Artist of the month: freshman Shayan Hooshmand

Written by Stina Chang

The Oracle: How did you get started in theatre?
Shayan Hooshmand: I showed no interest for theatre when I was young, but I was always sing- ing, running around and just being crazy. So, in 2010, The Outreach Production from Palo Alto Children’s Theatre held auditions for the play “Stinky Cheeseman.” I was in third grade at that time and my mom forced me to audition. I really didn’t want to do it at first. I actually remember thinking it was one of the worst things in my life at the moment! Afterward though, I really enjoyed [theatre], so I just continued with it.

TO: How did you get from Palo Alto Children’s Theatre to Broadway?
SH: During the summer when I was in third grade, I started participating in productions hosted by the Palo Alto Children’s Theatre. From then on, I attended almost all their main stage auditions. Sometimes I would get big parts, sometimes small, but it really didn’t matter to me; I loved doing all of them. It was around 2012 when I researched for other production companies around the Bay Area, one of them being Broadway by the Bay. I auditioned for “Oliver” there in 2013. I was really nervous to do something outside of youth theatre, but I got in! It was a really great first experience performing with adults.

TO: What advice would you give to other kids?
SH: Audition for everything. Don’t be afraid to take risks. If you go to an audition and bomb it, so what? Learn from it and do better for the next one. Every audition is a learning experience, and that is something I try to teach myself. If you’re confident, then others are confident in you, too. If I hadn’t worked at this for the past few years, I wouldn’t have gotten cast in “School of Rock” and “Oliver.”

TO: How has the Broadway experience influenced you?
SH: It was my first real professional performing experience. As a kid who wants to be an actor or an artist, adults will tell you to have a backup plan. It’s a hard job to maintain. This made me feel like I can do it because I already did it as a kid. Being in [the Broadway] environment, although I know it will still be hard, will help me so much when I’m an adult and when I [want to pursue this job].

TO: Which was your favorite out of all the productions you’ve been in?
SH: My favorite role was probably Oliver, in “Oliver.” I did this production with Broadway by the Bay in Redwood City. It was the very first show I did with actual adults, not kids playing adults. The other kids in the show and I become really close, and I also became friends with lots of the adults. The whole environment felt more professional and made me feel important, like I had a purpose. It didn’t feel quite the same in a youth production. It felt real.

TO: How is Palo Alto Children’s Theatre different from Broadway?
SH: Palo Alto Children’s Theatre is a youth theatre company. What’s really great about them is that they’re not-for-profit, so they’re not all about the money. They care about the product of the show, and both the adults and the kids work really hard. Surprisingly, a couple shows I did at the Children’s Theatre were more stressful for me than “School of Rock.” In Broadway, the group of child actors had these caretakers called “Guardians,” or as we lovingly call them, “Wranglers.” They’re the ones who watch and take care of the kids. That took a lot of the stress off me because they were always with me and helping me be responsible.

TO: What were your first Broadway performance and audition process like?
SH: My first production for New York Broad- way was “School of Rock.” When I auditioned for it in January 2015, the experience was totally different—there were a thousand people in line. I only had 10 to 15 seconds to sing for them to determine if they wanted me to perform again. They called me back the next round where I sang a full song and read a scene. They called me back again the next week for the dance audition and musician audition. Each round they would eliminate more kids, and finally on the last day, they told my mom that they really wanted me to be in the show and they’d find a place for me. I can’t tell you how excited I was leaving the audition room that day.

TO: What is one important lesson that you learned from being on Broadway?
SH: I learned to be more disciplined. It really prepared me for life in general during the process. I used to procrastinate a lot before. Sometimes, for example, when I had to study for a test, I would wait until the last minute to do it. But now I actually sit down ahead of time and start learning gradually rather than cramming the night before. It’s so important to be prepared in any situation, because then you can use that time you have with others to focus on things you can only do in that workspace. For example, it’s hard to learn the choreography to a dance that has 10 other people in it alone at home, but it’s easy to memorize the song the dance goes to. Being prepared also garners respect, and I feel like I respect myself, too, when I’m prepared.