Contributed by guest blogger of the week, Lanie Zipoy.
According to an African proverb and our current Secretary of State, it takes a village to raise a child. There is no better village than the Off-Off-Broadway community, which has surprisingly experienced a baby boom in the past five years.
Most of us find it difficult to juggle a paying gig (aka day job) and OOB theatre. Adding a kid or two to the mix seems insane, but Sean and Jordana Williams, whose company Gideon Productions has won numerous FringeNYC awards and racked up four 2009 New York Innovative Theatre Award nominations, and Daniel Talbott and Addie Johnson of 2007 Caffe Cino Award recipient Rising Phoenix Repertory, have managed to balance creativity and parenthood. Sean and Jordan have an adorable three-year-old son Barnaby and are expecting their second child later this year. Anyone familiar with Daniel and Addie know about “da B,” their equally adorable three-year-old boy Bailey.
They graciously found time in their busy schedules to answer a few questions.
What is the best piece of advice you give to people who have kids and are participating in OOB theater?
Addie & Daniel: From our experience with getting to work with so many older actors who’ve very successfully raised children we’ve seen that some of the most extraordinary, well-balanced and happy children we’ve ever met are raised by theatre folk. We think it’s really important to keep reminding yourself that no matter what your work schedule or your financial situation or your stress level every family out there has to make sacrifices and work to find balance, and you can’t judge yourself on any set idea of what it is to be a good parent.
Sean: Feel good about the offered help, and accept it. Especially with your first child, you never want to be away, you feel horrible guilt whenever you aren't there for any little thing, but the first three months are essentially a fourth trimester - all the baby needs is feeding and waste removal. And if you get help, if you find yourself spending a little bit of time away from your kids and in the adult world, it really helps you appreciate *both*.
Jordana: For new parents, is to be really aware that the first few months are NOT representative of the rest of parenthood. So, ride it out, take on as few commitments as possible, and know you'll be capable of a lot more once your kid is sleeping through the night and following a more reliable schedule (and once you're not nursing/pumping all the damn time--if that's something you're doing).
How difficult is it to juggle everything?
Addie & Daniel: Theatre people and especially indie theatre people are incredibly resourceful and brilliant problem solvers and we do some of our best work with nothing or almost nothing. For us family life and a life in the theatre are one and the same and as with any show, the show must go on, and we’ve got to the do the best we can with what we’ve got and try to create something extraordinary together with it.
Sean: Be really definitive about when you're a parent, and when you're not. You have to be really aggressive about defining your time, because it's too easy to let your kid play at your feet while you're reading a script, and then send emails setting up play-dates during production meetings. When you are with your kid, put the scripts in a different room and shut the laptop, and when you are working for the company, leave the kids in someone else's care.
Jordana: Being a parent doesn't change who you are--it just throws everything into sharper relief. OOB Theater was always a drain on your time, finances and energy with little anticipated payback except for the joy you get out of doing it and the joy you hope your audience will get. So, the fact that it's even harder now can actually be a real blessing, because you're just not going to bother with stuff you're not passionate about. I make fewer plays than I would if I weren't a mom but, on balance, I think I make BETTER plays than I did before I was a mom.
Do you have any funny or strange anecdotes about being a parent and working in theatre?
Addie: A few months after our son Bailey was born Daniel was acting in the Red Bull Theater’s production of The Revenger’s Tragedy. They bleached his hair out and braided it into cornrows, and he wore black eyeliner and black nail polish. Between the new baby and RPR and doing the play he looked pretty much exhausted and out of it most of the time. I would oftentimes come meet him when the show got out at around 11:30pm, and I got some funny looks coming into the city from Brooklyn with a four-month-old strapped under my winter coat. Bailey was always wide awake at that hour of the night—a theatre baby on a theatre schedule. But any looks I got on the way to the theatre were nothing compared to the reactions we got as a family on the ride home. As one woman was about to get off the train one night, after she’d stared at Daniel for the whole ride—with his hair and makeup and baby strapped on his chest after midnight—she admonished him, “Shame on you. You’re a father now and you should know better.”
Sean: We were rehearsing Mac Rogers’ play "Hail Satan", which is sort of like “The Office” meets The Omen, and we had the cast reading the show in our living room while our then six-month-old slept upstairs. When the play began to turn creepy and the members of this business call the Anti-Christ into existence, my son woke up and started screaming. The aural verisimilitude was unsettling.
Thanks to Sean, Jordana, Daniel and Addie for sharing their insight.