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Nepotism? Don’t be silly.

Ah nepotism, the practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs. I used to lament the fact that my parents were the least connected people on the planet when I was ambitiously pursuing an acting career in Chicago and Los Angeles. I remember thinking how much easier my life would have been if I’d been sired by Aaron Spelling or been the lone Baldwin sister. The closest I ever got to either was a guest starring role on Melrose Place and a film part in “Fall Out” with Daniel Baldwin. Neither of the patriarchs opted to employ me full time or adopt me after my stellar performances.

So when my twelve year old son, Levi, asked if he could audition for a role in the holiday play I had written for Theatre Artists Studio this year, I leapt at the chance to help him move ahead in his acting career. “I will ask the director if you can audition,” I told him, “But don’t get your hopes up. There’s really only one role for a child.”

Levi did audition and was immediately cast in the role. He did an awesome job reading for the director and I doubt anyone would have been better. After all, I had written the role of the bike-pedaling tween using him as inspiration. But I made it clear to the director, who is a colleague and friend, that I had no stake in how he cast the show. It was his job to put the best actors in the roles and create a cohesive ensemble. Whether or not Levi fit into that mix was entirely his decision.

All that being said, I know that realistically it would have been awkward had he chosen to bypass Levi and cast another child in the role. It would have hurt Levi, and although I tried not to care, it would have hurt me too. There was just something silently implied by the fact that I had written the play and had requested an audition slot.

The ball is entirely in Levi’s court now. It’s up to him to show his hard working ethics, his memorization skills, his willingness and ability to follow direction. I will be noticeably absent from rehearsals and readings, opting only to drop him and pick him up at the theatre door when he’s called for rehearsals. I may have opened a door for him. But it’s up to him to step through that door and make the most of that opportunity.

I don’t feel guilty about helping my son achieve something he really wanted. I believe it will be a great experience for everyone involved. And if it isn’t, it’ll be one heck of a learning experience. A few years ago, Levi was cast as the lead in another production and got fired two weeks prior to the opening because he was having trouble staying focused and attentive on stage. It was a business decision . But that didn’t ease his or my wounded spirit. He was devastated, I even more so.

But that experience of failure taught him a lot. It taught him that I can’t make everything right all the time, that people aren’t always forgiving, that life sometimes hurts — a lot. It’s taken a while for Levi to want to be on stage again. I’m proud of him for getting back on the horse. And I pray every night that this experience will go well for him.

So here’s to nepotism! May it be employed cautiously. May every one of us have some opportunity to help out our kids at some point along their career paths, and may we all have the wisdom and self restraint to let our kids fail or succeed based on their own performance.

About gettrich

Debra Rich Gettleman is a professional actor, playwright and journalist living in Oklahoma City with her husband Mark and two amazing boys, Levi and Eli.

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