“Hi, Lisa. This is . . . I’m sure you know why I am calling.”
Well, actually, I have no clue. You called my husband’s office and left a message for me, without leaving a hint as to who you were or what you wanted. The only reason I called back was because it was a local number and this is a very small town.
“We were wondering if you would stage manage for one of the Children’s Theater shows this summer? You would be paid a little, of course.”
“Oh . . . um . . . can you give me some details. I mean, I know what stage managing is but, I need more specifics about schedules and things like that.”
“Oh,” she replies, concern creeping into her voice that I did not immediately agree to her offer. She gives me some details and ends with “I know it’s not a lot of money, but it is so worthwhile.”
The money isn’t really the issue. Well, it is, but it isn’t the only issue.
“Let me think about it,” I say. “When do you need an answer by?”
“Oh . . . um . . . Wednesday?” I think I’ve still thrown her by my hesitancy.
Why am I hesitant? I have the skills, as I started stage managing more than (gasp!) twenty years ago in college. I probably have more training than most of the people who will be working on the show, and I had hoped to work with these kids anyways in some sort of mini-summer camp.
But I still hesitated. It’s not really the money. Nor is it the fact that I actually should be directing or producing. Nor is it the fact that lately I volunteer an awful lot.
The problem is my daughter.
Nathan will be heading to Okoboji Summer Theater at some point in May. Sarah wanted to audition for this musical, so we all decided that she and I would stay here for part of the summer (assuming she got cast) so that she could do the musical. That’s the only reason we would stay, really, because it makes more financial sense to go to the summer theater. Nathan gets paid, and I help them out for room and board which means we don’t have to pay for food and the exorbitant costs of keeping cool during a hot Kansas summer. I hear that last year it was over 100 degrees for a large portion of the summer.
But, Sarah wants to be in the musical, so the plan was made.
But here’s the catch . . . Sarah has to audition like any other child. While she has stage presence and theater smarts (how can she not when she is being raised in the theater) there is not guarantee that she will be cast. She definitely has talent, but I don’t know what the director looks for and I have no intention of persuasion and will only help Sarah prepare if she asks.
As a director, I refuse to trade in favors. I cast the best person for a role, taking into account whether or not I want to work with him/her. I very rarely pay attention to the “you have to cast her or she won’t graduate” or “my son is the best person for this, if you cast him I will donate . . .”. When working with young people, I respectfully ignore any form of stage parenting, and will even go so far as laying down rules and expectations for parental behavior. I find it as important to educate the parents as the children, and I refuse to promote false hopes and expectations that the child is destined to become a star. I do theater with young people for other reasons–if they go on to become stars that is great (and I will expect a thank you at the awards ceremony) but what I offer is the skills to think, create, explore and enjoys.
So now I found myself cast in the unintentional role of Stage Mom with Power. If Sarah is not cast, then we have no reason to stay this summer (and I already explained that financially it makes more sense to go with Nathan). If Sarah is cast, then it makes sense for me to Stage Manage, as I will be taking her to rehearsals all the time anyway. If she’s not cast and I stage manage, then what do I do with her, since I will basically be a single parent for about 6 weeks?
See my dilemma? Do I pull the stage mom thing (shudder) and say I will only stage manage if Sarah is cast? Do I say “yes” no matter what? Do I give a hesitant “yes” explaining that might change to a “no” if Sarah isn’t cast (which feels like manipulation to me)?
I am caught in the throes of an ethical dilemma. Any ideas?