Gender Disparity, Hidden Carers, and Employment Opportunities: PIPA Trial – HowlRound

The full article first appeared on 3/22/17 on HowlRound.com – excerpt and link below.

Written by AuditioningMom Rachel Spencer Hewitt.

Check out this stunning data and innovation coming to us from across the pond by Parents in the Performing Arts (PIPA), a revolutionary consortium of theatres in the UK advocating for parent-artists. In this article, I interview PIPA’s founders, actor Cassie Raine and director Anna Ehnold-Danailov, and lead researcher from the Royal Center for Speech and Drama Dr. Tom Cornford and cover their report’s findings, where they aim to take it, and what the impact may be. Read the excerpt below and click for the full article!

“In the fall of 2016, PIPA distributed a survey to gather data on caregivers in the theatre arts and trial resulting initiatives for a specific purpose: to draft a first known charter of ‘best practices’ for caregivers and their employers in the theatre arts intended for widespread use and implementation. The charter hopes to make the theatre more accessible to its dedicated practitioners with caregiver responsibilities…In a time when funding for the arts receives active cuts and remains on short lists for ejection by government institutions across the globe, creating steady jobs within the arts will continue to be a matter of revolutionary reinvention within limited resources. Admission of obstacles by caregivers and other groups within the theatre should not be perceived as reduced commitment or compromised work ethic, but instead should be seen as the pursuit by dedicated theatre practitioners of more efficient means for achieving high production standards…” [READ MORE]

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Click image to read full article.

Part 2 covering the interventions and initiatives tried for six months by 15 different companies will come out this fall, 2017. Keep an eye out! Exciting things ahead!


CONTACT AuditioningMom@gmail.com if you would like to be added to the list for the USA FORUMS happening THIS SUMMER in NEW YORK CITY and PHILADELPHIA.

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Always Leave Early – BECAUSEYOURCARBATTERYWILLDIEONAUDITIONDAY

Today, I found a hero.

I promise this story has the life-is-beautiful perfect-ending twist you could only hope for and never expect. I know I didn’t. But there it was, and it was pure gold – and worth every second and every step. And one solid lesson. I promise. Just keep reading.

I always leave early.

Always.

You never know what life will bring.

For this reason, I say I don’t trust plans, but I do trust preparation. I believe in creating an itinerary then preparing to meet each checkpoint before needed, bracing myself for what may come – be it train delays, diaper bombs, zombies, whatever, at least I will have a buffer to defeat it and still arrive on time. Why? Because life is unpredictable for me. I love it. I feel it’s an opportunity to live ever-creatively. Some people do not have this experience and instead have the midas touch on clocks. My husband is one of these people. He is always early and rarely encounters an unpredictable element. It’s reached the point of absurdity that even his planes (literally) land early (unless he’s with me. Then my luck and his luck cancel each other out, and the plane lands simply “on time”). These midas touch people are freaks. Do not expect them to understand the preparation process. They will blink in confusion as their shoes self-tie and they step through the door at 10:32 AM and arrive at work on the same day at 10:15 AM. IT JUST MAKES NO SENSE. If you are one of these people, you may struggle through this story, and I pity you for never knowing the exhileration of defeating the elements in this video game called LIFE: Leave Early Because BATTERYSTAIRSWALKINGTODDLERSNOWBABYWHOLEFOODSBATHROOMTAPE! Allow me to explain…

Anyone who went to grad school with me knows I was mechanical about showing up. I had to get there before I had to get there. When I worked in DC and encountered too many train delays that prevented my control over my arrival time, I committed to walking – rain, snow, sleet, didn’t matter. I walked the hour+ from my housing to the theater and showered there, getting my workout, warmup, fresh air, sight seeing, shower, and settle in the space before half hour all in on the same journey. Efficiency. I loved it. I loved problem solving to get to each location according to the resources at hand. Exciting stuff!

Having kid and then kids elevated the need to create the early-arrival buffer while elevating the playing field. Early arrival mode operating at a high-skill level. Secretly, a delight. If I’m honest, I’d say I have a mini-stage-manager in me that occasionally comes out to squeal at spreadsheets and calendars, color-coded. Mom-math working backwards from the audition time to determine how to spend the seconds now.

Congratulations, me. But what about the reality-bites element to all this schedule whoopdey-doo? The parts when I get my face kicked by the elements? Enter TODAY’S LINEUP, brought to you by 5:35 PM Email the day before with “Next Day Appointment” in the subject line (Yaaaaa! Raising the roof like the proud lame-o I am! DANCEDANCEDANCE weeerrrrrk!!! #notashamed)

After last-minute scheduling babysitter, learning lines, researching character medical conditions, getting three bodies bathed, dressed, fed, packed for a trip to mom’s audition, work meetings re-scheduled for the afternoon, laundry-folding postponed, and makeup applied, thats when the morning shoots into real hyperspeed – how it changes on me is in red:

11:15 AM – Babysitter arrives at house while children are bundled in multiple layers, baby loaded in carseat, toddler negotiated out of bringing doll-stroller along while mom grabs diaper bag, backpack, snack bag, water bottle, script, toddler, and toddler baby doll, and babysitter grabs infant carseat with baby down stairs to parking lot outside.

11:30 AM – Car starts, toddler in carseat, baby seat snapped in, babysitter and mom all in car and drive to grocery store across the street from audition location.
11:30 AM – CAR DOES NOT START. There is snow on the ground, and thank God it’s sunny, because Chicago is COLD. 

Plan B: Battery booster! Portable battery charger for car. Lift hood. Covered in snow, will not stay up. Passing superintendent offers to hold hood. Hook up battery booster. Turn key. Car does not start even though battery booster worked three times before. Reset booster. Car does not start. Reset booster while calling out to babysitter to check time to destination by train. Try again: car starts!!! CAR DIES. Car needs new battery. Toddler eating snow by handfuls. Babysitter takes baby back inside. 

11:40 AM – Babysitter reports GPS says 25 min. From experience, with kids the travel will be 30 min. minimum. Buffer time eaten. Everything needs to go well to make it on time.

Stroller set up, baby clicked in, toddler picked up, entourage bolts toward train stop. Train stop has no elevator. Mom picks up toddler, diaper bag, backpack, stroller back while babysitter picks up baby car seat and stroller to head up the stairs carefully. Cannot rush on snow. 

11:50 AM – On train. Laughing hysterically with babysitter about preferring warm weather and wondering if she knew she was going to get her workout in by force. Consider charging her for personal training excursion via lifting stroller and children. Send text to husband about insanity while seconds tick loudly. Include jimmy fallon freakout thank you gif, multiple prayer-emojis and one cry-laugh emoji because hahahahahahalifeamiright?

thank you text auditioning mom
Jimmy Fallon Freak Out Gif Says It All.

11:55 AM – Free parking. Full-size stroller out of trunk, baby in stroller, babysitter, toddler, and mom bolt into grocery store, buy lunch for babysitter and toddler, breastfeed baby, set entourage at table to enjoy a delicious lunch.

12:10 PM – Mom walks casually across the street to audition site, signs in a healthy 15+ minutes beforehand. Changes out of breastmilk-splatter top to #wokeupthisway fresh audition top. Studies lines, sips water, fantasizes about world peace.

12:10 PM – Train flies, so no delays: arrives on schedule. Everything needs to go well to make it on time. Exit with toddler, stroller, babysitter, bags, and head toward elevator. THERE IS ALSO NO ELEVATOR AT THIS STOP. WONDERFUL. HA! Oh man, I’ve got to get the name of this film, because FUNNY THINGS.

Speaking of, full entourage turns corner to see TWO of THREE full flights of stairs, each flight a minimum of twenty steps with landings in between, and beside them, a barely-legal-width half-escalator that wouldn’t fit even a folded stroller. Babysitter’s jaw drops at the towering staircase that literally disappears above us, the end unseen as it reaches past our vision to the earth’s surface. The children grow heavier with the minute. Time slips. Clock ticks. The stairs will be the crushing obstacle with no cell service to phone in a notice. Mom scoops up toddler and turns to take stroller front to carry it, to persist. Everything needs to go well to make it on time. Deep hope. A prayer…And then — a voice:

“Can I help with that?”

Mom raises gaze to see gentleman asking sitter again, “Can I help get this up the stairs?” Babysitter, flooded with gratitude, says hardy “YES!” – mom nods head fervently and points out the best spot to grab on stroller, makes comment about no elevator. Man comments:

“Yeah, there’s even an additional flight of stairs around the corner before we surface,” realization slowly dawns on man’s face about extent of what he offered as all adults look up to the towering staircase, end completely out of view at this train stop called Treacherous, leaving only 8 levels of Dante’s inferno to climb with babies, stroller, bag, and HOPE. Toddler asks for snacks.

Mom, man, babysitter all lift babies, strollers, and bags up first flight, then second, turn corner, and together crush the final ascension, mom sniffs back nosebleed from sudden altitude change but presses on, sun pours over the group as they rise from the center of the earth to Chicago’s old city neighborhood with speed and agility of fresh team-member strength.

The stairs were mastered, some minutes gained because of the strength of a stranger. A hero. Game changer moment. This is where a turn happened…

With quick thanks and take care, the man takes off one way, entourage another.

12:11 PM – 9 minutes to arrive at sign-in time for a 7 minute walk in snow with two kids, three bags, a babysitter and stroller, a hope, and a prayer, but cutting through alleys for 3 blocks with a quick shortcut leaves kids and babysitter heading up to the grocery store doors on time while mom dashes with water, sides, and new top across the street.

12:22 – Mom signs in, pees like a racehorse going for gold, changes out of breastmilk-splatter top to #wokeupthisway fresh audition top. Returns to chair, studies lines, sips water, fantasizes about world pea—

“Tony?” Another audition call is being held at the same time. For no reason at all, mom glances up and sees – hands fixing his collar and nodding “yes” with the right humility-happy-to-be-here calm being lead into the next room – a man with the face, voice and demeanor of a staircase hero. Time slowed for the first time in the day as he disappeared through the doors. Glancing at his jacket proved it was indeed the one who offered help. On his audition day, too.

AM thank you note
“You helped on audition day?!…Thank you.”

Overwhelmed with the realization, mom scribbles a quick thank you note. 

Auditions are short, and Tony returns. Mom has to step forward.

“Thank you.” Man turns. “You helped me with my stroller.”

Suddenly recognizing her, the man laughs and says, “yes, of course! I didn’t recognize–no problem.”

“I can’t thank you enough! I can’t believe you did that when you had an audition too, and because you did, I made it here on time.”

“Oh, it was no problem – I had time. I’m glad I could help.”

He had time. He had the wealth of that resource and he chose to give it. This is the point that began to hit home as I shook his hand farewell and he wished me graciously “break a leg!” The example he set began to formulate an application I had been searching for.

As Tony leaves the building, mom returns to her seat in awe that she made her audition on time because someone used their extra audition time to share with her.

12:30 PM – Mom crushes audition. This happened.

12:40 PM – Mom returns across the street to grocery story, toddler is finishing pizza and makes hugely excited face seeing mom. Mom grabs food, breastfeeds baby again, bundles baby and toddler.

1:00 PM – Full entourage piles into car and heads home. [Everything that just happened but backwards, and no need for help because taking stroller apart and taking our time.]

The Hero, Epilogue.

I could have made it right at the time of my appointment without the help up the monstrous climb, but every actor knows the sweet spot for good arrival is at the 10 minutes before – that’s the time with the most advantage. I’m not stranger to crazy travel and adventures, so I could laugh through the whole event, but the difference is that this story had advantage, it had success, in large part because someone was generous. That is no small point to note.

In no way shortchanging the support and efforts of everyone else leading to the audition, the generous act of this actor highlights a very integral role in the artist network of healthy community.

We have the first two:

The Support System – my husband’s help with lines and kids the night before, encouraging messages to lay a foundation of confidence.

The Advocates – the babysitter’s willingness to laugh alongside while sharing the crazy, ever-changing, child-lifting task of an expanded parent-artist; a casting director’s willingness to say yes.

And here’s where we can identify a third element:

The Heroes – those with no obligation, connection, or reward whatsoever who share of their own resources to ensure the safe arrival of another artist.

This is key. A factor that can be crucial to forward movement for the community of parent-artists in terms of hiring, empathy, creating pathways back in, and crafting initiatives and solutions.

Tony had the extra resource of time and shared it with a parent-artist. Simple as that.Without realizing it, Tony Jose Garcia was a hero to a fellow actor whose expanded life needed an extra hand at a single, crucial moment in order to continue forward. So much of why I write is to identify a support system, praise and support advocates in terms of family-friendly artists and organizations, and to encourage and recognize those with the heart and character to see the need of the parent-artist and help in a way that makes it possible to participate. In fact, this sort of empathy and being present to the needs of others is a practice all artists can contribute and benefit from.

Tony had the time.

Tony is a hero.

Because Tony left early.

Be like Tony.

Always leave early.

You never know who you’re going to help.

 


You can like Tony’s actor page here and write him a thank you, too. He deserves all the bookings he can get if he’s spreading this kind of generosity.

Keep connecting, friends. Good stuff is happening.

What She Looks Like: Valerie Astra Powers, Producer/Writer/Director

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Valerie Astra Powers – Single Mom/Producer/Writer/Director & Son on the beach

Since pilot season is wrapping up, I’ve opened the What She Looks Like series to television – and a powerful story of single motherhood and resilience.

I went to high school with a girl named Valerie Powers. The school’s focus was high education and the arts. What started as a random collection of a small handful of students turned out to be a rather gifted group, many of us becoming professional artists long into adulthood and still going. (Go Falcons.)

Valerie was no exception to this gifted community, but her story has always been exceptional. With a history of moving through foster care and unconventional home life, Valerie had every reason to fall behind the curve. Instead, she showed up on the first day of school, after years of being absent from the school system, better read, better motivated, and readily more passionate and engaged than most adults, much less high school underclassmen.

Her intelligence, vigilance, and artistry not only keep her succeeding as a professional but also now as a single mom in the industry. In this interview she openly shares about the questions that rose up in her when confronted with life on set and life as a mother, people who said to her face that it was impossible for her to do both, as well as how she’s defied that impossibility, calling it “freelancing in expert mode” to describe the invisible juggle professional artist moms know all too well and are tempted to keep under wraps – all the while including insight to the profound balance that comes from embracing the chaos as part of our beautiful, human character.

“Happy is happy, and normal is not real. Its okay…to raise your child in your trailer/studio/on your set/in your workshop, as long as you do raise them.”

– Valerie Astra Powers, Producer/Writer/Director

She’s also writing a book about the wildness of her life story leading up to this point, appropriately titled, “Leave Her Wild,” which you can find on Patreon.

I’m so proud to know this incredible artist-momma, from childhood to now, and can testify that she has been unstoppable and brave enough to stand on her own feet since the beginning. Here’s Valerie:


 

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Valerie Astra Powers – Single Mom/Producer/Writer/Director

Name: Valerie Astra Powers

Profession: Story Associate Producer (National Geographic, Discovery), Director (The Howard Fine, short film, music video, webseries), Screenwriter/Playwright, reluctant Actor (A Fold Apart, Sleepwalking)

Status: sole parent to a 6 year old boy

What surprised you: For years I controlled the narrative of my life in networking and professional settings, thinking that being known as a single mom would create doubt at my candidacy for the jobs I wanted. How can you spend 16 hours on set? Who is watching your kid? Do you really have time to prep a production? I had even been told flat out by successful (childless) authors that the life of a writer was incompatible with being a parent. I was having drinks with a high school friend and her successful screenwriter beau when she outed me as having a child. I cringed inside. I joked and smiled about it, explaining that I don’t reveal that piece of the story in order to keep my son’s life private, and for the aforementioned reasons. To my surprise I saw on the screenwriter’s face a look of surprise and respect.

“How do you do it?” He asked, in genuine wonder. “How is it even possible to produce a show when you have a child?”

I went on to explain about my personal resilience and flexibility, and how remarkably unashamed I am to text-blast friends to watch my child to make it to a last minute meeting.295316_10152520656765657_303564701_n

“I can put on lipstick while begging into a phone and making a sandwich, and show up hair in place hands steady as a surgeon’s. I’m crazy like that. Freelancing on expert mode.”

I’m sure not everyone is as generous with their perspective as he was in asking and listening with admiration and encouragement. That said, I have found the scarcity of single Moms in the industry does elicit more respect than pity when I am understood to be one. Anyone who has done the job knows that it is hard enough without a child, the fact that I have one only adds to my credibility as being hardworking and capable. I don’t volunteer the fact but neither do I cringe anymore when someone outs me. As I realize more of my peers have been raised by single Moms and are appreciative of how difficult the undertaking of sole-parenting is even of itself, the scarlet letter is slowly turning into a medal of honor. Once you move out of the sandbox of mediocre minds, little emphasis is placed on how you screwed up and much is placed on how you stood up and showed up.

 

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Valerie Astra Powers – Single Mom/ Producer/ Writer/ Director

What excited you: I would have never done the things I have if it weren’t for my son. I fell into a true depression when I found out that I was pregnant at 21. I had to drop out of school, had to quit a job I loved in a smoke-filled bar. As I fought through the melancholy of thinking my life was being stolen from it the struggle was won in a beautiful revelation: anything I could do without a child, I could do with a child. The scope of my dreams wasn’t so great that it couldn’t include him. I never thought that I would be a good Mom so I had never even considered having a child. I found out that being his Mom is something I’m good at because it required me to take an honest index of where my life was headed, and what I really wanted out of life. He put into perspective, by seemingly jeopardizing, everything I truly wanted – and then he became the reason for doing it all. You wouldn’t think it would work that way, but for me it did. Instead of a dead weight he became the anchor I needed to find my barrings and chart a course to where I wanted to be all along.

What challenged you: Climbing the mountain of being an ambitious artist is undeniably harder when you’re carrying a child on your hip. It paces me. I can’t get too far too fast, but for that reason I haven’t burnt out. I haven’t given up. You don’t meet many single Moms in the industry. After being active almost four years I’ve met one, and she’s hardcore. For that reason also its uncommon to encounter empathy. I find myself needing to work harder than others, to get all the same work done by the time daycare is going to close because staying late is seldom an option. I have to be a powerhouse, I don’t have room to skate by. Time is at a premium, and if I borrow time from him to invest in a meeting, or networking, or even a shoot I’ve planned for months, I have to live with the cruel sting that it is his childhood I’m siphoning time from. I know that Dads, single or otherwise, are praised for working long hours to provide and further their careers but the same charity is not always extended to Moms doing the same. Making my relationship with my son a priority and a constant effort to make the time we have together count has really helped to ease the shame I once felt at not being a stay-at-home, nor having a “normal” life with a husband and mortgage. Children are tough, they just need to see that you are constantly considering and contributing to the happiness in their life. That is a challenge all its own, and the most rewarding way to spend your life. Going to bed exhausted each night is a small concession for knowing you’re literally spending your life on something that is singularly worth your exertion. It takes every inch to make it work, to raise a happy child and still see your name at the top of call sheets, but you don’t do it because you want to you do it because you love to.

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Valerie Astra Powers – Single Mom/Producer/Writer/Director & Son

 

What you look forward to: I’ve come to think of my work as a writer/director as if it were my “other child.” The art is sometimes more needy than its corporeal brother, but generally the process of developing them both is the same – I spend quality time with both each day, and watch them both grow, and in the process I myself also grow to become better at helping them to become what they will be. Watching them develop and become actualized is the absolute expression of who I am as a person. My job in TV is merely to support them, both of them. My son and my work as an artist are essential to me and my happiness in life. I look forward to seeing what they both grow into as they take on lives of their own. With regards to both, my happiness is in knowing that all my effort will be worth it on the day that they are released into the world and that if I have done my job right they will be understood, loved, and beneficial to the lives of those who encounter them. Also, I cannot wait for my son to learn how to read – he’s getting so close!

What you think people should know:
Your child needs you to be true to yourself. I didn’t truly understand this until after I moved back to Los Angeles (because sometimes the test comes before the lesson). On the first show I worked on there was a Supervising Producers named Sarah who was filing in for my boss who was, believe it or not, out on maternity leave with her first child. Sarah was as cool as it is possible to be while still working on unscripted television. She was almost ethereal. I was girl-crush at first sight when I saw Sarah in the hallways because she just exuded originality and genuine kindness. One day we sat in her office and I opened up to her about my trepidation at raising my then 3 year old by myself in Los Angeles.

img_20160818_162848“I grew up backstage,” Sarah told me, and described to me a childhood where her father raised on the road while he produced gigantic international rock shows. The more she spoke the more I realized her awesomeness came from growing up around the planet, in the company of artists, and the “normal” life was not one she felt she missed out on. I even felt a pinch of innocent jealousy at the experiences she recounted. I was looking at the happiness in her eyes as she spoke to me. She didn’t grow up in an orthodox way, but she grew up happy and loved nonetheless.

I realized then, and still hold true, that your child needs you to be yourself. The fullest expression of yourself. They will never understand themselves unless you do. I am a weird artistic Mom, and I am raising a silly, wonderful artistic child. I tried in vain to normal myself up for years in the hopes it would help him to be normal, thinking as many Moms do that normal means happy. Happy is happy, and normal is not real. Its okay to be a strange actor/writer/director/costume designer/Executive Producer/Cinematographer Mom, to raise your child in your trailer/studio/on your set/in your workshop, as long as you do raise them. Being a Mom with a camera in your hand is no different than being a Mom with a broom in your hand, work is work and someone has to do it. You can set an example for your child in how to be happy and fulfilled in the work that you do. So long as you are genuine and loving, so long as you are emotionally present and supportive of them, so long as you take whatever time you have with them seriously in filling their childhood with meaning and magic, they will be proud of the life your career gave them. They may not be normal but they will be happy. Isn’t that the most any Mom can hope for?


1901414_10153975464270657_1915479375_nYour favorite mommy-artist story:

My first job in TV at 25 was a show for National Geographic and I was determined to make a good impression. I had heard through the grapevine that the EP hated when workers left early, and he loved seeing people working late – it mirrored his own sensibilities. Desperate to secure my spot in the production for future seasons, I worked late as often as I possibly could. I did a lot of apologizing to the sweet Israeli woman who kept him for me during the day, sometimes 14 hours all in all. That Halloween I dropped my 3 year old off at his babysitter’s in his sweet little fireman costume with the promise that when I picked him up we’d go trick or treating. My plan was to go to a fall festival at a church down the street from his baby sitter. We were still relatively new in town and the boarding house we lived at in South Central wasn’t the ideal location for trick or treating, or making eye contact with neighbors for that matter. I shouldn’t have stayed late that day, but I did. Everyone else with a child in the office had gone home. I stayed behind, just trying to get a little more work done than the guy next to me who was the same age but childless and cut early to go to WeHo. When I finally got out that night I raced up to Encino to get him but by the time we got to the church but they had closed up shop.

I felt terrible. I felt like I should have a citation against my license to parent.

“The party is over Mommy!” He said as we rolled slowly through the empty lot. I was bracing myself. This was going to get ugly. My mind was racing – how to word my apology in a way that deescalated his crying? How can I make this better once he goes nuclear in 3, 2…?

But like the Great Pumpkin, Scream-aggedon never came.

“We can just go to the store and get some candy.” He told me simply.

“YOU WANT TO DO THAT?” I asked smiling ear to ear, trying hard to feign excitement while fighting tears at how sad it was that he didn’t realize I had messed up so royally.

At the Ralph’s later I pointed him to giant bags of Halloween candy, shedding my aversion to the idea of pumping a three year old full of simple sugar in favor of medicating my disgust at being that Mom – at the store with her costumed kid because she obviously dropped the ball on Halloween. My low key prince surprised me again when he insisted he only wanted a single bag of regular M&Ms. Back in the car I buckled him in and by the time I got around to the driver’s seat he had his Star Wars Angry Birds bucket in his hands. He held it out to me, smiling.

“Trick or treat, Mommy!”

I put the M&Ms in his bucket. Then I softly cried the whole way home. Tears of self pity at my failure, and gratitude at how incredibly kind he was being in spite of it. He didn’t realize what I had done but I did, and I would not forget that feeling. I swore I would never rob him of another holiday again. I knew I got lucky this time. My son had a sweet enough heart that he wasn’t hurt by my mistake. I resolved that the only way to protect that sweet heart of his was to never test it again. All the money and success in the world isn’t worth breaking one little boy’s sweet heart.


I’m continually moved by each mother’s ability to be transparent both with the struggles and incredible strength of motherhood in our creative professions. Valerie nails the pain of disappointment while admitting the love she still has for what she does. That incredible paradox is home for many of us, and what a beautiful way to continue the conversation by hearing from a mom who has been doing this on her own.

Well done, Valerie. And thank you.

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“So long as you are genuine and loving, so long as you are emotionally present and supportive of them, so long as you take whatever time you have with them seriously in filling their childhood with meaning and magic, they will be proud of the life your career gave them.” – Valerie Astra Powers, Single Mom/ Producer/ Writer/ Director

My favorite Quotes – What are yours?

“It takes every inch to make it work, to raise a happy child and still see your name at the top of call sheets, but you don’t do it because you want to – you do it because you love to.”

– Valerie Astra Powers, Producer/Writer/Director

“Happy is happy, and normal is not real. Its okay…to raise your child in your trailer/studio/on your set/in your workshop, as long as you do raise them.”

– Valerie Astra Powers, Producer/Writer/Director

“Being a Mom with a camera in your hand is no different than being a Mom with a broom in your hand, work is work and someone has to do it.”

– Valerie Astra Powers, Producer/Writer/Director

“I realized then, and still hold true, that your child needs you to be yourself.”

– Valerie Astra Powers, Producer/Writer/Director


Be sure to write to me in the comments after you see Susie’s show! I cannot wait to read its impression on you.

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!

So What Now? HOW ABOUT THIS…

4/2/2017 – We’ve launched PAALtheatre.com to take this conversation to the national level. Be sure to check out the site and join us!

josh-calabrese-146257After an incredibly successful first #MotherhoodInTheatre forum last Saturday, Feb 25, 2017, we have a PLAN OF ACTION (notes and slides from the session will be posted soon). I’m geeking out already!
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FIRST – we will be having similar events this year in NEW YORK and PHILADELPHIA. If you’d like to be put on the list when the details get launched, email us and we will be sure to let you know when we’re coming your way.
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NOW FOR THE GOOD STUFF 2017! Let’s dive in:
If you see something here you want to be involved in specifically (for my CHICAGO peeps) but haven’t told me yet, shoot me an email! We’ll rope you in right away.
 
Upcoming Forums:
  • Fatherhood in Theatre
  • Motherhood in Theatre Forum 2: Solutions & Database Exchanges
  • All-Parent Panel & Symposium
Upcoming Projects:
  • Playground Workshops (a la MAM style – check out the revolutionary Mothers Artist Makers in Ireland if you don’t know them yet) – Devised work with mothers and children in the room; for artist refinement and presentation.
  • Reading series – 4 plays, 4 weeks, in 4 different theaters; motherhood theme with parent actors, mother playwrights, mother directors, mother dramaturgs, etc.
  • Classes and workshops with on-site childcare – coordinate a few classes and workshops that will run alongside provision for children.
Upcoming Events:
  • Socializing Meetups – theatrical and non-theatrical (both mother exclusive & all-parent)
  • Networking Events (all parent + non-parent professional mixer)
Solutions & Organizations Mentioned at Forum:
  • Exchanging comps for childcare volunteer work like usher “saints”
  • Requesting theatrical schedules ahead of time for childcare planning
  • Casting appointment designation of time for parents to make kids in the space acceptable and manageable
  • Distinction of permissibility by casting office preference of children on site to prevent guesswork and make for better planning
  • Collective babysitter arrangements
  • “Childcare matinees”
  • Address pumping
  • Address liability needs and processes for on site childcare that theatres and organizations have to juggle
  • Focus on solutions specifically for ages 0-5
  • Focus on solutions that morph with ever-changing nature of artist trajectory
  • Pay it forward for those who don’t have children yet but will with implementation of protocol
  • Take a Break playgroup (organization)
  • Broadway Babysitters (organization NYC)
  • Sitter City (organization)

THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED

Set up and ready – Motherhood in Theatre Forum 1 – Free Childcare Onsite. #kidsroom #MotherhoodInTheatre Forum

HUGE thanks to the 15 ladies and 9+ kids who came out in the SNOW to gather for mothers in the theatre. If you missed this one, no worries. There will be more! Just the beginning, friends ❤
I will be posting the PowerPoint and notes soon, along with some of the discussion points and upcoming events & projects.

If you couldn’t make this one, and you’re interested in being in the loop for upcoming events, email me at AuditioningMom@gmail.com

NYC and Philadelphia, we’re setting up forums for you, too! If you’re interested in attending, contact me via email at AuditioningMom@gmail.com, and we’ll put you on the list for details.
Huge thanks to Vagabond School of the Arts for hosting. Click the image below to check out this awesome space and their killer classes. #FamilyFriendly
Vagabond School of the Arts #WomenInTheatre #MotherhoodInTheatre

#roomwhereithappened #womenintheatre #actormom #theatre #theatremommy #theatreartist #chicago #chicagotheatre #chicagoactor #chicagotheatreartist 

TODAY – FORUM: Motherhood in Theatre (Chicago) – FREE CHILDCARE PROVIDED

IT’S HAPPENING. After a successful meeting of Women in Theatre – the forum hosted by Onward & Upward – our official breakaway session on Motherhood in Theatre is live and ready for your voice. Register here!

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And yes, as the title says, FREE CHILDCARE PROVIDED on-site (breastfeeding moms and children are also welcome in the forum space). Check out the details and click the link below to register you and your people:

When: February 25, 2017 (Saturday)

Where: Vagabond School of the Arts, 4001 N Ravenswood Ave #504

Time: 10:30AM-12:30PM

TicketsFREE (but please RSVP for you and any children who will be playing in our childcare via the “child” ticket option) or email if last minute – auditioningmom@gmail.com

What: A forum to begin conversation on the obstacles, joys, struggles, and solutions for motherhood in the theater. From social stigma to structure/schedules to sanity and opportunities, we will touch on common topics and also have time to share what we’ve experienced, all in all, to create a community here that will lead to productive change. 

We hope you can join us!

We are already working on similar events in Philadelphia and New York City. If you would like to be on the email list, shoot us an email.

This is the first but not only event we will be having this year. I hope you can make it, but if not, please contact me to get your name on the list, and we will absolutely keep you in the loop. You’re a part of this simply by who you are – and that in and of itself has value, you rockstar theatre mom.

See you soon.

Love,

Rachel Spencer Hewitt

Auditioning Mom

Interview: BABY HOLDERS – Moxie Theatre

 

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Click Image to Visit Moxie Theatre Site

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.


DONT MISS OUR FORUM on MOTHERHOOD IN THEATRE this Saturday (Chicago)

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!

CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS

(If you’re interested in our forums coming up this year in NEW YORK and PHILADELPHIA, email AuditioningMom@gmail.com)!

What She Looks Like: Susie Lamb, Actor/Writer (EIR)

Happy belated Valentine’s Day, Theatre Artist Mamas. As the February chill settles in, I wanted to take us back across the pond to Ireland, where revolutionary theatre moms are fighting to keep the fires burning, and meet one stunning lady in particular. MAM Ireland founding member and actor/mom Susie Lamb is this week’s What She Looks Like as she’s preparing to kick off her one-woman show “HORAE” premiering next week and playing February 20-26 at the Complex Live Arts Center in Dublin! (My kingdom for a flight to Ireland, PLEASEANDTHANKYOU.) This fierce mother artist has a stellar resume working in television, film, and major theaters across Ireland. She created this newest piece from research conducted herself in Sicily and Malta, exploring the history of sacred prostitution and women in hidden histories. With a combination of a MA in Dance and degree in Archaeology, Susie embodies the investigative and expressive nature necessary to create a piece so demanding of physical transcendence such as “HORAE.”

As a mother, Susie’s experience with growing her child in her body has also informed her research in the terms of a body as a temple and women’s relationship throughout history to both sacred and sexual social contexts – for the show, she explores the evolution of prostitution and devolution of female status. In this interview for What She Looks Like, Susie talks about the insecurities and strengths that motherhood provided her in preparation for her own work. From a sudden fierceness to mental stamina to resilience, Susie joins the ranks of theatre artist-mothers whose work, life, and advocacy continue to defy the reductive stereotype of the post-childbirth female and explore the possibilities and creations that can be enhanced by the motherhood experience, if anything in the sensitivity of self and honesty in expansion. I have long wanted to interview one of my Irish mother-theatre artist sisters for this series, and I couldn’t be more pleased to hear from Susie as she’s on the cusp of presenting her powerful piece:


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Actor/Mother Susie Lamb in the upcoming one-woman show “HORAE” Written and performed by Susie Lamb.

Name: Susie Lamb
Profession: Actress/writer
Status: One daughter, age 9

What surprised/surprises you about having a child and working your performing arts life:
The impact it had on how much I earned and the insecurity that brought. The low and erratic earnings of an artist’s lifestyle became very clear when I had my daughter, and the sustainability of the life came into question very closely. I realized why my mother said I should have married a person with a steady job! Something else I was really shocked by was how sometimes people gave me the impression that they thought I wasn’t quite capable anymore – that shocked me because I felt the opposite when it came to the work itself.

What excited/excites you about having a child and working your performing arts life:
I have more material to work with. My internal landscape has become so emotionally rich. Becoming a mother made me feel everything more deeply and in a more visceral way, so I have access to all those feelings in whatever role I take on. One of the things that surfaced in me when I had a child was a fierceness to protect- That was really invigorating for me, because I am naturally very shy, but when it comes to my daughter, my fierceness rises – and I suppose that’s a kind of power which is useful in theatre and film. Also, having a child is like running a marathon. Things I thought were physically demanding before raising a child now seem easier because my mental stamina has increased with being a mother and surviving on no sleep. I am also amazed by my resilience, and that resilience is useful for some of my other work – like writing for example. At the moment I am preparing for a one woman show that I have written, directed and am producing. The multi-faceted way of thinking is something motherhood has taught me. I don’t particularly enjoy the split focus, especially the producing, but I am able to do it now if I have to!

What challenged/challenges you about having a child and working your performing arts life:
Making a living. Keeping at it when opportunities have diminished since I have had her and believing I should keep doing it has been difficult at times. My self belief is much stronger now, but for the first few years after I had her it was challenged. But more difficult than that is other people’s perceptions of me, assuming that I have “given up” when I have in fact been working harder because there is less opportunity. That makes it more difficult. I have had to create my own work and keep knocking on doors. When I started acting people were willing to give me a break. I think it would be good for actresses who have been quiet for a while for whatever reason to also be given a break. Being an actress sometimes reminds me of having a boyfriend who doesn’t treat me very well – he doesn’t call that much, and when he does he tells me I’m just not quite right. Because my body changed so much after having a child, I was more sensitive to that. It happens anyway as you get older, but I was a bit more sensitive to it for a few years after giving birth.

What you look forward to about having a child and working your performing arts life:
My daughter gets very excited about my acting and “winning auditions” as she calls it. She has in interest in the mechanics of acting itself and I look forward to sharing that with her more as she gets older.

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What you think people should know about having a child and working your performing arts life:
It gets easier as the children get a bit older. Its really important to keep stating that you’re an actress or whatever it is, even if you’re not working on something. Finding another avenue if you are not working is really important, to keep connected to your passion, even in a small way. Then, when or if you decide to go back to work or it decides to let you, your confidence will come back more easily.


On-stage representation has a long way to go in terms of exploring the hidden women of history and modern day. Susie’s piece boldly contributes to the under-served repertoire of created work that explores the female in diverse forms and how society over time has suppressed or exalted them. Susie exemplifies the power mother-artists can have in discovering these “hidden women” and thrusting them into the light, insisting we see them and know their stories. In so doing, Susie has advocated for mother-artists by insisting on her own visibility, proving the mother artist can and should be considered an active, perceptive, and relevant participant in the theatre’s on-stage conversations.


My Favorite Quotes:

“I have more material to work with. My internal landscape has become so emotionally rich. Becoming a mother made me feel everything more deeply and in a more visceral way, so I have access to all those feelings in whatever role I take on.”

– Susie Lamb, Actor/Mother/MAM Founding Member

“Having a child is like running a marathon.”

– Susie Lamb, Actor/Mother/MAM Founding Member

“My self belief is much stronger now, but for the first few years after I had her it was challenged. But more difficult than that is other people’s perceptions of me, assuming that I have “given up” when I have in fact been working harder…”

– Susie Lamb, Actor/Mother/MAM Founding Member

“When I started acting people were willing to give me a break. I think it would be good for actresses who have been quiet for a while for whatever reason to also be given a break.”

– Susie Lamb, Actor/Mother/MAM Founding Member

“Being an actress sometimes reminds me of having a boyfriend who doesn’t treat me very well – he doesn’t call that much, and when he does he tells me I’m just not quite right. Because my body changed so much after having a child, I was more sensitive to that.”

– Susie Lamb, Actor/Mother/MAM Founding Member

“It gets easier as the children get a bit older. Its really important to keep stating that you’re an actress or whatever it is…keep connected to your passion, even in a small way.”

– Susie Lamb, Actor/Mother/MAM Founding Member


Be sure to write to me in the comments after you see Susie’s show! I cannot wait to read its impression on you.

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!

SOLUTIONS II: Motherhood in the Theatre Part 4

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Be a Light.

Here are testimonies of cool solutions for parent-artists and theatres proving that inclusion and progress for parent-artists exists, is possible, and should be standard in our work culture.

Nothing could please me more than investigating and gathering healthy practices for parenthood inclusion in the theater arts from progressive minds and artists around the country. Our series began by outlining some common obstacles in Parts 1 & 2 and kicked off our introduction of possible and in-practice solutions around the country with our photo essay and Solutions I/Part 3 on childcare. Now, on a day made for stories of theaters around the country with progressive walk to back up their progressive talk, we continue with Solutions II/Part 4, a collection of healthy practices and possible solutions to the remaining obstacles on our list that fall under three categories: Work Opportunities, Work Space, and Work Life/Culture.

I recently had a friend and veteran of the theater ask me about my blog, “but what are you expecting to do?” – providing the collected list below is a good example of my mission, but I’ll articulate it here more specifically: increase awareness of the obstacles facing parents in the theater community and advocate for creative and viable solutions to reduce those obstacles and create pathways in for disenfranchised caregivers in the theatre arts. Highlighting examples of working solutions and emphasizing creative and unconventional problem-solving for mutual gain between parent-artist and theatrical institution is instrumental to inciting change and empowering risk takers to develop family-inclusive artistic practices.

This list is far from exhaustive but provides a sampling of positive examples that hopefully will become more public to alter the conversation and behavior toward family-artist-friendly practices. The work isn’t over with posting the list below – the exploration is ongoing. Photos are already being collected for our CHILDREN IN THE SPACE 2 photo essay, and if you know of obstacles left off or want to give a shout out to a family-friendly theater with a healthy practice, shoot me an email hereI want to know it.

The following examples have been kept anonymous unless the experiences were voluntarily made public. Anonymity is intended to protect resources without over-exposing the accommodation, as resources for parents have yet to be regulated by our unions.

WORK OPPORTUNITIES

1. Family Residency Programs

“Julia Jordan helped organize the SPACE on Ryder Farm and The Lilly Awards Foundation’s Family Residency program, which sounds revolutionary.” – Adrien-Alice Hansel, Dramaturg

The SPACE on Ryder Farm Family Residency is indeed revolutionary. With women-in-theatre advocates The Lilly Awards in partnership, SPACE now offers TWO residency weeks in the year to parents and children with structured time to play and structured time to create, meals provided. This opportunity is listed first because of its total inclusion of the parent lifestyle and recognition of the child’s potential for creative contribution. The family is accepted as a community to the awarded residency, and more opportunities like this one – where parents are sponsored to create and continue building their relationships in the same space – would provide the paths back in to creating that many parents seek that find having a child taking them out of the creative world entirely for a time. A crucial detail – indirect but far from insignificant – is the result of equality in residencies such as this one. Because the time is sponsored and children are included in the structure, the socially-dictated burden commonly placed on the mother to care for the children is evenly distributed among all members of the family as they are all fed, housed, and incorporated into the creative process. Below is a quote from the SPACE on Ryder Farm website describing the opportunity (click the link for application – deadline for 2017 is February 7):

“All family residents (parents and children) will take part in three communal farm-fresh meals daily. SPACE will facilitate creative and nature-focused programming for the children, culminating in an informal group share. Simultaneously SPACE supports the adult artists by creating an environment with structured time and space to create (as well as structured time and space to be with their children). The response from residents and the larger community has been resoundingly positive and the high demand for this program has compelled SPACE to expand the residency in 2017, making a second week available to more families…” – SPACE on Ryder Farm Family Residency [Read More]

2. Dedicated Project Workspace with Childcare/Child-inclusion

“[Mother House is a] short-term project would demonstrate how a dedicated space provides crucial support for mother artists’ professional development.” – Mother House, UK

Mother House developed as a space for mothers who were visual artists to enter a dedicated space and create work alongside their children or with the children simply on site. Created as “a new independent directive by the Procreate Project in collaboration with Desperate Artwives,” Mother House blows the lid off of potential motherhood-inclusive space that allows art and family lifestyle to co-exist and even inform the structure.

3. Mother-Artist Allies and Advocates in the Hiring/Casting Process

“I was 5 weeks postpartum when I began rehearsals at The Studio Theatre in DC for Venus in Fur. They were INCREDIBLY accommodating-giving me extra housing for my Mom so she could care for baby when I was at rehearsal/performance and scheduling breaks so that I could breastfeed the wee one. And the director/artistic director David Muse was imperative in orchestrating all of this and getting me cast in the first place. There were definitely some worried board members when he declared that he wanted to hire a 7 months pregnant woman, but he went to bat for me.” – Erica Sullivan, Actor

“Not a theater but a development opportunity — the O’Neill was AMAZING about my bringing my 13-month-old AND his father with me for a month. They were welcomed with wide-open arms.” – Jenny Connell Davis, Playwright

“Not quite theatre experience but I am a theatre new mom.. Baby girl is just 5 weeks old. I got pregnant at the end of a run of a show I was doing at The Public in NYC. I decided to stay in NYC for pilot season and ended up booking a pilot. When I told my agents I was pregnant, prior to the actual booking, they lost their minds and you would have thought I was the first mother known to man. Actually told me he would have to “dead my pilot season.” However, when the casting directors at all the networks found out, they were all sooooo excited and told me to “bring it!” I ended up shooting that pilot 6 months pregnant and everyone was soo supportive and excited that a baby was coming.. Well that pilot is now a series and I am 5 weeks post partum, shooting it. The network could not be more thrilled.. They check in, I pump during hair and makeup and rest when I need to.” -Tamberla Perry, Actor

Irish theatre artist, mother, and founding member of MAM Ireland Sarah FitzGibbon calls “falling off the invitation list” when theatre practitioners with hiring opportunities fail to offer mothers or new parents job opportunities because the artists have families and may not be ready or interested. In addition to awareness of the tendency to discredit parent-artist, allies and advocates on the other side of the table become the next best asset to creating job opportunities for parents in the theater. Allowing a mother or father to determine their own readiness for the job by offering them the opportunity to say yes or no allows them to continue to have primary agency over their artistic trajectory. Advocates and allies of parent-artists create bridges that keep pathways open for work and diversify the work itself with the inclusion of gifted parent-artists.

5. Maternity/Paternity Leave

“I work as a staff electrician for Yale School of Drama/ Yale Rep and they were very accommodating for both pregnancies and kid’s current needs. After my first was born in Sept, I took 3.5 months off, then came back evenings/weekends for the spring, then full time the following school year, allowing me to be home day times for 11 months. With the second, I took off 5 months from March to August.” – Linda-Cristal Young, Head Staff Electrician

Yale has been highlighted positively multiple times by our contributors for family-friendly practices for both creative and administrative positions! Their official policy is unknown, but the feedback from employees, including this one from Linda-Cristal, does not go unnoticed. It’s a refreshing example of an employee whose dedication is rewarded with employer provision in order for life and work to continue in a productive and collaborative way for both parties.

Unlike Yale’s provision here, many theatres continue to function without any parental leave policies whatsoever. The fight for gender equality cannot make progress as long as industries, including the self-proclaimed progressive discipline of the theater, remain ignorant of or refuse to provide maternity and/or paternity leave for their employees. If a theatre promotes itself as a progressive space, it must create progressive policy in its work environment, including but not limited to the inclusion of maternity/paternity leave for its employees.

WORK SPACE

6. The Maternity Room/Pumping-Breastfeeding On-Site

I can’t show you the photo or share the name because it was shared privately, but just know that somewhere in NYC, I have seen in photo evidence, there is – on work location – a door specifically marked with an engraved sign “maternity room.” Due to breastfeeding moms on staff who need to pump at specific intervals in their day, the company designated a comfortable space, private for the employees benefit, to allow for pumping so that the mother-artists’ workday could continue its flow and the mothers could continue their milk storage. While it should be allowed in the space when needed to be, for some mothers needing privacy without a designated space, pumping on the toilet is standard and unacceptable. This solution of a Maternity Room is simple, thoughtful, and effective, and can make a huge difference in creating a workable environment for a new mother deserving of that job.

“Breastfeeding my 5 month old at intermission while playing Sandy in Grease at Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma. The staff was awesome and super supportive of my new motherhood!” – Rebecca Kupka Overton, Actor

“I have asked for a shelter in the theatre building for nursing and play place for my baby to hang out…especially when I had to nurse her every two hours. Smaller theatres are better with it. Bigger theatres are hesitant when you ask for things more officially, especially regarding an access to the building. For instance, I had a terrible experience with [high-end off-broadway theatre], but unofficially everyone was fine with my child and my mother hanging out in the building.” – Jiyoun Chang, Scenic/Lighting Designer

Providing space on-site for a child with a caregiver for a breastfeeding mom is another instrumental provision for the mother-artist who is right for the job and simultaneously a new mother. Theatres willing to negotiate the boundaries they need to protect their space while accommodating the space a breastfeeding mother needs create a fruitful collaboration and diversify their talent.

7. Family-conscious Housing

“I was 5 weeks postpartum when I began rehearsals at The Studio Theatre in DC for Venus in Fur. They were INCREDIBLY accommodating-giving me extra housing for my Mom so she could care for baby when I was at rehearsal/performance and scheduling breaks so that I could breastfeed the wee one.” – Erica Sullivan, Actor

“I was once housed in an apartment that had a giant walk-in closet that I turned into a baby’s room for the two weeks my husband and daughter came to stay. I didn’t ask for it, but I told the theater they would be coming to visit for 10 days. They also got me a car seat and crib to use. I was directing the show, though. I’m not sure they were as helpful to the costume designer and her child.” – Michelle Tattenbaum, Director

While apartment space varies depending on a theatre’s resources, accommodations should be made with a family-awareness. Also mentioned in our solutions for childcare, housing is important to mention in terms of space because theatres need to have an awareness of family-artist needs and see their space resources in terms of an artist with children when the opportunity arises. It’s not a superfluous resource burden, it’s one of the necessary factors of being in the business of accommodating diverse groups of people.

8. Flexibility for Children in the Space

See our impressive gallery of children onsite HERE. Even more photos are coming in for a second installment. Click here to submit.

 

WORK LIFE/CULTURE

9. Virtual Meetings in a New Era

“Sarah Slobodien Dovere and everyone at Woolly Mammoth Theatre were so supportive when I had my daughter. I had a really long commute, so Sarah let me telecommute two days each week so that I wasn’t losing that time each day with my baby. It was so important to have that flexibility!” – Sabrina Sikes Thornton, Foundation & Corporate Relations Manager, Woolly Mammoth Theatre

We currently make theatre in a time where access to conversations across the globe are available at the touch of a screen. While theatre will forever be a banner art for in-person human contact, its accessibility from the creative end could benefit from access that allows for collaborative conversation to not be limited to space or location when possible. When the right person for the job could benefit from meeting in separate spaces, a production could flourish when its collaborators show flexibility and a bit of tech savvy.

10. Representation in Produced Work

“Ellen White, Executive Producer at Gorilla Tango, posted the opportunity in the Chicago Theatre Parents Facebook group. I contacted Ellen to express my interest and it turned out that she was already familiar with my work. We had an interview where I pitched my concept and shortly after I was hired for the commission.” – Jenny Seidelman, Playwright

In an interview with AuditioningMom.com, Jenny Seidelman describes her opportunity to write a commissioned piece that she pitched as a “parent-centric comedy” (read the full interview here). Gorilla Tango snatched up the opportunity and the piece started rehearsals yesterday. In the audition notice, parents were encouraged to audition, a great example of family-sensitive collaboration and networking due to inclusion of a parent-artist, which leads us to the next solution.

11. Alternatives to Networking After-Hours

“I’ve started regular breakfast dates with a couple artistic collaborators of mine. It has done the most to make me feel connected when I don’t stay out late.” – Hannah Hessel Ratner, Audience Enrichment Manager, Shakespeare Theatre Company

“What do you think the possible solutions are? Besides going to matinees. I sometimes feel like women are shy about networking in the times when we encounter one another…like on the playground, etc. Like, we feel like there’s some rule against networking, that we should only be developing personal relationships during those times. But why?…My collaborators will definitely show up for morning coffees/breakfasts. I love doing that. It’s more missing the soft networking late at night that concerns me…” – Michelle Tattenbaum, Director

“I think [online] groups like this are a good place to start! We as women need to have each other’s backs and acknowledge how stacked the deck is against us. We must do more to pull each other up!” – Cristin Hubbard Miller, Actor

The post-rehearsal/show drinks and weekend meetups at bars create an environment for relationship-building that often leads to trust and/or networking that generates more jobs, especially in a discipline based on collaboration and freelance artist hustle like the theatre. For parents, and often the sacrifice is maternal almost to a point of potentially contributing to the overall gender inequality in numerous professions, late night meetups remain an impossibility, resulting in a disconnect from cast and/or community. Regular breakfasts and intentionally adjusting the time of the meetup can create more accessibility. However, awareness of the other parents in a production community should be encouraged so that the “soft networking” late at night recognizes the group is incomplete when the parent can’t attend and hopefully effort on the part of the surrounding members will proactively create additional solutions as well.

The online or otherwise collaboration of theatre mothers/parents not only creates a sense of community that can provide emotional support, it also provides a networking platform not dependent on time or location – a huge asset for artists whose lives revolve around accommodating multiple schedules. The networking platform itself can and has been used as an opportunity to find meetups with other artists who are also parents, creating a networking that is family-inclusive due to the understanding nature of the participants. Intentionally networking with other family artists may help steer the collaborations in a direction of family-friendly work culture, creating work with an awareness of the needs of artists with care responsibilities.

12. Rethink Schedules/Adjusting the “Staying Late Always Means Dedication” Perception

“Family-friendly scheduling does not mean that all events after 5:30 should be prohibited. Rather, it means that those engaged in programming should be conscious of the exclusions created by after-hours events and should take proactive steps to accommodate faculty unable to stay on campus into the evening…The larger problem is when a center, institute, program, or department puts the bulk of its programming at 5:30; a faculty member with family responsibilities may be excluded from conversations crucial to his or her professional development for a period of years.” – Office of the Provost, Brown University

Not a theatre, but the best memo I’ve seen on scheduling adjustment at a high-end institution still intent on producing as often and as well as before the memo was issued. This adjustment to work culture recognizes that there is no perfect time and by no means demands that all meetings (or rehearsals or production meetings) accommodate family schedules but instead insists on an awareness and sensitivity that allows for a reworking of assumptions and timing that would allow for conflicts and adjust so that attendance is accessible to a range of various faculty (artists). The theatre as a discipline benefits from artists with experiences outside of its walls, and creating obstacles to showing up for people with caring responsibilities may incorrectly project a perception of divided interest or lack of dedication. Again, the right worker with the highest amount of dedication may still be unable to attend an arbitrarily scheduled meeting or stay for an unforeseen additional half hour. Awareness and intentionality to consider diverse lifestyles in timing and duration may help the theatre work-culture create schedules and produce within respected time boundaries to the benefit of a diverse and dedicated group of artists, some of whom may have caring responsibilities.

Read Full Letter From Brown’s Provost Here

BONUS NOTE:

“This is for low-budget film, not theater, but I was blown away when production offered to fly me PLUS TWO COMPANION TICKETS across the country. My son was only 4 months at the time and we would never have bought him a seat otherwise. But it was a huge paradigm shift moment for me too: oh, having a newborn doesn’t make me an aberration; I’m now just another crew member with family. I was IN the club!” – Samara Bay, Actor/Dialect Coach

“I’m just starting to work now that baby is here, so more on that in the future! But when I was pregnant I did two weeks of long days on a special event where the company helped me by making sure I’d be able to sit lots (this is a problem on these jobs always), paying for Uber rides home at night and providing someone to continually bring me food during the event open hours!” – Jenna Woods, Stage Manager

The theater has a long way to go in terms of how it welcomes diverse groups of people, many with more oppression and exclusion than I would ever come across, but a group that often feels shorted are the working mothers in the theater. In a craft that prides itself on revolutionary progress, women who expand themselves are often made to pay for it, or worse, completely disqualified.

Encouraging inclusive practices for artists with caring responsibilities will come from awareness and advocacy. These testimonies are just a few examples of the sort of practices that may go a long way in making the theatre accessible to artists who also parent.

Below is a letter that sums up awesome, healthy, supportive, and profoundly simple perspective of working with families in the theatre arts:

(From Vineyard Arts Project in response to my inquiry why we had seen and received so much positive feedback from parent-artists who work at Vineyard.)


 

Hi Rachel,

Thank you for your email and your interest in Vineyard Arts!

I am pleased that we have been getting some positive attention from welcoming families into our artistic process at Vineyard Arts, but I can’t claim that there is a particular philosophy behind it. To be honest, I don’t know why anyone would do it any other way. I certainly never thought of it as a choice but as a given that children would be welcome if we wanted to work with their parents. If parents always have to choose between their children and work, we, as producers, are severely limiting ourselves from the widest range of talent out there. Plus it’s just more fun having kids around at the end of a long rehearsal day!

I hope this is useful for your article.

Best,

Ashley

Founder and Artistic Director

Vineyard Arts Project

“The Vineyard agreed to hire me as the PSM for Indecent, a show I have been on for years, knowing full well I wouldn’t make it through opening. They let me select an ASM (whom they signed off on) to take over for me as we went into tech. Baby Jack came six weeks early – the first day of prep – but they allowed me to stay on contract for two weeks to get things started without pressuring me in any way. Stage management meetings were held in the parents’ lounge at the hospital and I traveled back and forth from the NICU to rehearsal. They were lovely, welcoming, supportive, and thoughtful and I will always sing the praises of them and DR Theatrical. And the work kept me clearheaded and balanced amidst the anxiety of delivering a little early bird. It’s not for everyone but the whole team made it work and for that I am grateful.” – Amanda Spooner, Stage Manager

Shine On.

Parent-Centric Comedy, Interview with Playwright Jenny Seidelman

 

Soon we will be publishing a resources page that includes a list of plays that include representation of the mother/parent as a professional and/or working artist. Recently, Chicago’s Gorilla Tango Theatre commissioned a piece by playwright and mom Jenny Seidelman.

The Audition Notice for this piece encourages parents and diverse performers to audition. Auditions were held on January 8, 2017 from 6-10PM.

Read below for our interview with the playwright and how she received the opportunity to write a comedy on parenting. This opportunity is especially useful because better representation for parents in the narratives onstage increases the relevance of parents in the work for and behind the scenes in our theaters. Representation for parents on stage is part of the healthy practices we like to encourage, and clearly Jenny’s collaboration with Gorilla Tango Theatre puts that into action. Check out the fun work Jenny has brewing.


How did the opportunity to write this commissioned work for Gorilla Tango Theatre come about?

Ellen White, Executive Producer at Gorilla Tango, posted the opportunity in the Chicago Theatre Parents Facebook group. I contacted Ellen to express my interest and it turned out that she was already familiar with my work. We had an interview where I pitched my concept and shortly after I was hired for the commission.

 What excited you about the opportunity when it was presented?

In the short time that I’ve been a parent (2 years) I had yet to write about parenting specifically. I thought it would be an interesting idea to explore. I was also excited to be a part of Gorilla Tango’s new initiative to create original scripted work – it’s always thrilling to be involved with projects from the ground up, at companies that are devoted to new plays.

What, if anything, did you feel concerned about in writing this piece and where did you find the confidence to persevere? If nothing concerned you, what did your confidence come from?

Whenever I write a play, I am always concerned about fairly representing experiences that are different than my own. Ultimately I find confidence by doing extensive research, and also in the creative partners with whom I work. Theater is a collaborative art, and I knew that the artists at Gorilla Tango would provide helpful, thoughtful feedback throughout the writing process. All that, and I know audience reaction to my past projects, that I’m funny.

How do you define the term parent-centric comedy?

Parent-centric comedy is by parents, for parents, about parents.

What concepts or moments in parenting inspired you from the beginning?

Something I’ve come to realize is that parenting is such a personal experience, with lots of different ways to do it. There’s no right or wrong way, even if some people will tell you otherwise. Some of the moments that keep me going as a parent are when I share my frustrations or my joys with my husband, or parent-friend, or even a mom or dad in line at the grocery or at my kid’s music class. We’re all in this together, for the greater good of our children.

What satisfies/is satisfying you about the experience of writing a parent-centric comedy?

I love creating a world where people with different parenting styles and family situations are brought together under one cause, and can bond over raising their children.

What surprises/is surprising you about the experience of writing a parent-centric comedy?

It’s surprising how hard it can be to balance comedy with poignancy – parenting is such a huge responsibility and a major part of life, it can’t be taken lightly 100% of the time.

What challenges/is challenging you about the experience of writing a parent-centric comedy?

The biggest challenge for me was ensuring that as many parenting philosophies and family dynamics as possible were included in the script. There are so many! I ended up focusing mostly on parents of elementary students, so unfortunately parents of teenagers are short-changed. I also wish I could have explored families in more challenging social-economic situations, but that can be a pretty heavy subject and the show is intended to be a comedy.

What can you tell us about your play? 

“…Because I Love You: A Comedy About Parenting” centers on five different families, working to put together their school’s annual spring pageant, raising money via the PTA, and just surviving to live another day. It owes some of its structure to sketch comedy and Second City revues, in that it is filled with non-sequiturs, callbacks, and some edgier humor.

Why do you think this parent-centric piece is important in terms of what we commonly see on stage?

It’s rare to see the experience of parenting on stage in general. There are an endless number of plays about family, but few that address the challenges and joys of having children specifically. You see it much more often on television, in long-form sitcoms or dramas. Theater is a unique art form in that it occurs live in a room full of other people. There is a shared experience that can benefit our discussions on children and parenting, and perhaps provide an opportunity to learn about one another.

How can that improve in terms of theater and parent representation in plays?

As with other groups that are underrepresented on the stage, simply having the story of parents presented is a big win. About 43% of the US households have children 18 and under – that’s a significant portion of the population whose experiences as parents are not being told. 

Do you hope to write more work in this vein/what would you like to create next?

I’d love to incorporate parenting in future work. At the moment, I am working on a loosely-related trilogy of plays about “the things we don’t walk about in polite conversation” – specifically race, politics, and religion. The first, on race, entitled “Outside/Inside”, premiered at Ivy Theatre Company in New York this past fall. All three plays have, or will have characters who are parents, and how they tackle these issues are in some way informed by this role.


Exciting work to follow! Be sure to check out this piece when it goes up starting March 4.

Tickets are on sale NOW at www.gorillatango.com!

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