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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What She Looks Like: Marnye Young, Actor/Writer

To kick off the new year, here is the funny, moving, and brutally honest “What She Looks Like” from Yale School of Drama graduate Marnye Young. She has her own blog called MomOfTwinsBlog.com that you should absolutely check out for more of her refreshing and creative writing style, not to mention creative approach to parenting, and she is – as you can gather – a mother of twins. Check out photos of Marnye and her girls at the end of the interview.

So much of my passion pursuing individual stories comes from the reality that for many women, when having children, the career can just smash to a halt. Marnye experienced the professional stop and motherhood abundance times two with beautiful twin girls. Her exuberance toward motherhood is a joy to read about while her honesty of the disappearing work is something valid and important to acknowledge in our conversations about motherhood in the performing arts.


 

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On Set: Marnye Young

Name: Marnye Young. That’ s my stage name but my legal name is Marnye Hull. I dropped the Young. I am a traditionalist I guess. Is traditionalist a word? Gosh I hope so or I am already off to a bad start with this thing.

Profession: Mother. I mean actor. I mean…crap I don’t know. How about Actor on hiatus.

Status [Pregnant/Child(ren) age(s)] I have identical twin girls who are 1 month shy of 2 1/2

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

That my performing arts life would be completely and totally non existent.

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

I thought having children would enrich the work that I did and I thought it might make me fearless. I was wrong on both counts.

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Film Still: Marnye Young, Actor/Mother

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

I could not and am still unable to find the time and money to audition. Now that we have moved, auditioning has become extremely expensive because I have to pay for the train ride to and from NYC and for babysitting. You are looking at over $100 for every audition, and I don’t have that kind of money. Also I can’t do any work that is not in NYC because what do I do with my children? I am not like other couples who’s husband or wife or partner is in the industry. My husband is a design architect with his own boutique architecture firm. He works long hard hours and the thought of leaving my children for a few months to do a show I think would be devastating for them and for me and simply not possible since my husband works and our family lives in Georgia Ohio and Virginia. I have watched my kids career have some luck though so that’s good. They were on HBO’s GIRLS as one of the main character’s babies and Lena Dunham said my children were beautiful and they were actually booked for 2 more episodes but they were sick and teething so they couldn’t use them for either. They have also done a Hasbro commercial. And they were called up again by GIRLS just last month. I am hoping to make some money for college for them.

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Film Still: Marnye Young, Actor/Mother

 

What do you look forward to having children and your performing arts life?
I look forward to when my children are in school and I can get back into it. I miss it so much. I used to say it was my heartbeat. I often think my career is on life support and I may just have to pull the plug and then I think WAIT!! You were born to do this and the industry will always be there. It isn’t going to go anywhere. And I am hoping I will be a much better actor after having the kind of life experiences I have had. I think it will be like starting fresh. I was told early right out of grad school that I was good but I wasn’t going to work until my mid 30’s because casting director’s and others would not know what to do with me. Well that person was wrong because I did have a career but then I hit my mid 30’s and things really started happening for me. I even broke into television and then I found out I was pregnant with twins. So that put the kabash on that. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I have two beautiful children and I am not sorry for the decision I made to promise them that their first few years I would be with them and be a stay at home mom. I am also excited to go back to doing student films but I really need a new headshot right now and well money is tight so that isn’t exactly an option. But I know it will be soon enough. And I am especially excited to share my talent and my love for theatre and acting with my girls.

 

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Film Still/Promotion: Marnye Young, Actor/Mother

What you think people should know about having a child and working your
performing arts life:
For some it means things may be a lot harder but somehow you will make it work and find a balance whether you have the help of family or friends or others in the industry who simply adore you. I have some friends who were cast in shows and the people at the theatre basically watched their child during rehearsals. Amazing to me. And for some it may mean you put your career on ice for a bit while you take care of your kid(s) and you do your best to find things to feed the artistic part of your soul. Even if, like me, it means going to the gym and taking a Zumba class because there is art in that (she says with a wink and a laugh) or reading a good book after the kiddies have gone to bed. I also turned my closet into a voice over studio and send out auditions when I can. I started a blog not that long ago and am in the midst of writing a four hander play. I also do my best to challenge myself physically. I think it helps and it is good for the girls to see. We shall see how everything unfolds. I am optimistic. And the way I see it it is all part of working on my craft. And if any of you are in the boat I am in I hope you can see that too.

 

Bonus story:
I was at a commercial airline audition for the girls and to my surprise they wanted me to audition as well. It felt like an out of body experience and so foreign to me. Not to mention I was not at my finest. I think I had spilt milk on my shirt along with cheerio bits on my shirt and no doubt in my hair which happened to be a giant frizz ball. I think I just nonsensically blabbed most of the time and the rest of the time I spent wrangling my children as they shot around the room going behind the camera, touching someone’s laptop, throwing themselves on the floor and laughing maniacally and even stealing someone’s Mountain Dew (my husband drinks it). They were supposed to sit in chairs (at 2 I mean really who are we kidding). Anyway the end result was me completely frazzled and they were quite literally bouncing off the walls. I am really hoping not to repeat that one.


For the past three years, Marnye has been working diligently to network and develop a niche with audiobooks. Her work includes everything from spiritual, to fairytale, sci-fi, romance, young adult, health and wellness, and much more She wrote to me that “it is so wonderful to have my cake and eat it to. I take care of my beautiful little bears during the day and then from night to the early am I am recording in my studio. I am learning so much and refining craft constantly. I have worked hard to build up a network over several years and now it is becoming a well-oiled machine.”

A woman with that sort of passion, work ethic, and booking tenacity who also loves so deeply can only be an asset to the performing arts. It is my greatest hope someone realizes the contribution Marnye can make when she dives back in. I’m publicly writing my support of this incredible artist-mother. Show her your support in the comments below.


My Favorite Quotes:

“I look forward to when my children are in school and I can get back into it. I miss it so much. I used to say it was my heartbeat.”

– Marnye Young, Actor/Mother

“I often think my career is on life support and I may just have to pull the plug and then I think WAIT!! You were born to do this and the industry will always be there.”

– Marnye Young, Actor/Mother

“You are looking at over $100 for every audition, and I don’t have that kind of money. “

– Marnye Young, Actor/Mother

“We shall see how everything unfolds. I am optimistic. And the way I see it it is all part of working on my craft. And if any of you are in the boat I am in I hope you can see that too.”

– Marnye Young, Actor/Mother


 

I love this woman. Check out our post on Childcare Initiatives and stay tuned for more initiatives and moms taking action in the next post of our series.

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: Motherhood in the Theatre Part 3 – CHILDCARE

Motherhood in the Theatre Part 3.a – CHILDCARE

Catch up by reading Part 1, Part 2, and the photo essay Children in the Space 1.

From MAM Ireland to PIPA UK, advocates are organizing for the official implementation of protocol and support for parents in the performing arts. This blog series has been a drop in the bucket in regard to covering the challenges faced and initiatives begun that can make a significant impact in effective participation of the parent artist. Read below for a list of testimonies and five solutions from across the states and theater disciplines that provide creative, collaborative, and healthy practices implemented by organizations to support parents in the theater arts.

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.

CHILDCARE INITIATIVES

Former managing director of Marin Theatre Company Michael Barker pointed me toward two revolutionary initiatives created for parent-patrons and parent-contributors. Marin Theatre introduces our list of childcare initiatives with points 1 & 2. Below is the quote from the current Director of Marketing & Communications, Sara Waugh:

In the past two seasons, we’ve created multiple initiatives for working artist parents and families in the community. Last season, we partnered with UrbanSitter to provide free childcare at one matinee performance per mainstage production. As a community partner, UrbanSitter covered the cost of the babysitters 100%, which provided parents with incredible access to a day out at the theatre without the worry of needing to find affordable and reliable childcare.

 Additionally, a husband and wife actor couple that we work with frequently—Arwen Anderson & Rod Gnapp—were both cast in Bay Area productions at the same time, Arwen being cast in August: Osage County here at MTC. With the childcare fund we established with the help of generous community donors, Arwen was able to bring her son with her to rehearsal (they live in the city) and the sitter could pick him up from the theatre for the day, or Rod could do the same where he was rehearsing; having the ability to book childcare closer to rehearsal made it easier for both of them to get to their child if there was an emergency, and it made their both being cast in shows simultaneously (and feasibly) possible!

Sara Waugh, Director of Marketing & Communications, Marin Theatre Company

1. Childcare for patrons that is on-site, provided as a collective, and free/affordable.

The theatre’s collaboration with an authorized babysitter network can be replicated in terms of mutually-beneficial local business partnerships. The additional highlight here is the theatre’s recognition that providing childcare creates opportunities not only for contributing artists but also audience members. The promotion for UrbanSitter.com, a babysitting network site, and its sitters made the opportunity valuable – not to mention made ticket purchases more available for audience members with children, a clear benefit to the theater.

This solution of on-site, collective childcare also presents itself as a real possibility for parent-artists contributing for a production as well. If a theater is able to designate space and the terms established for fees, parents may find the costs and logistics of childcare more achievable – both in terms of production and administration.

For those who doubt the possibility of creating not only a professional but also lucrative working environment by including children, put on a jacket. And make it a deliciously warm Patagonia jacket at that. The retail company gained significant press coverage for its revolutionary, parent-friendly childcare provision – which they’ve been providing since 1983.

“Having the kids right at the center of it, it affects the whole tenor of the place and how we go about about our work. I think it humanizes it.”
– Patagonia VP of Environmental Activism, mother of two. [Watch the video.]

There you have it, progressive theatre. You’re being shown up by hiking gear.*

*Really, really well-made, incredibly soft,s save-your-life-save-the-earth-last-forever-feels-amazing-looks-incredible gear. I’ll take seven.

2. Childcare for artists that is contract/production-funded.

Establishing a fund for childcare would be a dream asset for any parent-artist. The combined housing provision for a husband-wife team offers a potential for a theater to save on space resources in exchange for financial provision to the actors’ childcare stipend.

Another actor shared a separate instance that a different touring production liquidated some assets the actor passed on in order to generate a fund for childcare. The details and union rules on this would need to be better explored, but the possibilities for theaters to find childcare fund resources in their budgets can be found in unused amenities as long as the parent-actor is complicit and the result equitable with union regulation.


Theater initiatives don’t have to be costly or part of the negotiation process. Often the most revelatory solution is the simplest, as shown by Sherrice Mojgani’s submission on her experience with Moxie Theatre and their incredible community support system:

It was Moxie Theatre in San Diego, I’m a Lighting Designer. I told them I would need to bring the baby with me on tuesdays and thursdays because my husband was teaching a class, and so the Production Manager offered to send out an email to their Moxie baby holders to see if anyone was available. This way I could tech hand free  but still be nearby if he needed Mom.

– Sherrice Mojgani

3. Childcare That is Community-Driven

BABY HOLDERS. HELLO. Yes, you read that correctly. 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. 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 promise to post more on this revolutionarily simple solution by publishing the interview I held with Moxie staff on the origins of this initiative.


Below are testimonies from theater practitioners who worked with companies willing to accommodate them using the resources already available. Much of the allowance comes from a work culture accepting of additional care needed for caretakers and scheduling.

I always asked for a housing with a full kitchen and short distance from the theatre so that I could visit my child as often as possible. I asked for any connection to nannies/nanny service that they have used so it’s not total strangers. It doesn’t get into the contract form but it’s certainly a negotiation for housing and basic living condition while working before you sign the contract. They don’t put why I get full kitchen but the contract will say I will get a private housing with a full kitchen. I have asked a shelter in the theatre building for nursing and play place for baby to hang out so I can see my child more quickly especially when I had to nurse her every two hours. smaller theatres are better with it. Bigger theatres are hesitant when you ask things more officially especially regarding an access to the building.

Jiyoun Change, Scenic and Lighting Designer

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, Actress

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

4. Childcare Accommodated in the Space

Many theater parents currently hire sitters or bring family members in to help with childcare while on the job. After the parents willingly use their own time and financial resources to ensure their child’s care so they can contribute to the success of a theater’s production, the greatest asset a theater can provide is adequate and welcome space for the caretakers and their charge. The second asset a theater can provide is a list of childcare resources, such as nanny services or available sitters in the area.

As mentioned in the installment covering childcare obstacles, some theater housing audaciously forbids minors. The theaters above take conscious care not only to allow but also accommodate by arranging adequate provisions that make accepting the job possible for the parent artist. Much of this space accommodation comes from simple awareness. I casually mentioned a few of the childcare obstacles over coffee with the company manager of a major Chicago theater, and mid-conversation she stopped and made a phone call to change rooms for a playwright coming in with her mother – acting as accompanying sitter – and baby. After finishing her call, the company manager explained that our conversation made her realize the first room reserved for the playwright didn’t accommodate the extra adult as well as the second option could. I witnessed first-hand a rearrangement for accommodation born of conversation that created a new sensitivity. Administrators need to have the conversations that increase understanding the diverse needs of their hires and arrange provisions accordingly.

Some theaters are brave and secure enough to allow the caretakers and their charge on company property. Allowing a breastfeeding infant to be cared for on-site allows for work and care to continue undeterred. More on this provision in Part 3.b when we cover the issue of children in the space. Both Erica and Michelle from the testimonies above will be joining Jiyoun as some of our “What She Looks Like” subjects – keep watching for when I post their amazing interviews.


5. Childcare Designed for Theater Practitioners 

Ideally, initiatives will develop into protocol and more theaters will adopt practices within their systems to efficiently accommodate their artists’ family lifestyles. In the meantime, childcare outside the theater that fits the theater’s rhythm is crucial for immediate problem solving. One stage manager mentioned that she hired another SM to sit for her on a 12 hour day – a task perhaps difficult to explain to sitters outside of the theater world.

Multiple Facebook groups have formed to connect parents with sitters who understand the theater commitments and work within the theater committee, including the Philly-Theatre Baby-Resource and Artistic Babysitters for DC Parents. Broadway Babysitters officially started in 2016. While ideally located in New York City where the need is consistent and high, the concept of sitters capable and aware of the demands and unpredictability of the theater schedule is useful to consider in our list of initiatives. From matinee sessions – where babysitting can be arranged in the city while parents see a show – to audition drop-offs and arranging private sitters for the impossible-to-schedule-normal-sitters long 10/12 tech days, Broadway Babysitters provides services that accommodate the needs of theater artists, specifically, often with experienced sitters familiar with or involved in the profession themselves. I interviewed Vasthy Mompoint, founder of Broadway Babysitters, and will be sharing her story here soon.


End Note:

I successfully auditioned for a major theater while I was 39 weeks pregnant. My reader had brought his toddler to play in the lobby. A casting assistant watched over the little one for the brief time we had the callback in a neighboring room. Right after I finished having a positive conversation with a casting associate about her own toddler at home, I can personally testify that “some people get it,” as artist Stephanie Hayes articulated in her powerful interview. This scenario would likely not work on a constant basis, but the theater also didn’t burn down over the presence of children. The goal is an awareness, acceptance, and accommodation balance – to the benefit of both parent-artist and theater. The lack of a system and unified community can make the professional commitment for some working parents scant at best, and the guess work alone for what theaters are willing to accommodate versus those who will create more obstacles can sap even the most resilient parent artists who are likely already taxed for time, energy and finances. As demonstrated by these testimonies, a positive and supportive work environment is possible. A great hope would be to see more initiatives like the ones listed above replicated or inspiring similar initiatives, eventually creating a theater culture aware of parent-artists and willing to find work solutions.


Coming up in Part 3.b, we tackle the other obstacles mentioned in Part 2, including scheduling and work culture, covering more theaters who successfully integrate art and family-inclusion. Stay tuned.


Childcare initiatives I missed? Know a theater that has an incredible system in place? We’d love to cover it in an update to this installment on initiatives. Write to AuditioningMom@gmail.com to submit your experience or your theater’s healthy practices!

Chicago artists: I will be at the Women in Theater Forum on Jan 9 where you can sign up for my breakout session at another date (to be posted here as well) on Parenthood/Motherhood in the theater arts so we can start a live conversation.

Hope to see you there!

 

Forum: Women in Theatre – Chicago

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Onward and Upward image for the Women in Theatre public forum in Chicago, IL

Onward and Upward

Presents a Public Forum on Women in Theatre
Mentorship Program Available

Featured Speaker: Minita Ghandi

When: January 9, 2017 . 7-9PM

Where: Vagabond School of the Arts (Chicago, IL)

Tickets: Free (RSVP Here)

“The Women in Theatre Mentorship Program aims at connecting artists in all different stages of their careers. Through this program we hope to create a culture where we lift each other up, support each other, and engage in each others lives. After completing a survey expressing interests and desire to be a mentor vs a mentee, artists will be paired with each other and begin the mentorship process. Some suggested guidelines will be outlined at our meeting on January 9th, but new mentors/mentees will have resources and contacts to assist with the beginning of the relationship.”

– Colleen Fee & Erika Haaland, Forum Organizers


Vagabond School of the Arts in Chicago will host the Onward and Upward Women in Theatre Forum. On January 9, 2017, the first meeting will gather to begin conversation on the obstacles and, more importantly, solutions for circumstances women in theater face while pursuing their careers and honing their craft. Colleen says the goal of the forum is to address the lack of mentorship for women within the theater community and create opportunities for mentor relationships for every experience level.

The Facebook Event describes the night as a “public forum held to dream together about the kind of culture we would like to see become a reality.” Minita Ghandi will be the featured speaker at the event. Ghandi is an actress/playwright/storyteller and member of Statera, an organization that meets annually in Colorado whose goal is to empower women in the theater by “expanding employment options, improving salary, and removing barriers to growth and achievement through mentorship, internship, research, outreach, networking, and support to empower them to reach their full potential by bridging the gap between passion, preparation, and opportunity.”

Ghandi will present the mentorship program kicked off by Onward and Upward, and the night will then include small group discussions with attendees. The event will also include opportunities to sign up for future “breakout sessions” on specific topics and challenges with discussion on possible solutions and initiatives. Two of the confirmed breakout sessions will be one on sexual harassment and another on Parenthood/Motherhood in the theater. Other breakout sessions will be created and shaped based on the needs and interests of forum attendees.

AuditioningMom.com/Rachel Spencer Hewitt will attend the kickoff forum on Jan. 9  and has volunteered to lead the breakout session on Parenthood/Motherhood in the Theatre to be held at a future date. Sign-ups will be available at the forum. Contact info for the forum is included below.

Co-organizer Colleen Fee commented that the impetus to starting the forum came from seeing challenges for women in the theater explored but rarely followed by organized initiative. One of the greatest absences, she noted, was the lack of mentorship for women pursuing their career – an aspect that is present in other professions. Hoping to create a work culture of support versus competition for women facing challenges in the theater, the mentorship program will create a network of women at different stages willing to assist others who may benefit from their experience at any level.

Just with Ireland’s own #WakingTheFeminists movement, Onward and Upward is motivated by the empowerment and wisdom that comes from women organizing and speaking out – the simplest and arguably most effective way to start a movement. Fee’s own passion, addressing sexual harassment, will be pursued in a breakout session by encouraging the group to collectively ask questions that will bring the issues to light and create solutions to provide protection.

We are so excited to see this group take form! Don’t miss your opportunity to be a part of a collective that shares your stories and works for your progress. I hope to meet you there!

Show up. Speak out. Make Change.

Love,
Auditioning Mom


CONTACT INFO FOR ONWARD AND UPWARD:

Colleen Fee, Organizer: colleenfee@gmail.com
Tickets: FREE (RSVP Here)
When: January 9, 2017 . 7-9PM
Where: Vagabond School of the Arts

Where Are the Disappeared Women of the Theatre? – HowlRound

The full article first appeared on 12/16/16 on HowlRound.com – excerpt and link below.

Written by AuditioningMom Rachel Spencer Hewitt.

As promised, here is the stunning comprehensive story behind the #StandByYourMAM selfie posted by AuditioningMom and loads of other supporters. Mothers Artist Makers (MAM) – an off-shoot of the radical movement #WakingTheFeminists (#WTF) – is a sister group across the sea in Ireland making waves for gender equality on the platform of generating awareness and initiatives that support theatre artist moms. It was my pleasure to interview four of them and create the essay for HowlRound that the journal published yesterday. Read the incredible story here:

“Tara Derrington scribbled her question on the back of one of her daughter’s paintings. She woke at 3 A.M. with it spinning in her mind. That day in November 2015, Tara joined close to 600 women at a rally in Dublin for Waking the Feminists (WTF) to fight for gender equality on the stage. She attended alone after the event proved inaccessible to many of her colleagues due to scheduling. Standing solo, photographers snapped the image of Tara holding the sign she had made with her question in thick, black ink: ‘Where are the disappeared women of the Arts? At the schoolyards now.’ And thus began the dialogue that is revolutionizing representation for professional female artists with children across the Irish theatrical platform.”

READ MORE

Click photo for full article.

#StandByYourMam

standbyyourmam-am

Quick preview of a longer article forthcoming about MAM Ireland. JOIN THE MOVEMENT:

Mothers Artist Makers of Ireland are an advocacy group for mothers in the theater arts. I have connected with them and not only feel in line but also have fallen in love with their incredible and necessary revolution. Right now, they’ve launched their #StandByYourMam campaign to raise awareness!

Tweet your selfie with the #StandByYourMam to show solidarity to these women bringing real change to the gender and parent lifestyle equality in Ireland! Every bit helping them is every bit helping us.

#StandByYourMam