My New Column ‘Stage Dad’ by Glenn Cook

“I saw my sis go pitter pat. Said I can do that. I can do that.

Ben Cook

Five and a half years ago, my little boy Ben was dancing in the basement of a woman’s house in Maryland, showing off his gymnastics moves, taps and splits. Afterward, he answered a few questions from the woman we arranged to meet and then we left, not knowing what would happen next.

Really, we had no clue how that audition would change all of our lives.

That little boy is now a teen, getting ready to fly back from Los Angeles to New York, where he will train for the role he’s pursued since 2008 – the title part on the national tour of Billy Elliot. And in a couple of weeks, he’ll flashback to that afternoon in the basement when he performs “I Can Do That” in a benefit called “Born for Broadway” at the American Airlines Theater in New York on May 21st at 8 PM.

Things in his life – and the lives of our family – are coming full circle, the pieces of a long and winding path finally connecting. It’s a path that has featured numerous adventures (of the mis and grand variety), including six professional shows in Washington, D.C., two Broadway productions, one national tour, and one cameo in a TV series that was filmed before a two-show day. It also has involved countless auditions, stealth-like schlepping (planes, trains, and motor vehicle versions), two residences, long days, and sleepless nights.

At least it’s not travel soccer.
Glenn Cook

Looking back at those adventures, as well as the lessons learned, is the purpose of this blog/column that Joel Markowitz asked me to write. For the past three years, I’ve written a personal blog – in an attempt to process what has taken place in our lives. Joel very graciously asked me to share some of those stories with his audience.

So let me set the scene for you.

My wife, Jill, and I have four teenagers – two boys and two girls, ranging in age from 14 to 19. My oldest, Nicholas, just was accepted into the BFA Acting program at Elon University in North Carolina. Katharine, the visual artist in the group, is finishing her freshman year in high school in Northern Virginia.

Emma, Ben’s twin sister, is in eighth grade at a different Northern Virginia school. Like her brother, she lives for dance. She also is forging, through hard work and good grades, her own path in life in a far more low-key way than her brother.

On the road with 'Billy Elliot' in Cincinnati.

Now you can see why I like to say, with four kids in four schools in three states, “In our family, the only thing mellow is the drama.”

Over the next several months, I hope you will join us on this journey of what it is like to be a stage parent. We’ll chronicle the ups and downs, answer your questions, seek your thoughts and – I hope – provide you with some insight into the world in which we live.

What a world it is.


Glenn Cook is a writer, editor, photographer, and father of four teenagers, all of whom are involved in the performing arts. His day job is publisher of the American School Board Journal, the oldest continuously published K-12 education magazine in the U.S. He and wife, Jill, live in Lorton, VA.

Joel Blum (George) and Ben Cook (Michael) in 'Billy Elliot the Musical.' Photo by Kyle Froman.

Read Ben Cook’s interview with Joel Markowitz in Schmoozing with Helen Hayes Awards Nominees Ben Cook and Chris Dinolfo.


  1. Thank you for posting your adventures. My youngest son and I just returned from 6.5 months on tour with Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Nat’l tour. He played Chip. I thought about starting a blog or website to give advice to families like ours. There really isn’t anything out there to help you through this kind of experience. We had to learn everything the hard way.
    Looking forward to hearing more about your adventures.
    Tracey Moore

  2. There are stories to tell, and Glenn will do it well. “At least it’s not travel soccer” made me cackle. I personally believe that soccer and hockey parents have it easy by comparison! Looking forward to future columns. Oh, and I love that profile pic.


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