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Casting raises question of nepotism at Children's Theater

Original post made by PaloAltoTaxpayer, Crescent Park, on Jun 16, 2010

With the Palo Alto Children's Theater (PACT) in the spotlight of late, given the debate over budgets and fees, I think it is appropriate to raise the issue of inclusion - or lack thereof.

One of this summer's "hot dog suppertime shows" at PACT is "Busytown," a musical that just opened this evening. There were A LOT of eager children of different ages and talent who auditioned for parts. Of course, the directors understandably couldn't cast everyone, and the majority (including my own child) were cut. Sometimes you get in, sometimes you don't. That's how it works.

That would all be fine except for a disturbing problem that I learned about later: nepotism in the casting by the director, and what appears to be complete disregard for all the other talented and enthusiastic children who missed out because of this nepotism.

I am a big supporter of the PACT. I am all for using our tax money and private donations to keep it free (at least for residents). We usually attend most shows the theater puts on. I saw this one too, on opening night. But it is inexcusable that the director of the summer's ONLY CHILDREN'S MUSICAL has cast not one, but both of her children as central characters in her own production. They even got major solo parts in a mainly ensemble-based musical. This was pointed out to me today, and I was taken aback. (Now I want to make it clear that this is not an attack on the children. They're just kids who are as eager as everyone else to participate.)

How could the PACT allow this to happen, knowing how difficult it was to get into the musical? Apparently, this director's family is closely connected with the theater. However, there is no lack of directors who cast in a more equitable way, based on performance at auditions. Otherwise, what's the point of auditions? Alternatively, cast as many kids as you can, even for small roles, but please don't include your own children. I believe this is a policy within PAUSD, in fact. If you direct/produce, you don't cast your own kids. Otherwise, don't use MY TAX MONEY or our Friends' donation money to fund your own personal, family projects.

I am told by parents who are acquainted with the director and her kids that during the auditions, the children were explicitly instructed not to call her "Mom," but rather the title that the others were asked to use. Additionally, I went to the show today, and noticed that the director used what may be her maiden name in the playbill. I am guessing this is to avoid exposing the obvious connection to the general public. This tells me that deep down inside, she knows that what she is doing is wrong.

The Palo Alto Children's Theater needs to clean up its act and not permit things like this to happen in the future. The theater is for ALL of our children, not just for an exclusive few who happen to be close to the organization. This sort of incident mars the institution's reputation and credibility. We have to remember that it's all about the kids, not about grown-up politics. Why don't we keep it that way?


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