What She Looks Like: Jill Harrison, Director

I won $300 worth in free theater tickets in Philadelphia one year!! It was awesome. Any theater lover working on an artist budget knows that a jackpot like that is a huge asset. Any mom paying for babysitting knows that cash-ticket can go even farther now. The big win happened at a fundraiser event for Directors Gathering, an organization that since 2011 has been creating space and initiative for theatre directors to gather and not only hone their craft through workshops and opportunities for risk, but also dialogue about how theater can be director-led and moved forward in their community.

At this fundraising event, founder Jill Harrison interacted seamlessly with the crowd buying raffle tickets and wings and feeding baby Stella while sharing a large laugh with one or two of the Directors Gathering members. Her passion for her work and for her child converged in one space, and with the support of husband and parents, seemed to enjoy the event quite a bit herself. I knew I had to grab her for this project – what was her experience and what has she been learning? She opens up below on the juxtaposition of the terror and joy of it all.

“As someone who has been a freelancer in the arts and most recently a founder of a non-profit start-up, I found myself questioning the ability to make ‘parenthood’ ‘work’. Something that I continue to be surprised (and elated) about is that it does indeed work.”

– Jill Harrison


Name: Jill Harrison

Profession: Theatre Director, Professor, and Founder/Executive Director of Directors Gathering

Status: One Child, Stella Dorene, Age 2

What surprised you: The extreme feelings of love, joy, terror, purpose, drive, exhaustion, power, loss, and completeness ALL AT THE SAME TIME. These feelings all still continue to happen, at the same time. Parenthood is not for the fainthearted and I continue to find myself surprised each and every day by how even when I am feeling all the extreme feelings I still somehow figure out how to embrace them and the reason for them, my daughter. Also, as someone who has been a freelancer in the arts and most recently a founder of a non-profit start-up, I found myself questioning the ability to make ‘parenthood’ ‘work’. Something that I continue to be surprised (and elated) about is that it does indeed work. In fact, motherhood, and my daughter, and my partner, makes everything else work, it is THE reason for all other work.

What excited you: Meeting and continuing to meet/discover my daughter and her little personhood. I have also adored sharing my work with her and her with my work.

What challenged you: The identity shift and lack of maternity leave. I did not have much time to suss out and fully take in postpartum life. I worked during my labor and two days after I got home from the hospital. I am still finding my way with balancing work and motherhood, trying to figure out how to sustain (even expand) a living in a freelance world while providing for and enriching my relationship with my daughter. My partner, and his unwavering dedication to me and our daughter, has been invaluable and a significant reason for how I/we’ve been able to sustain in my field. Our parents, family, and friends have also been incredible lifelines.

What you look forward to: Stella continuing to discover and embrace the world and what makes her tick. I adore watching her take in every moment and every being. She is a constant reminder of what really matters. Love, Laughter, Family, Friends, Hugs, Kisses, Waves, Running, Sitting, Good Food, Water, Sleep, Reading, Music, Marching, Dancing, Singing, and Snuggles.

What you think people should know: Motherhood in the theatre, especially in freelance theatre, is doable and worth it. It is also extremely hard. It requires a vast village and a great deal of humility. There seems to be no end to the request for help and deep, unending appreciation to those who help. It brings meaning and purpose to you and your work that is like none other. It is more important than anything you have created or will create.

Your favorite mommy-artist story: We call Stella our little Directors Gathering (DG) mascot. She has been a part of every aspect of the organization and a constant reminder of the purpose of the org —to be more and create more for others. Every time I waver on the purpose or possibility of the vitality of DG, I think of Stella and she reminds me, somehow, that “to gather” is the answer. I believe that I would not be where I am today with the org without her.


My Favorite Quotes:

“As someone who has been a freelancer in the arts and most recently a founder of a non-profit start-up, I found myself questioning the ability to make ‘parenthood’ ‘work’. Something that I continue to be surprised (and elated) about is that it does indeed work.”

– Jill Harrison, Director/Founder Directors Gathering

 

“Motherhood in the theatre, especially in freelance theatre, is doable and worth it. It is also extremely hard. It requires a vast village and a great deal of humility.”

– Jill Harrison, Director/Founder Directors Gathering


Anyone who’s started their own foundation or business knows it requires the full-time care, nurture, and blood sweat and tears of caring for a child – for Jill, she has been caring for both of these passions and has a love that expands to both of them. Far from reduced, she’s a perfect example of how the capability to care for your passion – child or foundation – makes you in fact expand. Keep expanding.

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!

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