Hi, my name is Alyssa Dong and my daughter, Lauren, is playing the role of Gertrude in Seussical at South Coast Repertory this summer, in the Conservatory’s Summer Players program. As my daughter begins her seventh year here, I’d like to share with you what it’s like from my perspective as a parent going through this process, in hopes that you may also find similarities and/or possibilities for you and your child.
At the age of seven, Lauren saw her first play, which was actually Seussical at a community theatre. After the play, she immediately begged my husband and me to sign her up for that theatre’s next play auditions, and the first thought that came to my mind was, “Oh no, another thing to add to my already busy schedule!”
Life was busy enough with the kids that I couldn't see the value of her going to the next audition, but I said “ok” anyway. And to our surprise, she got cast! Okay, I thought, she will do this one play and then we’ll be getting back to her soccer games. She did get back to playing soccer and continued to audition for the next play and then the next play. Lauren was finding a new happiness in this theatre world and, I have to admit, it was a new happiness for me, as a parent, too.
A friend of mine eventually introduced us to South Coast Repertory’s Theatre Conservatory, where kids can take acting classes. “Wow,” I thought, “a place where she can learn acting at a young age without me having to drive her to Los Angeles.” Yes! Where do I sign up? After a few classes, I started to realize how much my daughter was enjoying this experience. I was getting to see her explore new adventures and watch her grow in ways I never thought the Conservatory could create for her. She became a more confident child. She found out things about herself she may have never found outside SCR's Conservatory classes. She found her singing voice and developed meaningful friendships. Most of all, she learned how she can make a difference in this world, not just as an actor, but as a human being. As a parent, this was pretty cool to see.
I have also been fortunate to meet and build lifelong friendships with other parents whose kids take acting classes at SCR. These friendships are an important part of my life because they provide a good support system not only for me, but for them as well. We can talk openly about our wishes and concerns for our children and experience their growth as they flourish because of what they are learning here at SCR.
There is a sense of community and family when it comes to SCR; it is never about being the star or being a lead. It is all about the process of teaching. I learned that these parents and I have the same wants and desires for our children. I also learned that not all the kids who go through these acting classes will want to pursue acting as adults. Some kids enjoy the art and want to pursue it; others simply enjoy the Conservatory as a place where they can feel the most comfortable in expressing themselves and work on learning more about who they are as people. I love the Theatre Conservatory for Lauren—it teaches her about process and collaboration and helps her develop lifelong skills. Through all of this, at SCR, is where I get to see her grow the most.
*Stay tuned for Part II of Alyssa Dong’s blog series from the perspective of a parent.
Learn more about SCR’s Theatre Conservatory.