PROUD MOM BECOMES STAGE MOM Movie audition brings out the stage mother and actress in parent and child


Randi Henderson, of The Sun's features staff, took her 12-year-old daughter Cindy to answer a casting call for pre-teen girls for a movie to be filmed in Baltimore this summer. Here are their versions of the event.

We all have something of the stage mother in us, we mothers who are proud of our children and want to share with the world what treasures we have bred.

So when the casting call came via a notice in last week's paper, I -- and scores of other mothers of 9- to 12-year-old girls -- hustled our little darlings over to Catonsville Community College for a stab at a role in a major motion picture. Who knows when another chance like this might come our way?

The auditions yesterday were for a role in a movie adaptation of Alice McDermott's novel "That Night," a coming-of-age story told from the perspective of a pre-teen girl. Baltimore was one of 10 cities in which Mason & Moran Casting, a local agency, conducted a search.

My daughter Cindy and I had no idea what to expect. I've never acted in my life. She says she wants to be an actress when she grows up but has only held roles in elementary school plays at this point in her barely-fledgling career.

"Just act like yourself," I counseled as we drove to the audition. "Mother, that's the worst advice you could give an actress," was her reply.

Because she was at the top end of the age limit called for, and because she looks older than her 12 years, I thought Cindy's chances of getting the part were probably pretty slim. She took my attempts to prepare her for disappointment as criticism of her ability, so I backed off.

I expected masses of girls to be lined up, but it was more like a steady trickle, with 15 or so in the auditorium at one time. The audition consisted of about a five-minute question-and-answer period on the stage, three girls at a time. No singing, no dancing, no reading lines.

You could tell, though, that some of these girls (and mothers) were a lot more serious about this than we were. The 8x10 glossies were a dead giveaway. We'd been asked to bring with us a snapshot, a requirement we fulfilled with a Polaroid shot just before leaving home. But some of these girls had press kits! And from brief conversations and eavesdropping, we figured out that the assemblage included baton twirlers and ballet dancers, singers and beauty contest winners.

"When they sit on the stage, you feel right away if they're right," Gregg Mason, whose agency conducted the search, said of the star quality he was looking for. "Emotional level," he added, was more important than any particular physical type. "We don't want her to be overly mature or worldly, but coming of age."

In addition to the hundreds of girls who have answered the open casting calls in Baltimore and other cities, Mr. Mason has also been interviewing girls who have been recommended by agents, theatrical companies or managers. The filming, which will be in Baltimore, will probably begin in August and last about three months.

As for compensation, Mr. Mason mentioned the $50,000 that young Macaulay Culkin earned for "Home Alone" as a salary a young unknown might aspire to. Having an agent for such negotiations probably wouldn't be a bad idea, he said.

"There's not much difference between what you pay an adult unknown and a child unknown," he said. "The amount also

depends on how much the producer loves you and wants to throw the money at you. But don't push it because there's always another kid behind you, who will take what you turned down."

As for us, we heard the same thing all the other girls heard as they left the stage -- "Thank you."

I guess they'll call us; we shouldn't call them.

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