We sat our daughter down and spent hours going through different scenarios, of which I will list here. After, and only after this discussion, we felt that she was ready.
Scenario No. 1: Money
We agreed to help her get started and pay for her tuition in the professional dance semester into which she had been accepted. After that, we thought she should pay her own way, as this was her idea. At the time, none of us had any idea how expensive it was going to be. Here's the thing: if you work hard to pay rent, classes, and food, and you are self-sufficient, there's not enough time remaining for auditions and/or classes. Part-time jobs don't come close to paying for survival in New York City. This is a very real topic that should be discussed at length. Are you going to supplement your child's income and/or pay her way? Is your child going to get a job? Part-time or full-time? How much money will she need to survive? How many classes will she be taking weekly? Will there be time for cooking, as ordering in and going out can be pricey? I will break it down in a later post. But make sure you know in advance how all these expenses are going to be covered and make sure there is a financial plan.
Scenario No. 2: Attitude
So you have figured the money thing out. There will be time for auditions and classes. Does she have the right demeanor to handle this? New York is a fun, friendly city. But the bigger the area, the harder it is to break in. It can be very lonely at first and without tons of money, it's hard to go out and meet people. A strong will is a necessity. A high energy level is a necessity. Nothing is easy in New York and sometimes it can be completely overwhelming. Being easily intimidated just won't work. Make sure the passion is there and there's nothing that will stand in the way of that dream. Sometimes it's all about who continues to show up for the game.
Scenario No. 3: Thick Skin
You are sure that your child has the determination and drive to pursue this dream. Now, think about this: she's in an audition and the 300 girls in the room are so good, so pretty, so talented. The competition is confident, savvy, and perfect for the part. There are more signed up to audition the next day. She goes in, does her thing, they smile and thank her, and that's the end of that. Getting up at 5:30 am to go sign in, waiting hours for a 20 second audition, and a thank-you, we'll let you know. And she never hears from them again. Can she handle this time and time again? And how about the auditions where she feels she is the best one in the room, has more talent, a great look for the part, and she is still rejected? No feedback, no nothing except a thank-you. Or the audition where she gets up, signs in, and they let everyone go that's not blonde. Or brunette. Or over 5'2". Or under 5'3". Or Black. Or Caucasian. Or Asian. The list goes on. She didn't even have the opportunity to show what she can do. Bottom line--this is an industry, a business, and you can't take it personally. Make sure your child can handle the rejection. Make sure you can handle her rejection. My daughter handles it better than I do, because I want to know why...
Scenario No. 4: Back-up Plan
We do not want to be pessimistic here. She will need all the support you can give her. But let's face it--there are hundreds of girls out there wanting the same thing. If it doesn't work out because of the money, or she's had enough, whatever the reason, there should be a back-up plan. I would highly recommend that you encourage her to go to college first. My daughter graduated with a psychology degree and a minor in dance. Many musical theatre people are graduates of musical theatre programs in very prestigious colleges. It's not a requirement for success, but it helps. Knowing that there is a safety net in case she falls is a comforting thing. Also, know how you are going to handle other peoples' comments. Just about every time I tell someone what my daughter is doing, they proceed to tell me of someone they knew who tried it, didn't succeed, and ended up coming home. I'm learning to keep my mouth shut, and when they do ask, I give them my honest answer--'This is her passion, her dream, and what better time in her life to pursue it while she is young with no family responsibilities? At least there won't be any regrets.' Everyone is different, and it can just as easily be my child as anyone else.
We will explore more of these scenarios in later posts. For now, have that discussion. Make sure you, as her parents, are convinced that she is ready.