Several years ago, I was directing a middle school production of an obscure but wonderful Shakespeare comedy. I had directed at this school the year before and assisted with the play the year prior to that. I knew the kids very well and was excited to be back there.
One of my students, a very talented 14 year old who had been one of the leads the previous year, spent the auditions laughing and chatting with her friends, creating quite a distraction. She did not seem invested at all in her audition and so when it came time to cast the show, I cast her as a featured ensemble member with the rest of her friends. The lead roles went to some fabulously talented and dedicated students, one of whom was a tiny little sixth grader who blew us all away with her ability to grasp the text. I felt very happy with my casting decisions and slept soundly after emailing the cast list to the parents the night before our first rehearsal.
I awoke to an email from the parent of the 14 year old girl who I had cast in the ensemble and it was epic. Printed out, the letter is 19 pages, though to be fair the last 7 pages are Shakespeare Mad Libs. No, I'm not joking. The mother spends 12 pages eviscerating me then suggests that I might want to use these Mad Libs in rehearsals!
In this letter, the mother criticizes my abilities as a director, she refers to her daughter as a "star" more than once, and demands that I take the lead role away from that "12 year old with no talent or experience" and give the role to her daughter. That's a direct quote.
I read through the letter several times. I began writing a response several times but was unable to fully articulate the complex combination of dismay and exasperation I was feeling. Eventually, I passed the letter on to my boss who told me not to address it at all.
So I didn't.
And the mother pulled her daughter out of the show and I never saw them again.
But I still have the letter. I keep it as a reminder that working in youth theatre means that I am working with young talented children as well as their determined parents. We cannot forget about these mostly awesome and at times terrifying individuals that have chosen to support their children's wildest dreams. They are often wonderful and the best ones can make my job so much easier. There are also the parents that write 19 page letters. But I don't hate these parents. They are usually the ones who didn't realize their own wildest dreams and are hell bent on helping their children do better, whether they want that dream or not.
So, parents, we understand that when your child is heartbroken over casting decisions you want to advocate for them but please, wait 24 hours before hitting send on that email. Otherwise you might find yourself the subject of a scary stage mom blog post!