Moxie Theatre‘s BABY HOLDERS solution was featured in our most recent solutions article – Part 4 of Motherhood in the Theatre topic series. In the solutions feature, I mentioned that this is possibly the best example I’ve heard of community solution for parenthood in the theater. Both incredibly simple and highly effective, the Baby Holders solution takes on-site care to a whole new level through community involvement. Without needing implementation into contracts or petitioning administration, Baby Holders are a solution inherent to the Moxie Theater structure itself.
“When I wanted to cast Jen I just built breast feeding into the Butcher rehearsal schedule and later when I wanted her for Eurydice, I offered to hold the baby while I directed so he could be with her.” – Founding Artistic Director Delicia Turner Sonnenberg
Founded by a group of women with the intent “to create more diverse and honest images of women for our culture,” Moxie Theater fulfills its mission not only through the content they seek for their stage but also through their work culture and treatment of employees. Moxie thus ranks high on the list of truly progressive theaters unafraid of committing their time and resources to parenting as part of the theater artist’s natural evolution and career trajectory, seeing assistance and accommodation as an artistic contribution itself.
I then promised to post more on this revolutionarily simple solution by publishing the interview I held with Moxie staff on the origins of this initiative. Below is the fantastically unapologetic and simply bold interview with the Moxie women who make this solution work. Answers from two of Moxie Theatre’s Founders and Moxie Production Manager are below. Founding Artistic Director Delicia Turner Sonnenberg’s responses are in red; Associate Artistic Director Jennifer Eve Thorn’s are in blue, Production Manager Nicole Ries’ responses are in green.
What started the baby holders idea?
The other Moxies may have a more concrete answer, but I think the idea was formalized by Esther (1st PM) or Missy in the early years, but from the beginning we always had kids at rehearsal and whoever was “off stage” looked after them.
Baby holders began out of necessity. We had babies and we had to bring them with us. For example I returned to the stage 3 months after giving birth to my Fox. Delicia held him WHILE she directed so I could nurse him and still be in the show. It was born as an internal initiative and then of course we offered it to the women who we hired by agreeing as a staff that if we weren’t free, we would come to hold the baby or we would take the kid into our home while their parent was at rehearsal. I tool Julie Sach’s daughter Payton so she could be in Eleemosynary, for example. It’s grown organically from our village.
Who are your baby holders?
Other moxie’s or those arranged by PM.
I start with emailing Moxie staff, former Moxie staff we fondly refer to as our sisters or Moxie’s, and baby friendly volunteer House Managers. There are a lot of Mama’s affiliated with Moxie that started the company 12 years ago with babies on hips, now that they have older kids a few hours soaking up new baby smell is a delicious prospect.
When do you send out the emails?
Nic, you can answer this, but when I wanted to cast Jen I just built breast feeding into the Butcher rehearsal schedule and later when I wanted her for Eurydice, I offered to hold the baby while I directed so he could be with her.
When we have a new Mama start at Moxie the baby is passed around in the office or held in the house during tech. When the need arises for care during a performance or for longer stretches I send the email out. Sometimes there is a week or so notice other times it is a group text the night before.
What has been the result/response from artists and the environment at Moxie?
We have it as a part of the company packet now that we are family friendly. I think the response has been that working artists feel free to bring their kids IF they feel it’s best and they are able to work while they are present. Some parents feel better not working with their kids, but we offer.
The result has also been people choosing to have families without the fear they may have otherwise had. I am not saying the artists we work with who witnessed our baby holding policies wouldn’t have chosen to start families but all the ones who have write to us and say that they felt less fear about whether or not their art would continue. Just a few days ago an actress who was in CRUCIBLE told me that she called her fiance from auditions to tell him the directors daughter had her kid in the theatre with headphones playing with her kindle while she ran auditions and that maybe that meant their plans for a family weren’t so crazy after all.
As one of the newer Mom’s at Moxie it meant I didn’t have to choose between my passion as an artist or my purpose as a mother. My girls are age 3.5 and 16 months so there are certainly situations like load-in and strike I try to keep them close to me in their carriers or I choose to leave them with a sitter so we don’t have screws being swallowed or shoved up nostrils.
A huge reason we raise awareness and advocacy at AuditioningMom is the reduction of fear that comes with embracing identity as both a parent and an artist. For some, the boldness comes easily, for others, too many questions or negative expectations abound.
The result has also been people choosing to have families without the fear they may have otherwise had. I am not saying the artists we work with who witnessed our baby holding policies wouldn’t have chosen to start families but all the ones who have write to us and say that they felt less fear about whether or not their art would continue. – Associate Artistic Director Jennifer Eve Thorn
Moxie Theatre company’s solution and family-friendly policies contribute to the empowerment factor of the theatre parent community. Everything about the way they practice their craft says the parent-artist life is possible and embraced. A philosophy and actions to celebrate! Support Moxie Theatre when you can – these ladies get it.
If you’re in Chicago, come RSVP – happening THIS WEEK and there’s FREE CHILDCARE ON SITE! We’ll discuss everything from the benefits of motherhood to the struggles to solutions like this one mentioned above – and how we can move forward with them! See details for the forum below!
(If you’re interested in our forums coming up this year in NEW YORK and PHILADELPHIA, email AuditioningMom@gmail.com)!