Happy Mother's Day, Mom.


The challenges of being a mother and a working actress on Broadway

Ellis Nassour, TheatreMania.com, 5/9/12

Being a working mom, as so many people know, is a challenge, and being a working actress has its own set of challenges, and joys, and funny stories. In honor of Mother's Day, TheaterMania asked seven extraordinary women to share their own stories in their own words. [Here are some excerpts:]

Kerry Butler, The Best Man: My goal now is to leave six months between shows, which is why The Best Man is my first show since leaving Catch Me If You Can. When Segi's in school -- she's now 6 -- I can take jobs, like voiceovers, that fit into the schedule. I won't take jobs that require me to be away. There are sacrifices, and you hope for the best. With The Best Man schedule, I can't be home to tuck her in. Segi's gotten used to Joe tucking her in, so in the middle of the night she never calls for me. Though I know she loves me as much as I love her, she's totally a daddy's girl. It's heartbreaking!

Christina Kirk, Clybourne Park: The idea of starting rehearsal 6 weeks after giving birth to launch into two consecutive runs of Clybourne Park this year [first in L.A, then Broadway], was daunting. One of my biggest fears about becoming a mother was I'd never work again, so the fact that I not only had a job waiting on the other side of my pregnancy but one that was familiar and beloved, felt reassuring. Yes, there've been minor embarrassments: [playwright] Bruce Norris asking me on the first day of rehearsal how my birth canal was; having the entire cast and crew know exactly when and for how long I was pumping; and little heartbreaks: missing Stella Louise's bath and bedtime most evenings.

Jan Maxwell, Follies: Our son, Will, is 16. I have to say that working in theater was much easier when he was younger. When I was doing The Sound of Music in 1998, some of the "nuns" [got] pregnant; but those habits are very forgiving. I volunteered my dressing room for nursing and visits. That made me think how wonderful it would be to have a family room [backstage]. Since that wasn't going to readily happen, I decided to put into my contracts that Will be allowed in my dressing room at all times (full disclosure: no producer has put it in writing; there've been only verbal agreements which every producer has honored). I'm often asked if it's hard to have a kid and be an actor. It's the same for any profession: You don't have as much time, you can't be as myopic, you prioritize. (Don't obsess. Kids won't allow it - unless it's about them.) You get into character at the theater, but it's important that you come through the door as Mom.

NaTasha Yvette Williams, Porgy & Bess: I had [my twins] 10 days before my callback. I asked our director, Diane Paulus, if they could hang out with me at the theater. Then it went one better: Diane asked if I'd be interested in their being in the show. I replied, "Absolutely!" But I didn't think they should be onstage during the storm or when we're yelling and screaming. That would have scared them. She worked everything out. The entire company was incredibly supportive. The kids aren't in the show any longer. They were small and quiet then. Not anymore! When Mackenzie started to sing along with Norm [Lewis], I knew their stage time was coming to an end. But every mother should have my good fortune!


Commentary: How being a dancer helped in becoming a mother

Sabrina Jaafar, Yaa Samar Dance Theatre blog, 3/18/11

While all women have to make significant adjustments to their lives to become mothers, having a career as a dancer comes with its own set of unique challenges. The very tool I used every day was about to go through some major changes. How would I continue to dance with no family around and little resources to pay for sitters? Would the fact that I have a child make people assume that I was unavailable for work? Not knowing what was going to happen was extremely unsettling at first, but I learned how to relinquish control where I had none. Becoming a mother has been the most incredible experience of my life. In many ways, the sacrifices made are much like those we give up for dance: all the pain and hard work doesn't even compare to the overflowing joy and passion it brings. I feel that the work ethic and adaptability it takes to be a dancer made my transition into motherhood easier and made me excited for the challenge and opportunity of accepting this new identity. However it was still a challenge. And let me just say there is no audience clapping and giving standing ovations while you wake up every 2 hours a night for 6 months, change 5-10 diapers a day...so finding worth in this new role had to come from deeper within. My first rehearsals back were awkward and unenjoyable due to all the pressure I was putting on myself. Not to mention my split focus when needing to bring Selah to rehearsals. Trying to be creative while not having slept in months; it all took a lot of adjusting to and quite honestly was mentally exhausting. One of the best gifts that helped quiet my spirit was an email I received from Samar and Zoe after rehearsal that said, "just so you know, it is still 100% ok that you bring Selah to rehearsals." It was from that next rehearsal that I began to enjoy moving again, feeling comfortable in my skin again and giving the dancers more credit as the understanding, supportive people that they are.


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Commentary: The arts are the mother of invention

Janet Langsam, Americans for the Arts blog, 5/3/12

[On April 25, the Today Show's Matt Lauer] hit a nerve talking about college degrees that may be "useless" like "fine arts, drama," when it comes to getting a job. Lauer quoted a recent poll that said 1 out of two recent college grads are either unemployed or underemployed. The National Arts Index indicates that interest in the arts as a college major [grew 73%] from 1996-2010. Could all these college bound kids be wasting their time? Fortunately, "there are 904,581 businesses in the U.S. involved in the creation or distribution of the arts that employ 3.34 million people. Representing 4.25% of all businesses and 2.15% of all employees," [according to data from Dun & Bradstreet]. Like any other subject, there are at least two or maybe a hundred schools of thought, and we Neanderthals in the arts believe that "creativity" is a good enough reason to study the arts. According to a 2010 Newsweek article entitled "Creativity Crisis": "A recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 'leadership competency' of the future. Yet it's not just about sustaining our nation's economic growth. All around us are matters of national and international importance that are crying out for creative solutions, from saving the Gulf of Mexico to bringing peace to Afghanistan to delivering health care." The fact is that our businesses are crying out for creative employees...and...perhaps some of them learned to think creatively through the arts. While the arts don't have a monopoly on left brain thinking or creative problem solving, they do have a remarkable track record. Steve Jobs for one gave credit to a single calligraphy course in college, without which he says "the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts." Who knows where inspiration will come from next, so don't sell the arts short. It is the mother of invention.

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