For teen performer, escaping the ‘dead zone’ requires a certain ‘Mindset’
Many child actors who start their professional careers in the Washington, D.C., area take the same path that my son did, performing in Ford’s Theatre’s A Christmas Carol.
A Christmas Carol, like most shows, has a window of time for child performers. Ford’s, for example, casts children ages 5 to 13 and you must be able to fit in the costumes – with minor alterations – that are used from year to year. For kids interested in performing, it is a wonderful opportunity to get a taste for professional theatre, a recognized and solid credit on your resume, and a chance to become acquainted with many of the fine actors who work in the Washington area theatre community.
Ben’s first professional role, in 2007, was playing Tiny Tim — in alternating performances because most of the children’s roles are double cast. It was such a good experience that he continued to pursue theatre, returning to the show the following year in the roles of Urchin and Ignorance.
Most important, he became great friends with kids that he remains in touch with today. That’s one reason I’m thrilled to see so many of them working together again in Mindset, a surrealist rock opera written by Carol child alum Jace Casey. An Arlington resident, Casey workshopped the show with his friends in March and will remount it at the Capital Fringe Festival from July 14-28th.
Jace, who turns 17 in August, says ‘the dead zone‘ that many child performers face between hitting puberty and turning 18 inspired the show. Mindset alternates between reality and an artist’s subconscious as he deals with “themes of fear, self-consciousness, limits, and finally liberation.”
“When I first entered the dead zone, I was completely broken-down and I thought I would never perform again,” says Casey, who played the Urchin and Ignorance roles the year before Ben. “But after some convincing from my parents, I decided to treat the dead zone as a time period for training and experimenting with the performing arts … For this run, I cast several professional teen performers who are dealing with the same issue.”
Casey, who has performed in commercials, regional theatre, television, and several independent films, developed his first show with friends during his sophomore year in high school. But like many kids who find their passion early, he says he’s “always been writing and making up stories.”
“When I was younger I would put on mock late-night TV shows before bedtime with guests and musical numbers and the whole shebang, so it’s always been there,” he says. “I originally saw creating shows as only a temporary replacement for acting. But now I can’t imagine doing anything but creating shows. I know I’m going to somehow fuse creating with performing for my profession.”
Casey is quick to point to the support his parents have given him throughout the process, saying they’ve “been amazing at following my lead.”
“They’re the ones who put me back together and encourage me to keep at it,” he says. “When I was younger, they did everything. They drove me to New York for auditions, signed me up for voice lessons, dealt with agents, etc. But now, I need them more for advice and inspiration.
“I know I’m extremely lucky to have parents that support me to this extent. I seriously can’t imagine pushing myself this far if it weren’t for my mom and dad.”
For more information about Mindset, visit their website , and on Kickstarter.
First Congregational United Church of Christ -945 G St NW, in Washington, DC.
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