Pregnancy Handbook for Actors and Stage Managers Pt. 1 [PAAL]

Holy moly, have things taken off!! I swear I’ve been collecting a million stories, but before I can get to my daughter’s toddler lyrics or recaps of milk-stained auditions, we’ve got some important projects underway!!

Parent Artist Advocacy League for the Performing Arts (PAAL) is working with members from Actor’s Equity Association (AEA) to collect info for a Pregnancy Handbook for Actors and Stage Managers. We’ve seen responses flood in and we’ve started to record needs and solutions into a document to provide legal counsel in order to shape protection for pregnant actors and SMs. I KNOW, RIGHT?!?! I’m over the moon!! If you know me, this means my geek+theater loving+advocacy+mama cylinders are ALL RUNNING AT THE SAME TIME which means I am THE HAPPIEST CREATURE ALIVE!!! Seriously. Dancing at the keyboard as we speak.

Want to contribute before the we close submissions? Check out this Facebook link if you’re an actor or stage manager with pregnancy experience, advice, or questions you feel would be relevant to a performing arts handbook.

To read more on the background for collection, check out the PAAL Blog article by clicking the image below:

janko-ferlic-223240-2

Thank you to everyone who has participated and shared these intimate stories. We hope to make this handbook accessible, relevant, and used for the betterment of pregnant artists from this point on – both in their self-care as well as on the job treatment.

[Heads up! We’re not stopping at actors and stage managers! We’ve already received interest from people to gather info for pregnancy handbooks for directors/choreographers, designers, tech, etc! Comment below if you’re interested in being kept in the loop!]

Xo,

Auditioning Mom.

Advertisements

What She Looks Like: Regina Peluso, Artistic Director/Choreographer

I first noticed Regina Peluso on social media talking about a grant her company recently received to cover childcare. Since that first connection, I have had an absolute blast getting to know her and her passion for performing artists, especially parents in the theatre and dance world. Since then, she’s become the Minneapolis rep for PAAL – Parent Artist Advocacy League for the Performing Arts and will be heading up the PAAL events for the twin cities parents this fall. She not only dedicates her time to her children and her career, she also steers the ship of her own theatrical dance company, COLLIDE.

Regina exemplifies what it means not only to be a parent artist making it work, but also as a collaborative innovator wanting to make the system work for other parents as well. Read below for her inspiring perspective and fundraising for childcare. I get so pumped reading about this brilliant performing mama in a leadership position. She’s just getting started and already changing the game!

“The future of theater depends on our ability to build community and foster a younger generation of theater patrons and aficionados.”
Regina Peluso, Choreographer/Artistic Director COLLIDE THEATRICAL DANCE COMPANY


BW1A8447 (1)
Regina Peluso – Choreographer/Artistic Director

NAME: Regina Peluso

PROFESSION: Artistic Director/Choreographer

STATUS: Daughter Philamena recently turned 2 and son Branning is 6 months

What SURPRISED/SURPRISES you about having a child and working your performing arts life:

So many things! I had no idea how much my life would change becoming a parent.  My priorities have shifted focus. As I am so grateful to be a mother, I do not want to miss out on a single moment, but struggle (as we all do) to find balance as an artist. Prior to children I would devote most of my free time to working on my craft, and now as a mother of two very little ones I barely have time to shower. I have been floored by the price of childcare for two children, making my work as a freelance choreographer and newly founded Artistic Director of a non-profit near impossible.  

What EXCITED/EXCITES you about having a child and working your performing arts life:

I recently won a grant that allows my dance company to offer free childcare during our Company Dance classes. We are lucky to have office and class space in The Ritz Theater in northeast Minneapolis, and I converted my office and smaller dance studio space into a childcare room. It is a gift to be able to bring my children to a theater twice a week. After our Company Class, the children routinely join us in the dance studio for their turn to run around and play “freeze dance”. The joy on my daughters face as she creatively explores with her new friends is outstanding. 

Daycare Collide1
Collide Theatrical Dance Company Children in the Space

Our annual fundraiser raised funds for a “Dance Moms” fund that provides free childcare for all our artist parents during rehearsal. I hope to continue to grow this program. There is a wealth of talent in the Twin Cities who formerly worked in New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles-but moved to Minneapolis to raise a family. Keeping the work of the artists alive is essential. Bob Fosse always said he loved working with older dancers because “they have soul”. Losing these dance moms from our stages and from our company would be a huge loss for the community. But, our artists are paid an hourly rate for rehearsals that is equal or less than what many of us pay for childcare. In addition, paying taxes on childcare on top of that increases the incentive for women in all fields to forgo working until their children are in school.

What CHALLENGED/CHALLENGES you about having a child and working your performing arts life:  

I founded a non-profit dance company in 2013. Like many entrepreneurs founding a start-up, I have not taken home a paycheck due to lack of resources. We have been able survive on our ticket sales (which is a huge gift) and a small pool of private donors, but funding from foundation grants is not realistic before we hit our 5-year mark, government grants take a lot of time to write and are highly competitive, and individual donor cultivation entails the building of relationships over time. I am blessed to have a very supporting husband with a stable job, and have made other income through teaching dance and booking acting work. However, now if I want to work for my company, it comes with a childcare expense. While I do not want to give up the work I have started, I struggle to not pull my family down in the process to keep the company growing.

BW1A8472
Collide Theatrical Dance Company – Childcare Joy

What you LOOK FORWARD to having a child and working your performing arts life:

I want to inspire and foster creativity, strength, perseverance, service and empathy in both of my children.  A life in Arts teaches you these gifts. I also think it is essential to have parents who work for what they believe in and makes them happy even though it entails some sacrifice. Additionally, I believe that it is more important now than ever that women are seen in leadership roles. I want to set a strong example for my daughter. The future of theater depends on our ability to build community and foster a younger generation of theater patrons and aficionados. Whether my children choose an artist’s life, I hope a love and appreciation of theater and dance follows them through adulthood.


Wow. I am so moved by her heart for moms who create. I couldn’t feel more kinship. If you’re in Minneapolis, I hope you get a chance to check out and connect with this fierce mama artist.

BW1A8563
Regina Peluso – Choreographer/Artistic Director

Great Quotes from Regina:

“After our Company Class, the children routinely join us in the dance studio for their turn to run around and play “freeze dance”. The joy on my daughters face as she creatively explores with her new friends is outstanding.”

– Regina Poluso, Choreographer/Artistic Director

“Bob Fosse always said he loved working with older dancers because ‘they have soul’ Losing these dance moms from our stages and from our company would be a huge loss for the community.”

– Regina Poluso, Choreographer/Artistic Director

“The future of theater depends on our ability to build community and foster a younger generation of theater patrons and aficionados. Whether my children choose an artist’s life, I hope a love and appreciation of theater and dance follows them through adulthood.”

– Regina Poluso, Choreographer/Artistic Director


More profiles coming soon!

If you are or you know a performing artist professional and mom who wants to share thoughts, answer these questions and shoot them to me at this contact form!

What She Looks Like: Carmelita Becnel, Stage Manager

Many artist moms have found community online. With the experience understood only by those in the throes of crazy schedules, teething, rehearsal, strike, diapers, and identity questions, motherhood in theatre can create a tight bond rather quickly, simply by its existence. The reward of this tight bond, of course, is the inspiration created by meeting new people raising little people while they pursue making art. With much admiration, I’ve made a new friend in one such incredible stage manager and twin mom, Carmelita Becnel. Her awesome twins are also featured in our Children in the Space photo essay!

“When I got pregnant, I felt as if I was committing this overtly rebellious, ground-breaking act by choosing to have children AND continuing my work.”
– Carmelita Becnel, Production Stage Manager

From her engagement with each issue or woman, even online, her conviction is palpable. Reading through her interview, the answers below are no different – all honest, to the point, and unapologetic in regard to this revolutionary act of motherhood in spite of the artist status-quo. I felt reinvigorated for our cause all over again, and, with delight, get to include photos of her children in the space for a second piece here on Auditioning Mom. Carmelita’s powerful language in this interview calls out the stigma of motherhood and career. Her openness about the joy of motherhood in the theatre in spite of the obstacles advocates for the visibility mothers in our profession deserve. Get fired up – and enjoy!


2014-11-07 21.08.22
Carmelita Becnel – Mother-Artist/Stage Manager

Name:  Carmelita Becnel

Profession:  Production Stage Manager

Status:  Mom of almost 4-year old twins (on 4/22/17!); working for the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University.

What surprised/surprises you about having a child and working your performing arts life:
Seeing children around the theater has been a rarity my entire career!  Pre-marriage/children, I once worked with an actress with a six-month old child, who was given grief by the costume designer because her body had changed and she couldn’t wear the costumes as designed.  I comforted and supported the actress as much as I could, but in all honesty, I secretly pitied her for making this career “mistake”.  I’ve seen, and been a part of, condolatory reactions to pregnancy announcements by theater makers.

So, when I got pregnant, I felt as if I was committing this overtly rebellious, ground-breaking act by choosing to have children AND continuing my work.  I’m a Stage Manager, after all – if I can calmly manage groups of people of varying temperaments in a variety of situations, I can surely deal with two infants! My biggest supporter/cheerleader at the time was the Chair of the Program in Theater here at Princeton University, Tim Vasen, who convinced me that the spaces of theater are the perfect “land of imagination” for children.  I began bringing the babies in for very limited visits; I was devastated that I could no longer commit to the time required to supervise shows, so these visits initially felt frustrating because of the limited work I could actually accomplish.  On the other hand, I loved seeing the babies in my workspace, watching them crawl across the rehearsal room and learn to stand on the stage while the casts, student SMs, directors, and crews ooh’d and ahhh’d and interacted with them. 

FB_IMG_1495732688560
Special help with choreography rehearsal.

But, that first year was an emotional rollercoaster – I went from the very thorough, efficient, problem-solving, calm and collected SM to this weeping, exhausted, can’t-put-a-thought-together blob of humanity.  Along with the joy of the babies came the sinking depression of feeling useless and stupid. It struck me, daily, that stage managing ≠ being a mom.  I had NOT anticipated this.

The next year was all about seeking out that elusive “work-life balance”.  It took the full year to begin to understand that my life and focus had changed, FOR THE BETTER, and yet I could still do the thing I loved for so long – theater. 

What excited/excites you about having a child and working your performing arts life:
My children are a fixture at my work!  Everyone here knows (or knows about) them, and they are always welcomed with open arms.  [NOTE:  The exception is since they have been “three-nagers”, they exhibit all the nasty, smart-mouthing defiance of teenagers.  When that starts to raise it’s ugly head, I remove them from the situation to avoid any/further disruption.]

FB_IMG_1495732643191
“Most importantly, they understand what Mommy (and Daddy – a designer!) does!” – Carmelita Becnel, Stage Manager

I absolutely adore that the children are well-loved and welcomed, and that they are learning so much about what a performance space is (we have a variety, and not always a designated “theater”), the job of each person on the show, and the spaces that support theater (costume shops, box office, scene shops, etc.).  They share the joy I have for making theater.  They are engaged by everything about it.  Most importantly, they understand what Mommy (and Daddy – a designer) does!  Some of my happiest moments are when they mimic what they’ve seen (“Look Mommy, I’m acting”, “Look Mom, I’m a costume designer”, “I’m directing them, Mom”, “We’re building a set”, “Hold, please!”).
I feel as if the work-life-balance-thing is finally finding some balance.  ALMOST.

What you look forward to about having a child and working your performing arts life:
I can’t wait for my children to be able to actually sit through our shows and DISCUSS them with me!  That would be magic.

I also look forward to them just being old enough to sit still and entertain themselves while Mommy’s working – I’M REALLY LOOKING FORWARD TO THAT.

I don’t necessarily hope they seek a career in theater, but I do hope they try it out in some fashion:  acting, dancing, singing, directing, designing.  They do these things already at home. 

FB_IMG_1495732599439
“I get to see the theater experience through their eyes, and it’s wonderful.” – Carmelita Becnel, Stage Manager

What you think people should know about having a child and working your performing arts life:
CHILDCARE.  It’s all about the childcare.  You can’t do your job unless you can have it, affordably, and no theaters I know let you bring your child/ren to work.  My husband and I live far from our families, so we don’t have them as the traditional resource for babysitting, and we both work in theater, so our work schedules are all over the place.  Not only do we pay out the wazoo for “regular” nine-to-five, Monday – Friday daycare, we have to separately hire babysitters for evenings and weekends while we’re working.  The costs are tremendous, and I feel, unnecessary.  I’m beginning to remember why I was determined not to get married nor have children so that I could have a career.

Ask questions, seek out resources, do what you need to encourage theaters to provide some sort of childcare at work or in place of that, welcome theater makers AND their children in the workplace. 

It’s ludicrous that we enjoy a profession which tackles all facets of being human, while it is a profession in which the choice to have a family is an unspoken “curse”.FB_IMG_1495732621857

Bonus/optional:  Your favorite mommy-artist story (funny/sad/ugly/regular – your choice)
My most favorite day so far was bringing the twins to start a tech in a theater, and watching them interact with the cast and learning what people where doing, followed by a check-in of a show in rehearsal, in which the twins’ presence was not only embraced, but they were pulled into the scenes.  The twins took to acting in the moment like second nature!  They loved that day, and still talk about it.  I get to see the theater experience through their eyes, and it’s wonderful.


Some quotes that impacted me:

“I’ve seen, and been a part of, condolatory reactions to pregnancy announcements by theater makers.”

– Carmelita Becnel, Stage Manager

“It took the full year to begin to understand that my life and focus had changed, FOR THE BETTER, and yet I could still do the thing I loved for so long – theater.”

– Carmelita Becnel, Stage Manager

“When I got pregnant, I felt as if I was committing this overtly rebellious, ground-breaking act by choosing to have children AND continuing my work.  I’m a Stage Manager, after all – if I can calmly manage groups of people of varying temperaments in a variety of situations, I can surely deal with two infants!”

– Carmelita Becnel, Stage Manager

“Ask questions, seek out resources, do what you need to encourage theaters to provide some sort of childcare at work or in place of that, welcome theater makers AND their children in the workplace.”

– Carmelita Becnel, Stage Manager

“I get to see the theater experience through their eyes, and it’s wonderful.”

– Carmelita Becnel, Stage Manager


Here are some opportunities and resources coming up for parents!

 

 

PAALtheatre.com (Parent Artist Advocacy League)

[Guest Post] The Three Things: How to Talk to a Pregnant Person 

In advocating for parent artists, I’ve had the privilege of meeting some extraordinary, articulate, generous people. One woman who stands out is Catherine Mueller, theatre artist and fierce mama, who has become a close collaborator on our recent national initiatives.

The topic of language as it relates to the inclusion of parent artists, pregnant mothers in particular, is vital to address in terms of setting standards and acceptable protocol. This vital need is what makes “The Three Things” so relevant.

Below is an excerpt from a piece she shared with me that I knew we needed to publish right away. It’s the first official entry to our PAAL Blog and presents great social challenges and even better solutions. Read below for a funny and relevant exploration:

_______________________

The Three Things: How to Talk to a Pregnant Person

by Catherine Mueller
PAAL Contribution Rep, NYC

I am seven months pregnant. I live in New York City. Today, as I was walking to pre-natal yoga, a man passed me heading the opposite direction on the sidewalk. He looked at my abdomen, looked at me and said with an assured smile, “Twins.” I kept walking and said loudly, “Nope.”

Catherine Mueller, The Three Things
Catherine Mueller – Mother/Theatre Artist/PAAL Rep – Almost 7 months.

Another pregnant woman lives in my building. She is now in her ninth month. She’s quite slender and from Australia. A few times, when we have encountered each other in the elevator or at the corner café, she has declared with full-voiced and accented abandon, “You’re SO BIG!”

Earlier in my pregnancy, I had to go to a doctor’s office other than my OB’s for some blood-work. The woman who supervises the phlebotomy station has a formidable personality. When she saw me, just past four months, she exclaimed, “When are you due?!” I replied, “End of October.” She then said, “You look like you’re about to go now! That is a big stomach!” I looked at her and said quietly, “I’m sure you mean that in the most complimentary of ways.” She then reiterated how big I was, double checked that I wasn’t incorrect regarding my own due date, and told me to “do plenty of walking and don’t pay attention to what anybody says.” And I thought, but did not say aloud, “Oh, like what you just said to me about my size?”

How is it that we, as a society, have not established an acceptable pregnancy etiquette?

These are just three small examples of what it is like to be a pregnant woman in public (which is to be a pregnant woman alive in the world who does anything outside her home). Suddenly, your body becomes the jovial subject of countless unsolicited remarks

[Read more]

What She Looks Like: Lydia Milman Schmidt, Director/Founder PICT

I first met Lydia Milman Schmidt at the Motherhood in Theatre Forum this past February in Chicago. It was a breakaway session off of the Women in Theatre forum hosted by Onward and Upward in January. After presenting on the efforts of PIPA UK, MAM Ireland, and discussing potential projects and solutions, Lydia offered up revelatory efforts already under way for Chicago, specifically – she had already hosted a panel for and conducted a survey asking about the lifestyles and obstacles of parents in Chicago theatre. We’ve now connected her as the chief rep for Chicago’s PAAL unit – Parent Artist Advocacy League for the Performing Arts, the US contingency of parent advocacy in theatre, dance, and live performance disciplines.

We began speaking afterwards, and she offered up that she had also started the facebook group Parents in Chicago Theatre. Shortly after, Lydia launched her site after the same name, shortened as PICT.

On the website, she published the data and infographics from her survey. This summer, PAAL will be co-hosting a second forum in Chicago with PICT and continuing the conversation that Lydia started here. PAAL has already hosted forums now in Chicago, Philadelphia, Montclair (NJ), and New York City. AuditioningMom will be continuing to produce projects, and with someone like Lydia tackling the topic for Chicago, specifically, this city is destined for some excited progress on many of these initiatives.

She’s a talented director and TWIN-mom as well. Her interview opens up about her perspectives on what her children see when she thinks and what the term “theatre rat” means. Check it out!


Headshot 2017 (1)
Lydia Milman Schmidt/Director and Twin-Mom +1

Name: Lydia Milman Schmidt

Profession: Theatre Director

Status: I have a 6-year-old son and newly 2-year-old twins 

What surprised/surprises you about having a child and working your performing arts life:
At first I was surprised that I didn’t want to go back to work immediately. My oldest was born in the UK, where nine months of maternity leave is standard (a dream for Americans, I know!) Before he was born I was sure I wouldn’t need all that time off, and then I would be back at work after three months or so. I ended up taking the full nine months. Then after I did start directing again, I actually started working more than I had ever before. I had been freed from the pressure of working a day job, and by bringing my baby to work with me, I didn’t pay for childcare and could afford to direct shows that would get my work seen. I also remember very clearly the feeling that I needed that little baby to see me working. It became very important to me that he saw me pursuing my career, and not giving it up for him. Six and a half years and two kids later, I don’t have a day job, I still freelance and I have yet to go back to work full-time.

What excited/excites you about having a child and working your performing arts life:
Partly due to its relatively family-friendly schedule, I have directed quite a bit of theatre for young audiences. The first TYA musical I directed was A Year with Frog and Toad. My oldest son Elliot was three or four at the time, and we read every single Frog and Toad story a hundred times over in the months leading up to when I started rehearsals. Having that level of intimacy with source material is amazing for a director. My job is to tell a story to children and I’d had months to practice. I directed that play with one particular audience member in mind. When he finally got to see the final production and the books came to life in front of him, it was magical. We still sing songs from that show around the house!

18010290_10102114164549296_6863278231997812573_n

What challenged/challenges you about having a child and working your performing arts life:
So many. But two main things:

First, logistics. I can no longer picture what it would be like to be able to just get up in the morning, go to work, come home, and do whatever you want. I’m bound to school schedules, scheduling babysitters, coordinating with my husband’s work schedule to make sure he can be home to do bedtime if I want to do something like actually go see a play in the evening. Not to mention that in order to leave the house, there are three small pairs of feet that need socks and shoes, three people who need breakfast, snacks, lunch, water bottles, and all the rest.

Second, competition. Most of my peers who are directors don’t have kids. I’m sure everyone has their own stuff to deal with, but it often feels like I’m at such a disadvantage that there’s no way to stay competitive. Internships, assistantships, fellowships, observerships and residencies out of town, none of it works when you have kids. For example, an SDC observership pays an average of $250 a week. That doesn’t even cover childcare for twins. In Chicago at least, no theatres, even the big ones, pay assistant directors any sort of living wage. Travel is especially difficult with young kids. I am hoping that it becomes more feasible once they’re at least all in school! Because I can’t take unpaid work, my solution is to work in educational theatre and theatre for young audiences. The work is rewarding, but no one is writing reviews or giving out awards.

Screen Shot 2017-05-10 at 2.28.16 PM
Parents In Chicago Theatre (.org)

 

What you look forward to about having a child and working your performing arts life:
I really love sharing the theatre with them. There is so much that kids learn just from being in the room. The twins love any kind of music, and my oldest is a dancer and would watch choreography rehearsal for days. They’re also exposed to stories, characters and situations that will make them more empathetic and kinder people. They are gaining this rich background of cultural knowledge and appreciation for art and people that they will carry with them throughout their lives.

Also, they know what Mama does at work. There’s no mystery. If I’m not with them, I’m in a theatre. They get to see me having ideas, asking questions, collaborating, and being a leader. My father was an astrophysicist. He worked for NASA contractors and had security clearance, so his job was always a complete mystery to me. I remember once I asked him what he did at work and he told me ‘I sit in my office and think.’ That sounded like a pretty boring job to me at the time, but it turns out that’s a lot of what a director does!

What you think people should know about having a child and working your performing arts life:
You can do it. You don’t have to hide your kids away. You don’t have to wait until they’re older, but if you want to take time off until they’re older, you should! A friend who works more than almost any director I know has three kids and took time off to be home with them until the youngest was in nursery school. Then she hit the ground running, and now she works all the time. Also, the bond with other theatre artists who are parents is strong. Nobody understands how difficult it is unless they’re in it.

Your favorite mommy-artist story:
I have so many. Like the production meeting where I brought the twins while we were still potty training and one twin had two accidents, and the other dropped trou right in the middle of the meeting and I barely whisked her away to the bathroom in time! When Elliot was a baby, I was interviewing for an assistant director job at a prominent UK theatre in London (I didn’t get it). They asked what I had been doing, so I told them I had a baby. Then they asked about childcare. I lied and said it was no problem. The person interviewing me was a woman. I have no idea to this day whether that had any bearing on whether or not I got the job. Once I was in a recording studio with my cast and MD to record a track from a new musical revue that we wrote. I had Elliot with me, of course. He wouldn’t let me leave the room, so everyone had to wait until he was asleep to quickly record while he napped! There was also the rehearsal for Eurydice at Governors State University last year where the TD knew I had to bring my twins (who weren’t walking yet), so he enclosed the orchestra pit and they happily played in there the whole time! He is also the person who introduced me to the tern ‘theatre rat’, which I love.


“Then they asked about childcare. I lied and said it was no problem. ”

– Lydia Milman Schmidt, Director

“They get to see me having ideas, asking questions, collaborating, and being a leader.”

– Lydia Milman Schmidt, Director

“You can do it. You don’t have to hide your kids away. You don’t have to wait until they’re older, but if you want to take time off until they’re older, you should! A friend who works more than almost any director I know has three kids and took time off to be home with them until the youngest was in nursery school. Then she hit the ground running, and now she works all the time.”

– Lydia Milman Schmidt, Director


If you’re in Chicago, be sure to connect with PICT and PAAL is available in numerous cities in the USA. Be sure to check them out! More opportunities coming soon!

More profiles coming soon!

If you are or you know a performing artist professional and mom who wants to share thoughts, answer these questions and shoot them to me at this contact form!

How to Have Children in Rehearsal – An Interview with Lynne Childress, BBP Productions

The first words that caught my eye on the Facebook post were “kids at rehearsal today.” Lynne Childress had posted in a DC Theatre Parents group on Facebook to share her experience producing a show with parent – and their kids – in the room during the process.

She ended the post with a proactive solution, adding that as she’s filling out her theatre company’s next grant, she will be sure to “include childcare” in the expenses it should cover. This awareness breeding immediate action is inspiring, so I reached out to Lynne to see how her production company experienced children in the room and what they learned. Here’s her awesome interview and bullet-point how-tos at the end from her answers. Enjoy!


What is your theatre company and your role in it?

We are Building Better People Productions, and we are a professional theater company that does shows for young audiences, all based in themes of kindness and respect. I am the founder and artistic director.

BBPP-Facebook-Color-Cover_med-1
Click the image to visit Lynne’s company page.

What was your children in the space experience?

For our current show, “The Imaginators”, 4 out of the 6 people involved in the rehearsal process had kids that they brought to rehearsal at some point. This included 2 of the actors, the director (myself), and the stage manager.

Were you planning on having children present before it happened?

We knew that one of the actors would be regularly bringing his 4 month-old daughter, because this was the only way he could be a part of the show, as his wife works mostly during the days, and he is usually home with the baby. At the first rehearsal, one of the other actors asked if she could bring HER baby to the next rehearsal, and we said sure, and she brought her 8 month-old as well as her almost 3 year-old, who she sat in the back with a movie. It turned out that another actor in the show used to be a nanny, so when he wasn’t onstage, he hung out and entertained them. Then I thought, wait, I read an article once about a theater that provided childcare for their actors and staff members so they could work, and I thought that would be an awesome idea. I was planning on having my son have a babysitter at our house during a rehearsal, and instead I asked the sitter if she would come to the rehearsal space and watch all of the kids who came that day. And she said yes.

What was your experience of having them in the space?

It was honestly varied, but that is life with kids, right? The first days that we had babysitters, either that I hired, or that the cast brought (our stage manager brought a friend with her on some days to watch her grandkids), it was easier to keep the kids in another room, or if they wanted to come in and see what was happening in the rehearsal space, the person watching them could walk them in, then hang out. Then we had days where they were kids but no babysitter, and they just sat in the back and watched, and we were able to take breaks and attend to what they needed. There were also days with and without babysitters where the kids got so into it that they ran up onstage. Yeah, that was a challenge. But they actually gave us clues on how kids would react to the show. It was great preparation in some ways.

“Having parent artists/and their kids cared for in this way is crucial.”

What insights did you gain from the experience?

I think that parent/artists often don’t work in their fields because of the challenges of finding reliable childcare, of finding people who are available on a temporary basis, and being able to afford a sitter once you do find one. This first and foremost, despite the challenges of it, makes me know that having parent artists/and their kids cared for in this way is crucial. I think that when I do this again, I will try to have the same sitter (or sitters) for the whole process, and I will have it available at every rehearsal, if I can. I think that not knowing what to expect from day to day, for the kids and the parents, can be stressful, and if the kids knew the person watching them, it would make them more comfortable staying with them in the space. Having a consistent person would also let us set parameters and a schedule, like when the kids get to come check on the parents (which I love), and then they maybe CAN watch rehearsal. It was really fun having the kids be a part of this process, and I think with more planning, it could be even more incredible. Parents get to relax because they know their kids are cared for, and they are able to perform, and the kids know the parents are close.

What are your hopes with your current grant application?

It would be great to have funds for childcare covered, so that I can offer it to artists who want to work with us. I hope that funders are excited about the possibilities of this.

How does this effect you as a mother, specifically?

It makes me really happy . I have turned down work because I didn’t have childcare, and couldn’t afford it on what I was being paid, and at the same time, I had a theater pay a sitter at the space to watch my son while I taught, because I said that I couldn’t do it if I didn’t have someone to watch him. It made me feel valued as an artist, and also secure as a parent that he was taken care of. I have paid sitters during rehearsals where there were just 2 kids as kind of a last minute thing because we had no one else, and having this planned and covered is huge.

How do you think theatre companies would benefit from childcare grants and provisions?

I think that they would widen their pool of actors and other artists, because so many of us disappear for a few years because we don’t have childcare. It would give them access to more talent!

Anything else you would like us to know?

I am excited about all these possibilities! Thanks for asking!


Lynne’s next steps for childcare in rehearsal:

1. Make childcare available for the entire rehearsal process.

2. Try to hire one sitter for the entire process as much as possible.

3. Set parameters and schedules for consistent times when the kids can view rehearsal/parents visit the kids on-site.

4. Seek funding to help your company/company member resources.

5. Expand your casting/hiring pool using this opportunity.


Have tips to add or want to share your experience? Write us here!

What She Looks Like: Erica Sullivan, Actor

I was ecstatic to see a response from Erica Sullivan to my interview request. Erica and I attended grad school together, and seeing her work after having her first child was in part what encouraged me with my own hopes and pursuits. In a word, visibility. Her wisdom warning against rushing back to work out of a need to prove herself is laid out raw, and her decision to step away bravely is now encouraged by a supportive community.

As a mother of two, she also talks about her experiences jumping in right away after her first child then choosing to take a year off after her second. These options must be available to women to experiment with how they navigate the new relationships with their children and work. The artistry is always informed by the decision to take time away, not deprived.

This smart, strong, emotionally available artist is also a perceptive mother, and her honest interview below beautifully articulates the expansion of artistry and perspective on career that some women experience after having children, proving mothers are craftsmen deserving of the work. Her take on ” hang on tightly, let go lightly” in terms of the motherhood -work balance sings of achievability in its lack of end-gaining and focus on daily process. Her hope for the work also speaks to the empowerment for her daughters to see their mother in varied roles onstage:

“I look forward to my daughters seeing their mother portray women who are brave, damaged, vulnerable, cruel, intelligent, complicated, loving, ambitious and everything else in between.” – Erica Sullivan

You don’t want to miss her final thoughts on the exhausting, trying, rewarding, satisfying experiences on her journey of motherhood and theatre arts.

Read on.


67884325-Fingersmith_2_jg_1488
Erica Sullivan in Fingersmith at Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Name: Erica Sullivan

Position: Actress

Status: Two daughters aged 11 1/2 months and 5


What surprised you about having a child and working your performing arts life:

That something else could take precedence over my work/art. I was so singularly minded when I graduated from Yale; singularly minded all of my young adult life on pursuing my dream of becoming a theatre artist and working actor. And what really surprised me was as soon as my heart and mind were filled with this new person and I found myself letting go a little of my work ambition, doors starting opening for me. It was like that statement Evan Yionoulis (a teacher at Yale) used to tell us, “hold on tightly, let go lightly”. I had held on so tightly for so many years, worked so relentlessly and prioritized my career above all else and then my daughter came into my life and I let go (not completely), but I let go of my death grip and lo and behold, opportunities began to arrive.

What excited you about having a child and working your performing arts life:

Sharing with my children the wonderful and wild theatre artists that I have the privilege of knowing and working with. They are passionate, worldly, intellectual, funny, diverse, compassionate and wholly and unapologetically themselves. What amazing role models! On a personal level, the depth of love, selflessness and sacrifice that having children has taught me has greatly informed my work. Having children has increased my compassion for other human beings exponentially and ultimately (I hope) allows me to delve deeper into the hardships and beauty of being human. That is exciting to me.

What challenged you about having a child and working your performing arts life:

In practical ways: the night hours are really difficult to manage as a mother of little ones. You don’t sleep enough as it is as a parent, but when you aren’t getting home until 11-12:30am, it makes it all the more difficult. The physical and emotional energy and presence that performance requires from you accompanied by the physical and emotional energy and presence that parenthood requires from you leaves very little room to recuperate and rest. The juggling of babysitters at such odd and inconsistent hours is challenging. Finding balance is difficult.

I really pushed myself with my first daughter. I went back to work 5 weeks after she was born because I was determined to prove to myself and the world that I could “have it all”, but it took a huge toll on my health and home life. I was fearful that the theatre world I had worked so hard to be a part of would forget me if I took time off; that I would disappear to them and would never work again so I pushed and pushed myself to the brink. And, interestingly enough, so many other female theatre artists who witnessed me doing this (I had a pretty good gameface) remarked that I was inspiring to them, that I was proving that a life of theatre and motherhood was possible. I wanted to tell them: “NO! Don’t do what I am doing, it is killing me!” But I didn’t and I regret that. Now, with my second daughter, I am taking a full year off to be at home. This is the right choice for me. I feel confident that when I return to theatre, the theatre will still have me (of course that confidence may be due to the fact that Oregon Shakespeare Festival has invested in me as an artist long term). Since I became a company member at OSF the challenges of pounding the pavement in New York, auditioning, working and traveling have eased considerably. I seem to have found a theatre haven: a small town life with exciting acting opportunities that offer long term contracts with a theatre that values and honors family and is politically and socially conscious. Wowza! Very grateful. Finding an artistic home base has been such a gift.

What are you looking forward to about having a child and working in the performing arts life?

I look forward to my daughters seeing their mother portray women who are brave, damaged, vulnerable, cruel, intelligent, complicated, loving, ambitious and everything else in between. I look forward to the kind of conversations with them that theatre elicits. I look forward to providing a model in which art and family can co-exist. That Mom can be an artist and a damn good Mom too! That you don’t have to sacrifice one for the other, that balance is possible.

What do you think people should know about having a child and working your performing arts life:

That it takes a village and theatre people are a pretty amazing villagers! That parenthood and art can be an incredible combination, the one teaching you about the other in unimaginable and inspiring ways. That it is indeed exhausting and incredibly challenging but in my humble opinion WORTH IT.

.


“I let go of my death grip and lo and behold, opportunities began to arrive.”

– Erica Sullivan, Actor

“Having children has increased my compassion for other human beings exponentially and ultimately (I hope) allows me to delve deeper into the hardships and beauty of being human. That is exciting to me.”

– Erica Sullivan, Actor

“I wanted to tell them: “NO! Don’t do what I am doing, it is killing me!” But I didn’t and I regret that. Now, with my second daughter, I am taking a full year off to be at home. This is the right choice for me. …I seem to have found a theatre haven: a small town life with exciting acting opportunities that offer long term contracts with a theatre that values and honors family and is politically and socially conscious.”

– Erica Sullivan, Actor


“I look forward to my daughters seeing their mother portray women who are brave, damaged, vulnerable, cruel, intelligent, complicated, loving, ambitious and everything else in between.”

– Erica Sullivan, Actor


What are your thoughts on this fierce mama’s trajectory? Let me know in the comments!

More profiles coming soon!

If you are or you know a performing artist professional and mom who wants to share thoughts, answer these questions and shoot them to me at this contact form!

Sarah Ruhl on Theatre Moms

She had one. She is one. She wrote a play for her mother to act in. Sarah’s Play “”For Peter Pan on her 70th Birthday” is for, based on, and will star her mother in a premiere at Chicago’s Shattered Globe Theatre. She’s speaking there tonight, and I can’t go because my baby #2 is still breastfeeding (the irony, I know). But here’s what we can celebrate – she’s one of my longtime theatre mama heroes (more on that later) – and here’s a beautiful excerpt from her interview today with the Chicago Tribune. It’s promising and stunning advocacy for #childreninthespace. Looks like it worked out pretty well for her, and I loved reading every detail about it. If anyone I know knows her, tell her thank you for being awesome and PAALtheatre.com.

sarah ruhl in the theatre

Keep bringing them along, mamas. Our children reap some wonderful adventures from it.

xo,

Auditioning Mom

For My Daughter 

When Isabel M. Jones interviewed me for her artist blog, she mentioned  the theme was “hope.” I thought the topic extremely relevant and unfortunately rare. Once I read through her questions, one rang especially rare to me. I wish I were asked the question more. I happen to be very proud to be an artist mom. I  grew up in an artist household. I find my art and my love for my children pour from the same place. I hope for many things for my children. And here, Isabel asked a key question about it – and here’s the answer that poured out:

What do you hope your daughter will learn by watching you pursue acting?

15940543_10100244244169770_8646322156433655785_n
My daughter found my dance shoes and just started ballet, so she taught me a class at home.

My daughter is incredibly perceptive. Two year olds are such incredible vessels of deep thought and feeling, mind and heart unseparated, that I honestly have learned more from her in regard to acting and how to express the truth of what my character is thinking or feeling or wanting. Toddlers have such assurance and lack of apology that spending time with my
daughter makes me bold.
There’s a courage to her joy and sorrow that I find powerful. In terms of what I hope she learns from watching me pursue my craft:

I hope she learns joy that comes from devotion to a life long discipline, whatever that may be for her.

That rejection from others has no connection to her inherent value.

That critics are meant to make us think, not make us doubt.

That making beautiful things is a valid social contribution.

That empathy and storytelling are effective ways to explore solutions and expand compassion.

That in real life some people do break out randomly into song and dance.

That telling the truth about what she feels and thinks, even when standing alone in the spotlight, should be lauded – whether on a stage or not.

That we are witnesses and contributors to each others stories, and how we engage with that truth matters.

That some professions require ten times the effort for success than others, but may be worth it.

That you can try every time and still not succeed every time, but failure is a part of a healthy process and work is the pursuit.

That I will support whatever she aspires to do. Always.

That is all equally true for my four month old son as well.


Read the full interview here:

Part 1 and Part 2

VOTE – Equity Members Could Change Pay Scale

received_10211072455140973.png

Here’s why this matters, mamas:

If it’s online, we’re more likely to do it. (VOTE for equity council). If we DO IT (vote for equity council), we have a say in who gets elected and the sort of issues that get put front and center for change, issues like Fair Wage Onstage. Check out the 8 activists running a slate to get on council for this very reason! Why is that issue so important that we should do it (vote for equity council)? Because Fair Wage Onstage is advocating for a historic increase in off-broadway wages based on overall budget, meaning that equity pay will have an increase and become a more livable wage (so you should definitely vote for equity council).

That liveable wage makes it more possible for we the parent-artists to afford off-Broadway work and childcare!

This (vote for equity council) is one small, indirect step in a very good direction. So VOTE for equity council!! They say you need to hear something 8-10 times before taking action and we’re at 6, so I’m going to say it a few more:

VOTE for equity council!

VOTE for equity council!

VOTE for equity council!

And the best way to make sure you do it (VOTE for equity council! yay – that’s 10!) is to be sure to change your voting preferences to online.

LAST DAY TO CHANGE YOUR VOTING PREFERENCES IS TOMORROW 3/31/17!

SO DO IT TODAY! Equity is all of us, and all of us can make a difference.

Check out the how-to meme again:

received_10211072455140973.png