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Drama about school drama - AIBU?

(17 Posts)
toastandjamplease Thu 09-Nov-17 08:54:57

I was wondering if someone could give me some ideas on how to handle this situation. DS goes to a really good high school. Great Ofsted, exam results etc. He loves it and is doing well. A big factor for us in choosing the school was the range of other things on offer, especially drama & sport, as DS loves both. However, things haven’t really worked out on that front & I’m not sure what advice to give him about how to handle it.

He goes to the local theatre group and loves it but is not really enjoying drama at school. He is in Yr 10 now and has auditioned for the school play each year – there is always one sometimes two so this makes for about half a dozen auditions that he’s been to over the years. Neither he nor his friend who goes each time too have yet managed to get a part much beyond the chorus or crowd scenes. The decent roles always go to the same handful of children. For example, one boy – whose parents are very active on the PTA and have helped raise a lot of money for the school, which may or may not be a coincidence! – has been given a main role in every school play. Don't get me wrong, this boy is really good, but I can’t believe that he’s the only possible choice out of 100+ children auditioning each time?

DS has always taken on whichever part he's been given and got on with it. However, he's getting a bit fed up with it all and saying that perhaps he’s just not very good at drama after all. I can only imagine how much work these things are to put on so perhaps I should just accept that the staff have earned the right to do the show however they want! However, AIBU to think that the school could perhaps be a bit more inclusive in their approach - or is this just the way things are done?

The cast list for the latest show went up last week and it is the same names in the main roles. DS said to me he doesn’t want to do school productions any more as there’s no point - he says he never gets a good part but still has to go to dozens of rehearsals just to shuffle on and off the stage a few times. On the one hand, I tell him that life is about trying and trying again and it's still nice to take part, even if you don't have much to do yourself. But on the other hand, it does seem to be knocking his confidence. So, do I encourage him to keep auditioning or would he be better just focusing on out-of-school drama instead - what do you think?

DO3271 Thu 09-Nov-17 09:00:55

I think as a mum it can be hard to get perspective on our childrens abilities sometimes. I would consider asking for an appointment with school just to ask for honest feedback on his abilities and make a decision on how best to steer him for the future. I would keep up with the out of school activity as he seems to enjoy it but you could guide him to other interests at school. Good luck, its not easy seeing our children disheartened and disappointed.

Coastalcommand Thu 09-Nov-17 09:02:00

I'd just focus on the out of school drama. Plenty to enjoy and other friendship groups to develop. My teenage youth theatre friends are still my best friends after more than a decade.

dancinfeet Thu 09-Nov-17 09:02:01

My two daughters have avoided school plays like the plague n secondary school for similar type reasons!
Also because the rehearsals are always very disorganised and there is a lot of sitting around doing nothing, resulting in extra last min rehearsals being called for which they then have to miss their (paid for) out of school activities.

I would tell your lad to give the school play a miss and focus on the out of school 'proper' drama training and increase this if it's where his interest lies. Look out for open auditions etc for productions in your area, and forget the school play which is mostly cast by school politics anyway

grimeofthecentury Thu 09-Nov-17 09:06:23

Focus on the out of school stuff and why not try NYT or NYMT? School productions with the exception of very few "special" schools are pretty rubbish and no good as a real theatre experience anyway

endofthelinefinally Thu 09-Nov-17 09:08:12

Focus on out of school stuff.
It is just easier all round IME.

Itsonkyme Thu 09-Nov-17 09:09:34

Forget the school drama, he's already said that he doesn't want to do it any more anyway. Just concentrate on local Theatre Group. He is obviously valued more there and feels happy there. Can't see the point in doing anything unless it's essential, if it makes you miserable.

Mugshotzforlunch Thu 09-Nov-17 09:14:44

Agree with everyone else. Stick to the out of school productions they give a more rounded perspective of real theatre.
Although if your son realy wants to continue with the school productions tell him to ask for feedback and for some direction and see from there.

CruCru Thu 09-Nov-17 09:22:18

I remember this from my school. It got the point where a load of the kids said they wouldn’t be in the next play if X (who to be fair, was a great singer, extremely beautiful and had a professional singer for a father) was the star yet again.

Yes, just get him to do the out of school stuff. The school drama sounds a bit thankless.

roundthehorn Thu 09-Nov-17 09:36:57

If he wants to go to drama school it's all about the audition process. Nobody cares about Drama GCSE. I got into LAMDA with 5 (terrible) GCSEs, left with a nice show reel and an agent.

endofthelinefinally Thu 09-Nov-17 09:39:01

School often takes all the pleasure and joy out of things.
My child dropped music gcse because it was so dire.
She is now a professional musician.
That says it all IMO.

corythatwas Thu 09-Nov-17 09:39:40

Whether he carries on with school plays or not, he needs not to take it to heart.

Either he is just doing this as a bit of fun- and then he can get that fun in his youth theatre group, or he is thinking of it as a potential career- and then getting used to setbacks is an essential part of his training.

My own dd never got anything beyond narrator in school plays (and even that was only the once). It took many years before she got any good parts in her youth theatre either. She has done every variation on "a voice in the crowd", and "part of a book--case", and "the third assistant", and "a party-goer". But she is now at one of the big drama schools in London and completely set on making the theatre her career one way or another.

She reckons she learned a lot from the years of being in the crowd, learning to work with a very small part and really inhabiting that, learning to observe others and seeing what worked and what didn't. And it was very good preparation for what came after: two years of auditioning for drama school without getting a place, several years of auditioning for NYT.

toastandjamplease Thu 09-Nov-17 10:33:59

Thanks so much for all your ideas there! Lots to think about and thank you for not saying I'm being precious about my little star performer smile

DS says he wants to be an actor or writer so if that stays with him, then absolutely he does need to learn to cope with rejection and to learn from whatever part he gets (thanks to Cory, End and Round for your professional insights on that front!)

I guess I'm overthinking this, in case that wasn't obvious! I work in education myself and find it really frustrating when institutions don't think more about what we are modelling to children. When there was some story on the news about the lack of ethnic minority representation on TV, DS piped up that it's the same at school - he ran through all the plays they've put on since he's been there. And not one non-white lead. In a school that is 50 percent non-white. Eek.

Anyhow, back to the matter in hand - if he doesn't want to do any more auditions, I'll stop with the pep talks and let him just keep up with the out of school stuff. I have no idea how good he is but my friend who works in the media says he's pretty decent so hopefully he's not embarrassing himself when he gets up on stage at least!

Thanks again for all your thoughts!

DancesWithOtters Thu 09-Nov-17 11:20:33

It's difficult. I was involved in a lot of Am Dram in and out of school between the ages of 12-21.

I very rarely got any speaking parts, mostly Chorus. The same people were always in the principal roles.

But to be honest, looking back now I know that I wasn't all that good. The kids who got the bet roles were much better than me and deserved to be in them. And let's face it, secondary school and paid for performances are not about being fair and rotating the roles. With an audition process it is about the people who are the best performers getting the best roles.

If you are able to be objective, is he good? Is he as good as the kids getting the best roles every time?

I kind of wish my parents had been more honest with me back then and steered me towards other hobbies and interests. They always told me how unfair it was and how the auditions were a fix. But now I look back and have a bit of a cringe, because the reality of it is that I wasn't that great a performer.

Pidlan Thu 09-Nov-17 11:26:23

I feel the same as DancingWithOtters - I focused a lot on drama, was quite successful, got into NYT etc, but now I look back and think, actually I wasn't that good. I'm still glad I did it, but it's as if I couldn't see myself clearly and honestly in that period.

MrsHathaway Thu 09-Nov-17 12:09:09

whose parents are very active on the PTA and have helped raise a lot of money for the school, which may or may not be a coincidence!

I think there's a high correlation between children with very involved parents, and children with nurtured talents who show up reliably, learn their parts reliably, and behave well. I doubt it's coincidence but I don't think it's nepotism IYSWIM.

As to the main question, I think it's a shame the school hasn't taken a step back to look at patterns in their casting. Of course it's reasonable for a particular teacher to cast the best actor as the lead in one single play ... but it's up to the school or the drama department or whatever to take a wider view of the whole offering and think maybe there should be more representation of minorities, or more plays with lots of small parts, or performances with different kinds of actors needed (eg is it always musicals and never arthouse comedy style).

Since DS has another outlet for his interests, I don't think you should feel obliged to tackle the school. But I do think the school is getting things slightly wrong, yes.

But to be honest, looking back now I know that I wasn't all that good. The kids who got the be[s]t roles were much better than me and deserved to be in them.

Yes, I think that's probably true of me. I managed to fail an acting exam once blush so clearly I'm no Judi Dench. I think I'm particularly bad at that bit where you have to react and act when you don't have any lines - ie 90% of the performance.

But also I did get cast over and over again in the "ugly friend" roles, particularly if those involved a big voice (I can objectively say I sing very well). Juliet's Nurse, Mary McGregor, that kind of part. I think a person and particularly a teenager can be very easily typecast against their will into a minor role - eg Johnny's reliable in the chorus, Susie is great at costume - so although someone else might envy them, they aren't happy with what is assigned to them.

And let's face it, secondary school and paid for performances are not about being fair and rotating the roles. With an audition process it is about the people who are the best performers getting the best roles.

I'll agree for paid-for performances but I think secondary school really should still be about inclusion and taking part. It's not Cannes. The children are still developing into their abilities and it's the job of the school to nurture that. It is not the job of a theatre to develop the local youth.

musicposy Thu 09-Nov-17 12:28:16

I feel your pain. DD has been in professional musicals as a child and lots of amateur ones, has Grade 8 music theatre etc etc. I'm not being precious when I say she's very good (obviously not the only good performer out there, I get that). She joined a school in 6th from and they had auditions for a musical. She didn't get a part, nothing at all.

She told her form tutor she was disappointed (he'd been at the auditions). He said he thought she was very good but it was important to have children who they knew would turn up and rehearse and that she was an unknown quantity. He also said the drama teacher already knew before the audition who would be a good fit for the roles because she knew the children.

Other children told her the ones who got the parts had had the main parts all the way up the school. DD wondered what the point was of bothering to have an audition process at all!

In the end she was taken on for the local theatre Christmas production and would have had to turn that down had she already been in the school one. She focussed from then on on outside things. I'd suggest you get your son to do the same - concentrate on stuff out of school. But it's a shame because you wonder how many schools across the country are not giving a chance to pupils who could be absolutely brilliant in the role.

I do believe favouritism exists, too. I was a school govenor when my DDs were at primary and they suddenly got picked for everything, to the point of being embarrassing. It definitely happens.

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