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.

Up up and away (from the movie theatre as fast as our little legs could take us).

Like many of you, I couldn’t wait to take my kids to see the movie “Up” last weekend. We rarely go to the movies as a family. Eli, my 5 year old, has sort of a movie phobia. (I think it’s the noise and darkness that freaks him out), and Levi, my 8 year old, couldn’t possibly be less interested in sitting in one place for 120 minutes watching a stagnant video screen. But, is as usually the case, I forget who we are and imagine that we’re an ordinary American family who loves the cinema and I cart us all out on opening day of a hot new movie only to be reminded that this is a totally futile exercise.

It started out kind of weird. This large short man in a too-tight jacket that wouldn’t quite button, got up on the stage at Cine Capri and welcomed us to the theatre. He made it a point to introduce the film and let us know that he was there for us should we have any issues or grievances during our time in the theatre. Then the half hour of previews began. The sound was so out of control loud that my kids started to freak out and rock catatonically as they covered their ears and screamed. Yikes. I immediately approached the large short man and insisted they lower the volume, which they did which kind of surprised me and shocked my friend completely. “Are you ever embarrassed to say anything?” she asked me. “No.” I casually replied. “And anyway, he invited me to share my opinion.”

The movie finally started at a decreased decibel level and within the first three minutes I started to sob uncontrollably. This was a sad film. Never mind the fact that it was animated, Pixar and supposedly for children, it was downright depressing. And since I’m obsessed with aging, grief and loss, it hit way too close to home for me. I pretty much proceeded to weep throughout the film.

By the time the terrifying Doberman appeared, I was starting to think that maybe this excellently crafted piece of cinema was not a kid’s flick. My little guy shrieked at the sight of the menacing dogs and it all went downhill from there. Through my tears I could see my older son fidgeting and my youngest was clinging to me as Carl struggled to save the bird and avoid canine catastrophe. Finally my boys couldn’t take it any longer. The fighting was too much, too scary, too realistic? Who knows what it was that set them over the edge. But whatever it was, they wanted out. My husband was really enjoying the film. So I happily volunteered to remove myself and the boys from the theatre.

We waited outside for the last 20 minutes, them shaken and terrified, me exhausted with tear-swollen eyes and a runny nose. Finally the rest of our party emerged from the show.
“So, how’d you like it?” I asked. “It was great,” they replied. “Not much of a kid’s movie,” I added. “No. I had heard it really wasn’t.” my husband responded. “Um…why didn’t you tell me that?” I inquired peevishly. “Well,” he continued, “you really wanted to see it and I wasn’t really sure…so I figured we’d give it a shot.”

“OK, here’s the rule for next time,” I chirped with a saccharine lilt, “Anyone who knows we’re about to embark on a potentially disastrous mission with our children is hereby obligated to say something BEFORE we actually do it. Agreed?”

“Agreed,” he sheepishly smiled. “Oh, and by the way, I got tickets for all of us to go see ‘Monsters Vs. Aliens’ at the IMAX this weekend, how does that sound?”

I looked at him dubiously. “You’ve got to be kidding, right?”

He just smiled and waltzed away.