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Family's 'backstage' for girl's first big gig

Brooke Ashley Laine, 6, peeks out of City

Brooke Ashley Laine, 6, peeks out of City Center Stage 1, where she is acting in "The Madrid" through May 5. (April 12, 2013) Credit: Linda Rosier

Brooke Ashley Laine of South Setauket hasn't been to school in nearly four months. She doesn't get to bed until 1 a.m. most nights and doesn't wake up until 11 most mornings. And six nights a week she hangs out with Edie Falco.

Life has certainly been different for 6-year-old Brooke ever since she checked into "The Madrid," the hotel that's also the title of the Off-Broadway play she appears in with Falco that runs through May 5 at City Center Stage 1 in Manhattan.

Brooke's first acting gig (she appears in the first five minutes as an annoying child who rattles Falco's schoolteacher character) also has meant a complete reshuffling of schedules and lifestyles for her entire family. From Tuesday morning until Friday evening, Brooke lives with her mom, Beth Laine, in the midtown apartment they're renting.

"It's fun doing 'The Madrid,' but it's really hard to stay away from my family. And my dog. I sleep with her all the time," says Brooke.

Not that it's been easy for Beth, who's seen her husband about four hours a week since January. Phil Laine, who works as a buyer for a construction company in Whitestone, drives into the city every Friday (he needs to be there by 6 p.m. so he can nab his "magic" parking spot). He then heads over to the apartment where Beth fills him in on Brooke's homework assignments and anything else.

Beth then goes home to Long Island, and father and daughter spend the weekend in the city and drive back to South Setauket after the Sunday matinee. Monday is the one night Brooke, her parents and her brother, Mason, 10, get to have dinner together. On Tuesday it's time to start all over again.

As for what life has been like since Brooke became Off-Broadway-bound, Phil has no problem finding the right word. "Four letters beginning with H and ending in L," he jokes.


Family disruptions

Brooke's job also disrupted holidays (Phil and Mason had their Passover seder with friends in Mount Sinai, Beth and Brooke joined friends in Brooklyn) and vacations (a family cruise was canceled).

For Beth, a stay-at-home mom, the biggest difficulty has been not being in South Setauket for her son during the week. (Her mom, Janis Matterella of Holbrook, has been staying with Mason, whose own accomplishments include a second-degree black belt in tae kwon do.) "It's a balancing act to make him feel just as important" as Brooke, Beth says. "My husband and I literally split it so the time is half and half. I'm trying to make sure that all of my son's needs are met on the Island and my daughter's needs are met in the city, especially with schooling."

The parents of two of Brooke's classmates have been giving the Laines homework packets. Brooke has 21/2 hours of home schooling each day and does her homework backstage.

And then there have been the expenses of rent, meals and transportation. "I'd say it's probably close to what she's getting paid, about $2,500 a month," says Phil, who adds that he's handling the expenses and Brooke's income is being deposited in the bank for her. "I knew this was going to be a break-even deal, but I knew it was a good resume builder for my daughter. And she's made a lot of friends in this industry."

The first month, the Laines stayed in a hotel for a week and then at an apartment of a friend of Phil's for 10 days. Since March 4 they've been renting an apartment on 45th Street that belongs to an actress who's been in Florida for several months.

Though the last few months have been the most intense, Brooke's whirlwind actually began a year ago, when she told her parents she wanted to try modeling. She had some photos taken, but it was the photographer who was taken with Brooke. She contacted an agent friend, and from there Brooke's fledgling career took off. Within two months, Brooke did a photo shoot for Toys R Us and made a Leapfrog commercial. She also made the fourth round of auditions for the recent Broadway production of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." She didn't get the role, but that led to her audition for "The Madrid." This time, she got the part.

"Everyone says she has 'it,' " says Phil. "I'll give someone $500 to tell me what 'it' is."

He should be careful that Leigh Silverman, director of "The Madrid," doesn't take him up on the offer. "Brooke was disarmingly calm in her audition. As opposed to all the other little girls who were performing for me, she was a character-appropriate unsettling, totally focused girl. She has an intensity and concentration that were exactly right for this part," says Silverman.Brooke also has won over her co-star, Falco. "She's fantastic! Brooke is a master," says Falco about sharing the stage with her young colleague. "With Brooke it's always watch and learn."

In her review, Newsday's Linda Winer was charmed by the "enchantingly unnerving Brooke Ashley Laine."


Unexpected procedures

The biggest surprise for Beth and Phil is that neither one is allowed to stay with Brooke backstage during the show. Instead, they must hand Brooke off to a "wrangler," who looks after her in the dressing room. "We assumed I would be going to every show. We had no idea we would just drop her off and then pick her up in three hours," Beth says. "They said, 'Most of the moms enjoy it because they have time to themselves.' And I'm like, 'I don't know you people.' I'm not a stage mom. I'm a typical neurotic mom who hovers over her children."

Phil and Beth said they are aware this may not be the last time they'll have to rearrange their lives for Brooke's theatrical pursuits. "She's already said to her agent, 'This show is closing. Tommy, you got to get me another gig,' " says Phil. (In fact, in the past two weeks, Brooke did a photo shoot for Osh Kosh and was filming a commercial in Glen Cove for Cablevision.)

"I want to do a Broadway show and be on TV, but I really want to do a Broadway show so I can be out of school for years," Brooke says.

If Brooke's Broadway dream should come true, Phil says, he would consider a move to Manhattan. "Until the day my daughter says she doesn't want to do this anymore, my wife and I will do whatever we can," he says. "We'll do anything for our children. My wife and I are on the same page. Whatever it takes, we want them to have the best of everything."

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