Okay, I know what a headshot is, in a high-level way at least. But every time somebody says anything about a headshot, I absolutely crack up laughing because for me, it brings back memories of my old friend Paula. We were backstage soldiers marching together to further the cause of youth theatre on and around the Planet Ann Arbor. We were board members in an organization that had made a difference in our childrens’ lives and we worked like dogs, especially Paula, who had the unenviable job of organizing the organization’s stock of costumes, props, and set pieces. In a crumbling old insect/rodent/bum-infested farmhouse that we were able to rent for a song. Yes, once there were actual homeless folks squatting in there. I know, I know, “bum” is not a politically correct term. Paula did a lot of other often odious stuff that I won’t mention for lack of space.
One of her most important unsung jobs was that of helping the beleaguered administrator (that would be me) keep sane. How? By being one of the few board members that *regularly* replied to the email messages I would send to the board (or a subset of the board) asking for assistance in dealing with this or that problem that was beyond my bailiwick. Problem parents were one of the worst. If you were a parent who didn’t “get” our organization, things didn’t always work out particularly well. This was a *theatre* guild, not a soccer team. Rehearsal schedules happened when they happened and, in this particular organization, being known by your family, church, or school as a “gifted” actor/actress didn’t automatically land you the title role. We had a rather unique philosophy that *everyone* who auditioned would get a role and that the cast was an ensemble. One in which *every* actor, no matter how many lines or time spent on stage, was an equal participant and *every* actor was responsible not only for mastering their own role but supporting the other actors in their roles, no matter the size. Paula and I “got” it. Over the years our kids played roles from “Tree #3” to major Shakespearean characters and everything in between. There may have been times when the cast list was disappointing when our kids first saw it but by the time the stage was struck, they didn’t want it to end. We appreciated what the guild did for our kids and tried our best to support it. Even when we didn’t agree with something. Like “why the heck *can’t* we have a comprehensive rehearsal schedule for the next month. The soccer moms get one.”
Sigh. The soccer moms were hard enough to deal with. Then there were the folks who actually believed their 8-year-old (or whatever) had a real future as an actor. Kids with actual agents who had done commercials and stuff. Our organization generally puts out a pretty high quality production, given that it operates on a shoe-string budget with volunteers and often inexperienced actors. It just isn’t the right thing for kids with professional resumes. And headshots, fer kee-reist. Mainly because the parents are involved in the wrong way. They try to hang around and coach the kid instead of figuring out how they can volunteer: costumes, anyone?
And so, back in 2004, I was registering kids for that summer’s two-week day camp. A day camp that’s run in the basement of a building behind the UM football stadium. It isn’t air-conditioned. Lunch, snacks, and some of the classes take place outside on a rather small, barren patch of grass next to an intermittently busy road with buses, etc. Crazy as it is, it’s a popular camp and, since I first bribed Mus Musculus to attend it 15 years ago, I have been amazed at what it does for children. That’s to set the stage. Someone from out of state emailed me to ask if her wonderfully, fantastically talented agented kid could attend our camp. (Of course, if you pay the fee.) The other choice was Interlochen. (Er, if yer kid is so good, I’d choose Interlochen…) She bandied me about a bit. “Well, maybe my child needs a break from high-stress auditions,” or something like that. Roight. So if your kid does *not* get a “lead role” with our scrappy little no-diva organization, will she be upset? And who will have to deal with that? Me? Yiiiiy! And she also wrote that she could provide a blasted headshot! Yikes! That’s when I emailed my friend Paula to get a reality check and to help me wordsmith my reply back to this woman. Paula replied that she tried to work on a response but she found herself writing “we don’t need no stinkin’ headshot”. True. We took any kid from anywhere. I don’t know if I can find that email now. It may not have made the transition from my Powerbook to my Macbook.
Paula died unexpectedly in December of 2004. We went on with life the weekend after she died, performing a play that she helped with and would’ve wanted us to go on with. The show must go on. I still miss her. I can’t believe it has been almost five years…