Like most parents, I signed my kids up for various enrichment activities. They tried everything from swimming, gymnastics, dance, horse back riding, martial arts, soccer, tball, you name it. One Summer I registered my 6 year old daughter, Amber, for an acting camp at the Lakewood Theatre. She came home one day and announced she wanted to audition for their Christmas play. I told her I was sure she was too young and had hoped that would be the end of that. The next day she dragged me to the poster on the wall at camp that listed the audition information. They were looking to cast children aged 7-13 for the baby angel choir. I pointed out to her that she was only 6 and started to walk away. She pulled me back and pointed to the date that the show would perform, Dec 11-23rd, and reminded me that she would turn 7 on December 1st. I couldn't really argue with that. I finally agreed to call the director and ask if she would be willing to audition a determined 6 year old and she kindly agreed. You can probably guess how this story will end...she was cast as a baby angel and began rehearsals that October. She was absolutely ecstatic. I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. All I knew was that my daughter found something that brought out more passion, determination, focus, and a desire to work harder than I ever thought possible for a child so young. She had caught the bug! On opening night she was the happiest I had ever seen her, and on closing night her crocodile tears just about broke my heart. I knew I had to find a way to continue to give her opportunities to act, but I was truly at a loss as to where to start.
Over the next couple of years I would spend countless hours educating myself about opportunities available for Amber to continue to pursue her passion for performing. There was so much I didn't know, and I didn't know what I didn't know! I finally found a website that listed auditions in the Portland area so she started going to some auditions. So often in the beginning I felt embarrassed and as if I was letting my daughter down because we did not know how to prepare properly for these auditions which usually led to disappointment rather than successfully being cast. We didn't know how to create a proper resume, or where to find appropriate monologues for a 7 year old, and the worst one was when we were sent home without being allowed to audition because we didn't know we needed to bring sheet music. We had assumed she could just sing a capella like she had for her Christmas play at the Lakewood Theatre. We registered Amber for several acting classes around town and some of them were really good and others felt like child care and a waste of our time and money. It was frustrating and there really was no where to go to get advice.
Fast forward a few years and we moved to England. I knew I had to find an outlet for Amber's growing interest in theatre. I found and enrolled her in a training program that provided her with a way to spend 3 hours every Saturday acting, singing and dancing. She was thrilled to attend this British program every Saturday and began to witness tremendous growth in her skills. When it was time to move back to the US, I was worried about how Amber would continue to get such excellent and consistent training. Then a thought struck me...what if I were to open a similar school in Oregon? I met with the owners of her program in London and they agreed to let me franchise the first school on the West Coast of the US. And I was soooo excited, and just more than a little bit terrified. I knew so little about the performing arts business, and had made so many ridiculous mistakes myself in supporting Amber's theatre aspirations, but then I realized what I did know, and that is children and what exceptional teaching looks like, and what parents ultimately want in an enrichment program for their children and I thought maybe, just maybe I could pull this off! So, I signed the papers, completed the franchisee training and moved my family back to Oregon. And then the recession of 2008 hit and I thought what in the heck am I doing?!?!?!?
I then had to ask myself some hard questions like, do you truly believe in this program and why? I realized I believed wholeheartedly in the methodology and ethos of this musical theatre training school. I knew that what I had to offer would benefit our community and all of the children who would train with us. So I began interviewing and put together the finest team of acting, singing and dancing teachers Portland had to offer and we opened our doors with a full roster of students in April of 2009. We have been operating at full capacity ever since. Now, every Saturday I get to work with outstanding teachers, inspiring students and exceptional families as this next generation of aspiring artists develop their talents. It has been the most amazing journey and I want our program, and now this blog, to support these families and children as they navigate the often complex, daunting and unknown world of the performing arts.