When choosing to pursue any artistic career, there’s a lot of sacrifice involved — job stability, a predictable working schedule, vacations planned way in advance, a cushy corner office, extended families who understand what we do, and often, financial abundance, are all things that we agree to say no to when signing up for an acting career. But does having our own families have to be something we sacrifice, too?
I’ve personally been balancing being a successful actor and being a good wife (I hope!!) for years now; it’s totally do-able, although the choices aren’t always easy. But figuring out how to add children into that mix is always something that’s stumped me. How do women do it? How do we find Sheryl Sandberg-style career boldness, while also being the best Moms that we can be?
Gwyneth Paltrow upset a lot of women when she was quoted as saying that movie star moms have it harder than other moms, and it’s not hard to see why — of course she has financial advantages that ease many of the struggles that regular working moms face. But although she could have phrased it better, she was right on the money about the many unique challenges that actress moms face — intensely long hours on set or onstage, unpredictable work schedules, having to fly to far-flung locations at a moment’s notice…among other things like the pressure to be in great shape and have a youthful appearance.
So to soothe my curiosity, I started to talking to actor moms friends of mine to find out how they do it. And friends recommended a few other incredible actors moms they knew. And before I knew it, I had compiled this fabulous resource for anyone contemplating jumping into motherhood without giving up their artistic aspirations.
The talented, hardworking, and generous actor moms who contributed to this post are:
Read on to learn about the challenges these actor moms face in their careers and at home, and how they manage to overcome them with wisdom and grace. It’s a virtual manifesto for how to be an actor and a mom, and it’s one of my favorite posts I’ve ever written.
How many kids do you have, and how old are they now?
JESSICA: I have two daughters. They are 5 years and 20 months.
CAROLANN: One boy and he is 5.
STEPHANIE: I have one child, a boy, and he just turned three!
CHLOE: 2 boys: ages 6 and 3.
ERIN: I have one son, Finn, who is three months old.
MARGARET: I have 3 boys, right now they are 7,9 and 13.
VALISA: I have two girls: Zoe is 5 ½ and Mia is 3 ½ (Mentioning that ½ is very important to my kids!).
EEVIN: I have one child – a boy – who is two years and five months.
How old were you when you had your first? Are you happy with the moment in your life when you got pregnant, or would you change it if you could?
JESSICA: My acting age range when I had my first daughter was about 21-25. I think I am very happy with the timing of it all. It has worked out well. We were trying, so we really wanted the good news.
CAROLANN: I was one month away from turning 35. It was one of the most magical times in my life. I felt like a goddess. I couldn’t believe that my body just KNEW how to grow this human!
STEPHANIE: I was 39 years old when I got pregnant. It was sort of a surprise. As an actress, I had hit the point where I was tired. I remember telling my friends that if things didn’t start progressing with my acting career, I was ready for a break. THAT is when I got pregnant! It was a sign.
I think that being an actress in your late thirties can be a very confusing time. It really is a ‘now or never’ feeling. I made a very strong choice at that time to allow whatever to happen to just happen….let fate decide if I were to be a mother or continue on with my freedom as an artist. If I had never gotten pregnant, life would have continued on as usual. If I did get pregnant, I would be very happy as well. I made the choice to be happy regardless.
CHLOE: I was 28. It was the perfect time for me. My life would be different if I had had my kids earlier or later, but I can’t imagine changing anything at all.
ERIN: Ha! I don’t mind sharing that I am turning 40 this month. I was surprised that I was able to get pregnant easily. I’ll admit that I was scared about derailing my career. I know how hard it can be at my age to conceive. I didn’t advertise anything but happiness, lest I offend any friends who were trying to get pregnant and finding it difficult; but secretly, I was terrified.
MARGARET: I started late, in my mid 30s, I knew when I had kids I wanted to be present for them. I had been touring doing stage work around the country. Since I had kids I have stayed in the city. I’m very glad that I did all the touring before I had kids.
VALISA: I had Zoe when I was 39 years old and Mia two weeks before I turned 41 years old. I’m very happy with the timing of when I had my children.
EEVIN: I was in my mid 30’s. It was right in terms of my relationship with my husband – us being ready as a couple. I had hoped to have reached certain career milestones that I hadn’t reached when I got pregnant so, given that, part of me wishes I hadn’t waited quite so long. But it all happened the way it happened – very deliberately, making the best choices we could at the time – and I’m so delighted with my son and our little family that it’s hard to imagine it any other way (or feel particularly regretful in hindsight).
In my six years in New York, I have held countless jobs that have had little or nothing to do with my acting career. One in pursuit of any other profession might go to college to study in their desired discipline, graduate with a degree in said discipline, and then go out and find a job as an intern or an assistant in the field in which they wish to work. Actors, however, are required to find an often mind-numbing, soul-sucking “survival job” that pays well enough to cover rent, bills, food, and transportation, while still providing the flexibility needed to attend auditions. An actor can go through countless “survival” jobs trying to find the right one to meet his or her needs, and if that weren’t enough, auditions themselves are basically mini job interviews. So, for those who aren’t actors: imagine an eternity of endless Internet searching and résumé sending and twenty-hour days. Cut the odds of ever making a living doing what you love by a bazillion, and you get the hell in which actors live.
I have run the gamut of “survival” jobs, and I’d like to take this opportunity to share with my readers some of the best and the worst.
Domestic care work can be a great option for actors. In New York City, childcare providers who are educated, healthy, and speak fluent English are often paid upwards of $15/hr for their services, and it’s easy for actors to find a family with a schedule that allows time to audition and attend evening rehearsals, i.e. pick up child from school and stay until parents get home at 6:00. There are some parents who don’t wish to hire actors because our schedules are inconsistent, and we leave town with little notice, but most parents love a young, creative artist. Two things of which to be wary if you decide to find a job like this: 1) Getting too attached. It can be very hard to leave a child you’ve grown to love if you get a contract out of town. 2) BEWARE THE UES. You might very well end up in your own version of The Nanny Diaries. Overall, if you like kids and loathe waiting tables, do yourself a favor and make a profile on Sittercity.com. Presuming you’re not a felon, you’ll find a job by the end of the week. Read more…
Programs offered by the SAG Foundation are one of the often overlooked, but I feel one of the most useful benefits of union membership. Recently, I attended an awesome panel discussion with several industry leaders. The discussion, entitled “The American Scene On-Screen: Diversifying Our Stories.” It was billed as such:
An insightful, informative and, most importantly, honest panel discussion followed by Q&A with ABC Primetime Casting Executives Marci Phillips and John Ort, co-founder and co-owner of Multi-Ethnic Talent & Promotion, Annette Alvarez and award-winning filmmaker Rashaad Ernesto Green. Moderated by Adam Moore, National Director, SAG-AFTRA EEO & Diversity Department
There were about a dozen different topics discussed at the event that could be turned into individual posts here. But instead, I thought I’d give you a little peek at my notes from the day. I hope that some of these will inspire you. Please comment on anything below. And, if you haven’t yet, check out the SAG Foundation!
My notebook says:
On motivation to write from Rashaad: “Have someone you are accountable to.” Rashaad said he really started to write regularly when he was in film school at NYU and “our short films were due, so I had to turn them in!” But he said that we can find a similiar motivation by finding a friend or colleague who can hold you accountable for your work and vice versa. Read more…
You guys. I have a really awesome audition coming up.
There’s a plethora of positive outcomes that could come from this: I’d be able to quit my serving job. I’d be making valuable connections. I’d be earning nearly double what I’m currently making. I could pay off my health insurance bills (but let’s not talk about those any further).
But here’s the best part of all this: I have a really awesome audition coming up. And I won’t mind if I don’t get the part.
I used to get far too excited whenever I had auditions like these. I’d all but announce to the world that this audition was coming up that could literally change my life. When I didn’t hear back, I’d focus on the negatives. I’d wonder what I did wrong. I’d be upset that I still had to wait tables. There’d be all this negativity that really didn’t need to be there. Read more…
photo credit: nesta.org
If you’re reading this blog, you probably share my opinion that nothing is greater than working onstage or behind the scenes on a piece of theatre. What about when you’re not working, though? Are you spending enough time in the audience? I’ve always loved attending theatre recreationally, but never realized how important it is professionally until a couple of years ago when I was working on the show that got me my Equity card.
Sitting around at night in the Hamptons drinking wine with my fellow castmates who were almost all far more seasoned professionals than I was, I realized that even after four years in the biz, I still knew shockingly little about the power players in the industry and the current minutiae of who was working on what project cast by whom at which theater directed by so-and-so.
My cast members, who were mostly Broadway vets, spoke frequently about trying to fit in every show they wanted to go see on their infrequent nights off. Even when they are rehearsing Broadway shows all day, they spend their evenings running around town seeing as much theatre as they can squeeze in. It was a real wake-up call to hear all of them talking about people or projects I’d never heard of, and I knew that I needed to up my game and work on being way more “current.”
Please welcome Audrey to the blog today! Audrey is a double major in stage management and business management information systems at East Carolina University, who also attended high school at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. After stumbling across her fabulous blog, I asked her to write a post detailing her stage management script strategies. She’s shared some of her excellent insight here today!
The Stage Manager’s Script: In Color?
Stage-managing a show requires the stage manager to constantly think creativity, and demands inventive problem-solving skills. In this post, I’m going to talk about the five most useful ways I’ve found to notate my script during the rehearsal process. Some are more general housekeeping notes for my production book, where as others pertain to the actual script notation. All could be useful!
The following is just a collection of fun things I’ve discovered while working on shows. This being said, they probably won’t work for everyone – but this list could be a springboard to help you, the reader, develop your own awesome way of doing things.
At my university, the first thing they teach you is to do all of your work in pencil. This is great advice since blocking [and many other elements of the show] change at the drop of a hat. However, if you’re like me, crazy amounts of gray lines all over a page can get overwhelming some times. When you’re notating the script alongside your blocking, figuring out what goes with which note or symbol can be even more challenging. This is why I like to block with colored erasable pencils. They make your blocking much more easily deciphered. And – as an added bonus – the colored notations make your production book much more visually pleasing!
*Where this came from: I’m really bad at mathematics. Geometry class, for me, was like taking a daily bath in acid for my brain. What helped me pass the class was color-coding all of my work so I could fully understand the diagrams. The same principal works for me with blocking/ script notation. Read more…
Theatre in itself is ephemeral, it’s there and then it’s gone. For the audience, seeing a show once, enjoying it, and then going home allows them a glimpse into the world that we as artists have created. They can see a show and connect with it on a personal level, but after the night that they saw the show, all they have is a memory, and hopefully we left an impression on the audience. On the other side of the stage, the cast and crew have been doing the same show day after day, and night after night. It’s the same thing all the time, save for a few moments of improvisation. The trouble here is maintaining the excellence of what you rehearsed, rather than creating something new to keep the show fresh. Creation is more exciting than maintenance, but maintenance is harder than creation.
I’m sure it’s happened to many actors and technicians, when you run the same show everyday (sometimes several times a day) it can get a little bit boring. I know I’m a little bit guilty of spacing out during the same scene change that I have gone over a hundred times, but that doesn’t mean the show is any less amazing of a performance, that just means that we have mastered the operation of said scene change enough to where we can do it without thinking about it.