaid can seem like small supporting roles at first, but they play a very fun part in the performance and get to sing “She’s in Love” which is one of the most fun songs in the show! Don’t judge your part before you’ve gotten the chance to experience it!

If your child says, “I deserved [x] role,” or “so-and-so didn’t deserve [x] role,” or “so-and-so got the lead because they’re the director’s favorite,” say…

  • This kind of negative attitude about casting is almost always palpable to a production staff. It comes across when you think you deserve a certain part. Roles are earned, and acting entitled can earn you a “smaller” role you might not be thrilled with.
  • When you rest on your laurels by saying “I deserved x role,” you’re minimizing the work everyone else has done. The others who earned their roles have likely done a lot of work to prepare for auditions, hone their skills, and make themselves great candidates for their parts. If they did as minimal work as you think they did, then it should be easy for you to work harder than them and surpass them next time!
  • Casting is based on a wide range of variables, including vocal range, ability, “type”, performance experience, first impressions in an audition, personality, and the director’s interpretation of a given character. You may think you have another actor outclassed in terms of skill, but skill alone does not decide an audition. The director had a reason for choosing the other actor for the part, and it’s likely got less to do with favoritism than it does a complex web of reasoning.
  • You can’t control what the director sees in the audition or how the cast is decided, but you can control yourself. Even if you think the casting choices are unfair, you have little say in how the director thinks or feels. All you can do is be productive and focus on yourself. Let’s think about voice, acting, or dance lessons you can take, or other ways you can build yourself up for the next audition.

If your child says, “I’m going to talk to the director about this cast list,” say…

  • That probably won’t be productive. At best, the director will know you’re unhappy with your part, but they still won’t change their minds, and it might make them think you’re unappreciative, or otherwise think badly of you. At worst, you may come across poorly and effectively ruin your relationship with the director and damage your chances with them forever.
  • If you are interested in specific feedback concerning your performance at the audition, and not in interrogating or venting, let’s wait a few days for the dust to settle first. This way, both you and the director can handle the exchange without any volatile high emotions. Then we should seriously consider your wording so that your purpose is clear. Make sure the director knows that you’re not complaining about your role or the list itself. Seek advice about auditioning and performing as a whole, such as, “what can I do to prepare for the next audition?” or “How do you think I can continue to grow and learn as a performer?”

If your child says, “I don’t understand what I did wrong,” say…

  • You did nothing wrong! As mentioned directly above, casting is based on a ton of different factors. You may have simply not lined up with the director’s vision. That’s not a fault on your part!
  • We may never know what you did wrong, but we can focus on preparing for the next audition so you don’t feel this way again. Let’s think about voice, acting, or dance lessons, or do some research into other audition opportunities in the area.
  • Did you notice anyone else doing anything that seemed promising during the audition? Analyzing the things other performers did that you liked can be a good way to get ideas for the next one! Don’t copy them necessarily– stay true to yourself!– but reflecting on the process can be constructive.
  • Perhaps you didn’t interpret the character the way the director was looking for. Next time, let’s think about ways we can research the show and role you want, and keep in mind what kind of things the director might be wanting from that character.
  • See the previous set of bullet points for suggestions on how to appropriately and productively seek feedback on auditioning and growing as a performer from your director. This can be a very risky business, so don’t take it lightly, and know it may come across poorly unless you make it clear that you’re not unappreciative or presumptuous.

If your child says, “I guess I’m not talented enough to get a lead,” say…

  • Talent the way we talk about it is a myth, anyway! Talent might make some people intimidating opponents in auditions, but hard work and a positive attitude trump inborn talent any day. Let’s look into ways for you to practice your performing skills and do better next time!
  • Casting is very subjective, and every lead requires different people, personalities, and skillsets. Maybe this one just wasn’t right for you, that doesn’t mean you should give up!
  • Just because the others around you are also very good at what they do doesn’t mean you yourself aren’t good! For all you know, this casting could have been a very close call. Let’s celebrate the skill in this cast instead of tearing anyone down!

If your child says, “I don’t want to do the show now,” say…

  • Stick it out! You’ll definitely still have a good time no matter what role you have, and this show is a great opportunity.
  • If you want to get roles you want in the future, you’ll have to make the most of some roles you’re not excited for. Every actor spends time in the ensemble and in supporting roles before they are ready to take on lead roles!
  • Look at this as a chance to learn! By staying in this show, you’ll get a better idea of what this production team likes to see and work with, which can boost your chances in the next audition. Plus, this is a great chance to practice your performing skills, and those will be mandatory no matter what role you want next time.
  • Quitting because of casting will send a very poor message to the production staff. By quitting, you’re saying that this part isn’t worth your time, or that you don’t understand the value and importance of roles besides the one you wanted. They may decide not to cast you again if you back out now.

If your child says, “I feel embarrassed by this role/by how auditions went,” 

  • Discuss with them. Try to figure out why they are embarrassed! Did they feel insecure about auditioning? Do they think they’re being snubbed by their casting, or does the role make them feel uncomfortable for another reason? They may be uncomfortable with the content of a role, or feel unsure about their ability to play it.
  • Make sure they know that they still did something amazing just by auditioning. Auditioning is difficult!
  • Remind them that every role is important and the director gave them the part they received for a reason. Not getting the part they want most likely wasn’t a personal attack, and in fact the director may be very excited to see them in the role they have! Have faith in your director and trust the process!
  • If your child is concerned about something like being made fun of because of their role, make sure they know that every role is important, and discuss ways they can deal with such meanness. You could also reach out to the director, but know that the director likely cannot change your child’s casting– any communication with the director at this point should be about raising awareness of potential bullying. You could also ask the director if they have any information for your child that might make the role seem less embarrassing. The director may be able to shed some positive light on the situation!

 

Overall, the important things for you and your child to remember are as follows: Actors can’t always get the parts they want, but that doesn’t mean being in a show won’t be fun no matter what! Every show and every role presents an opportunity to grow as a performer, and maintaining a positive attitude as you stay in the show will always reflect well upon you.

It’s never bad to dream big for roles, but remember that every role is important and worth your time!

2 thoughts on “What to say to Your Child When They Don’t get the Part They Want

  1. All roles in theatre are important- I agree. While I may never be in a musical, I understand the importance of each role: each are important even though it may seem like the leads are more important than others. Look- some shows may not even kick off without an ensemble member or look at the ensemble songs, etc……I know the importance due to 1) going to seeing musicals and 2) being a theatre minor

    Like

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