In our new advice column, "Hey, Johnny!" (as in: stage door Johnny), an anonymous Broadway veteran answers the burning questions that might just be keeping your theatre-loving soul up at night:
Have a question for Johnny? Ask Johnny a Question! or tweet to us @Playbill using the hashtag #HeyJohnny
Here's Johnny's latest round of reader replies.
Hey, Johnny! I'm a passionate and hardworking high school senior who wants nothing more than to go to school for musical theatre. However, my parents do not support this dream of mine, even though I've done so much research and put in so much time and effort in this passion of mine over the past few years, even having small professional opportunities. I want to pursue theatre, but my parents will not budge on letting me do this. How can I change their mind?
Parents Just Don't Understand
Dear Parents Just Don't Understand:
You can't change their minds — though someday they might come around on their own.
The good news is, you're already doing everything in your power right. You're so passionate about theatre, you use that word twice — impressive at any age, as there's a fair share of 60-somethings who still don't know what they want to be when they grow up.
If only those parents of yours would get it!
I understand entirely. While I had parents who were pretty delighted that I wanted to be an actor, there were other things we didn't see eye to eye on.
When I was eleven, I went through an animal rights phase, primarily because my mom wouldn't let me get a dog at the very same time that she began wearing fur coats. This horrified me, for every conceivable reason. And so I wrote to something like 40 animal rights organizations, the addresses of which I'd researched in the local library — a building that is like the Internet, but with worse lighting and kinder people — and I asked each of these organizations to send me "literature." Literature that I could use to change my mom's mind.
A week later, the packages started arriving — giant packets of propaganda-like material, with gruesome images of stomped-on foxes and battered raccoons. I stuffed the pockets of my mom's furs with this irrefutable proof that she wasn't just supporting a horrible industry — she was actually part of it, and hurting not just these animals, but me.
The end of the story, I'm afraid, is the saddest part of all. My mom found the pamphlets and summarily dismissed my entire effort as one-sided and theatrical. I was eleven. A drama kid. Obvi it was theatrical.
And so I cried out my eyes and then became a vegetarian and stopped wearing leather.
Twenty-ish years later: I eat some meat, now, I wear some leather, I've evened the theatrics out a bit. My point in all this? Someday, Parents Just Don't Understand, you may actually discovered that musical theatre acting isn't your passion anymore — or that it won't be your entire career. You may discover you'd rather be a publicist or a postal worker or a preacher. But also, hey: Maybe you will stay steadfastly on the speeding train that is the exact theatrical vision you have for your future self. The only thing I can guarantee you is that your parents will have to come around to "the theatre thing" on their own terms.
We all want it to be like when Lauryn Hill's mom walks in at the end of "Sister Act 2" and hears her sing "Joyful, Joyful," and is all: Wait, maybe my daughter is actually amazing. But real life isn't like the movies — and certainly not like musicals — and so here's my advice: You might have to muddle through the next four years getting a "sensible" degree. It will force you to work harder to attain a proper theatrical education than your peers who go to Michigan or CMU or wherever will have to. But guess what? By continuing to carve your own way, without parents there to open every door with their pocketbook, or stand in the wings telling you that you ought to be a star, you are going to be forced to test the assumption of your dream. That this is what you are destined to do. And if, four years after getting your BA in English later, you still want to be the next Sutton Foster, it doesn't matter whether your parents "let you" or not. You'll be a grown-up, kiddo.
Recently I visited my mom again. I noticed her closets were empty of the furs, and when I inquired about it — gently, as it still felt sore to me — my mom said she'd gotten rid of them some time ago. "They just didn't seem like me anymore," she said, not seeming to recall at all how much that sentiment would have meant to me as a child.
Sometimes people change. Not just parents but their kids, too. Focus on yourself, and keep pushing your dream uphill. Your parents might just sneak around and meet you on the other side, long after you even need them to.
Break a leg,
Click through to read Johnny's reply to BFA Blues, who writes in asking if the money saved by getting a BA in Musical Theatre is a better option than higher-priced BFA programs.
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