- New York Columnist
Dear Stage Parents,
You, the wonderful parents who support your artistic children to a ridiculous (and so very much appreciated) degree. You, the ones who come to each show and brag about your kid, saying “They’re gonna be on Broadway one day, I can just feel it.” I want to take a moment to appreciate everything you do.
No one else on this planet will ever support the artists like their parents. I have always heard about the unfortunate ones who aren’t as lucky – who get thrown out as the ‘spacey’ one, the black sheep of the family that is probably going to struggle. The Mothers who lament that their kid could’ve been a doctor, or the Father who thinks the profession isn’t masculine enough. Thank you, Stage Parents, for being the ones to take the high road and look at the career your loved ones have chosen in a positive light. You will never fully understand just how much it means to us.
And part of that is because we don’t tell you often enough. Even if you are told ‘thank you’ a hundred times a day for everything you’ve done that isn’t enough. It isn’t a small step to be comfortable with your kid being an actor. They’re going to face unending hardship and let’s face facts here together… You know that better than they do. Sorry to the actors reading this, but you have to admit we are a bit bullheaded when it comes to doing what we love. We are going to risk everything and ignore a lot of the potential pitfalls because it’s so ingrained into our hearts. Even if our parents never fully understand exactly the process, they’ll always know about the struggles.
So thank you again. Thank you for the late night pick-ups during the High School years. When rehearsals run later than expected because Jimmy couldn’t nail that last bit of choreography. When we started maybe slipping a bit in our grades because hot damn we got the big part – we finally got to be Tevye, which is a huge deal we’ll never get that chance again. (That was said with a bit of sarcasm, but to be fair you won’t be able to play it again for… like… fourty more years.) Those halcyon days when the great drama was Hell Week and tech rehearsals were more stressful than final exams in any of our classes. And we swore to God that the director hated us because he had to scream at us twice for making too much noise while he attempted in vain to teach two people in the tech booth how to mute microphones. Those days of innocence when you, dear Stage Parents, had to stop yourselves from laughing when we cursed backstage but were heard anyway because, again, the aspiring techies had no idea what they were doing. Neither did we, but we liked to think that we knew how to behave in the Theatre.
Then there were those of you who actually devoted your own time to the cause as well. You didn’t just let your little star perform, you helped construct sets or craft props. Dionysus bless you, without your superb help we would have gone on blundering with what little expertise we had, discussing why the cardboard cutout of Milky White looked more like a camel and how whenever we ourselves tried to change it… she only started looking like an elephant. Without you, we were nothing.
And then you deserve your own Tony Awards for what came next. That harrowing moment when you heard your child say “Mom… Dad… (or Mom/Mom, Dad/Dad)I’m… a Thespian.” Now, I am hoping that you reacted with grace and tact before trying to deter us to get a ‘real job’. I’m not going to shame you for doing that. You were only looking out for us, trying to make sure we didn’t become the starving artist stereotype. It came from a place of pure love. Hopefully, however, when we showed you just how determined we were to become part of that ‘great big brotherhood’ you conceded defeat, put on a big smile that belied the fear and gave your approval. Because that’s when we decided on which college we wanted to go perform with or even launched ourselves into the professional world too soon.
Thank you. Thank you for supporting our meager college existences with care packages and letters that said how you were telling all the neighbors about your ‘Broadway-bound’ son or daughter. Thank you for the late night drunken phone calls while we cried into your ears about how rough rehearsal had been and that we suddenly weren’t sure of ourselves. Thank you most of all, however, for taking that moment and saying “Hey. No. You are good enough. Keep going. You can do it.” A moment like that was worth more than sending us all the money in the world. Because while Theatre will always have a business aspect, it’s the drive to keep going – the ability to see positive light when our lives seem darkest, that got us through those days. That’s what kept us going. Suddenly it wasn’t just proving it to ourselves, we had to prove that you were right about us. That idea finally clicked – that acting is never about “You”, it’s about the “Other” (in most cases, the scene partner, but in this case you.) That life is never about “You”. We act to affect others, to bring a smile or a tune or a wracking sob to another’s face for the price of an admission ticket. You gave us that nagging thought in the back of our heads that we were worth all the exhaustion.
After graduation or those first fumbling years, we’re finally ready. We take the steps to secure our future as Theatre Professionals. And still you were there. Maybe not physically. But you were there in the back of our minds cheering us on. At every periphery you hung over our heads with a resourceful tip or even occasionally a bit of financial help. Trying not to coddle, but still worried. You watched helplessly as your baby packed everything into boxes and moved to somewhere they could ply their trade. Instead of bemoaning it, you embraced it. You still said “I believe in you. I know you can do it. Keep. Going.”
Not all of us are so lucky.
But some of us were.
Thank you. We are going to make you proud.
Brad Pontius is a 23 year old actor and playwright from Cincinnati, Ohio. He has performed in various stage productions and has graduated from Indiana University of South Bend with a BFA in Performance. He has also trained with the New York Theatre Intensives and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.