My kid wants to be an actor...now what?

Parents often ask me what they can do to help their child get work.  It's actually pretty simple and I've outlined some specific things you can do right now to begin getting professional performance opportunities for your child.  
When your child expresses interest in acting, dance, singing, or performance of any kind, get them in classes.  Training is INCREDIBLY important.  Many times kids will want to audition for show after show and never take any classes which can be fun, sure, but they are not really growing as performers.  Too often we equate experience with education and while experience is great, it does not teach our performers the skills they need to hone their craft.  I had learned tap for several productions but it was only when I started taking a tap class that I realized what it meant to tap dance.  Show choreography is different from a combination in a dance class. Often our choreographers will choreograph for the level of talent they have in their cast so in reality, the dancers aren't learning many new skills.  It's in the classes that they truly grow.                    
Okay, your child is taking classes and growing as a performer - yay! What's the next step?  Find a youth theatre production in your area or at your child's school and have them audition.  Get them involved on a local and fun level.  Most young performers will really shine with a combination of classes and youth theatre productions.  If your child is happy and enjoying herself, then relax. You don't need to take another step.  However, if your child is dying to do more, and wants to branch out and do some professional theatre or even film and commercial work, then you can look at some websites that will help you move beyond the realm of children's musical theatre.
Locally, here in the Bay Area, there are some amazing resources for you as parents and for us as performers.  First of all, sign up for Theatre Bay Area.
http://www.theatrebayarea.org
This is a great resource for new actors and seasoned professionals alike.  If it's on stage in the Bay Area, it's in Theatre Bay Area.  Here you will find audition listings as well as recommendations for theatre to see.  

And you can get yourself a shiny new bumper sticker!

And you can get yourself a shiny new bumper sticker!


Also, for local Bay Area parents, check out SF Casting.  
www.SFcasting.com
This is a great resource for actors looking to get some film or commercial work.  There are tons of auditions posted, including student films, which is a wonderful way to get some experience.
Theatre Bay Area and SF Casting require a cost to participate, but it's completely worth it if your child is serious about pursuing performance as a career.  There are performance opportunities listed on Craigslist and I have gotten work from them in the past, but searching through the classifieds are not something I would recommend for parents new to this professional performance game.
Another thing your child will need is theatrical headshots.  These usually run about $300+ so they are an investment.  Your child needs to look their age in the shots and look like their true selves, so no prom hair or Sunday school clothes.  For this reason, you need to hire a photographer that specializes in theatre headshots and not use your family's portrait photographer (unless they have experience in this sort of photography as well). 
For most auditions, your child will also need a resume.  You'll need to list their hair and eye color, height and weight as well as any previous acting experience or training.  List their most recent roles at the top of the list and go in reverse chronological order.  This can seem like a small detail but it's one that makes a huge difference.    
You may be thinking about seeking representation for your child.  That's a step we take only when we've had some success on the local level and finding an agent is something that I'll cover in another post.  For now, just know that getting representation can be a long process and not a necessary step for your child to take to get professional acting work.
This one might go without saying but make it a habit to take your child to live performances!  Go out to Orinda to see some Shakespeare or to San Francisco to see the Ballet.  Don't just see the big National Tours when they come to town but find your local community theatre and become a patron there.  That leads me to my final point:
Make connections to local theatre.  Get to know the artists that perform and see their shows. Friend them on Facebook and join their theatre community.  Don't just do this with the intention of getting your child in with the company, but begin to cultivate real relationships within the theatre community!  Connections are truly your best resource for getting your child some professional performance opportunities. 
Hope that helps and happy auditioning!
DREAM BIG
Stephanie