My oldest daughter is a theater kid. She’s never wanted to play soccer, or do gymnastics, or take karate. And while she tried all of those things, at the end of the day she only wants to be at the theater. When I tell people that community theater is her jam, many times the response is, “Oh! My kid would love that! How do I get them involved?”

My response is always one word: Audition.

I’ve taken my daughter to many auditions, and I’ve come up with these tips to help out a budding actor, and their stage mom!

~ If your child is just getting started and maybe not quite ready to audition for a show, have them take a class. There are all levels of acting classes for children. Check with local community theaters like Twin City Stage, The Children’s Theatre of Winston-Salem, and the Community Theatre of Greensboro; performing arts schools like University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA), and dedicated theater arts businesses like Creative Drama Children’s Theater.

~ Look for auditions in appropriate shows. My best resource for this is the wonderful Piedmont Triad Theatre Guide , which lists open auditions and audition requirements for community theaters throughout the Triad. Make sure that your child fits the bill – if the show is casting male actors over 45, chances are your 8 year old daughter is going to be out of place!

~ Be prepared. Your child doesn’t have to check out a script or memorize lines or learn the show music. It is always helpful for them to at least be familiar with the plot of the show and the characters. If it’s a musical, they’ll need to be prepared to sing 16 bars of a song, and provide sheet music or a CD. They may be asked to learn a simple dance combination. Careful reading of the audition guidelines before arrival will make sure your child has everything they need.

~ Get there early. There will be paperwork to fill out, sometimes a photo to take, and likely lots of people there!

~ Be prepared for a wait. Sometimes an audition takes 15 minutes, sometimes it takes 3 hours. Take a book, your phone, a snack, a water bottle, and don’t plan anything until much, much later in the day.

~ Don’t expect to watch. I have found that auditions are most often closed, which is usually a good thing. As much as we like to think we’re there to support our kids, we make them very nervous! Let them do their thing, and tell you about it later.

~ Don’t worry. The first time you watch your child walk into a room full of strangers (or be herded in with a bunch of other strangers) can be nerve wracking. By and large, this is a community of very gentle, very caring, very enthusiastic people. They WANT your child to succeed, they want them to love the theater, and they want them to keep coming back!

~ Don’t expect the lead. There is incredible value in every part, and every actor out there is in the ensemble at some point. Teaching your child to be open to the experience even if it’s not the role they want is a wonderful life lesson.

~ Callbacks. Many times, a director will want to see your child again. This doesn’t mean they have a part; likewise, if they don’t receive a callback is doesn’t mean they don’t have a part. It’s just an opportunity to look at some people a little more closely.

~ If they don’t get a part, be encouraging. It doesn’t necessarily mean they did poorly, or that the director didn’t like them, it simply means they weren’t right for the role this time. And whatever you do, don’t complain to the director! Chances are, you’ll run into the same directors (and actors) again and again, so you want to keep things positive.

~ If they do get a part, congratulations! Be prepared to likely make a huge time commitment. Locate the Starbucks nearest the theater and take advantage of free wifi to binge watch your favorite TV show.

~ Start looking for the next opportunity! In the meantime, see if they’d like to take a class, and go with them and watch as much live theater as you can. There is nothing like the experience of watching live theater, except being in the show yourself. Break a leg, friends!