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)

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “What She Looks Like: Carmelita Becnel, Stage Manager

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s