Babies in Theatre

Convener(s): Morven Macbeth 

Participants: lots of very generous, honest people to whom I’m grateful

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Opened with where I’m coming from on this Issue – which has over recent months become a massive issue for me – in all sorts of respects, the prospects of having a baby in this world ie the world of work / theatre all the way through to coming out of a screening of The Age of Stupid and thinking well there’s no way on earth I’m even going to consider having a baby and everything in between.  It can be really really difficult to talk honestly and openly about this ‘issue’ – obviously it’s a very emotive subject and very easy to hit a nerve – so I hoped the Open Space would engender a free and genuine discussion about some or all of the above.  Thoughts and descriptions of times in lives:

  • a designer, had her baby at 24 and soon after became a single parent, spoke about not knowing any other designers with small children then, work is do-able in theatre rather than in film/tv, that her daughter will now happily sit through a tech
  • what sorts of mums do we see on stage?
  • ‘the death of creativity is a buggy in the hallway’
  • the difference if there is a supportive partner with you and there is a share of childcare
  • one is do-able – two is a different thing entirely…
  • don’t worry about it – do it – no point in worrying about the consequences
  • losing focus on getting work because something else if far more important to you
  • oogly boogly – how babies come into our work, become part of it
  • it all comes down to how determined and how courageous you are
  • it goes SO fast – your 6 month old is 17 before you know it
  • a one woman show made by a woman whose partner left her when she was 7 months pregnant, she made a show about it within a year of giving birth, had her second child 17 years later
  • having a baby is like having another full time job
  • freelancing being possible once one of the group had had her son, taking tax credits etc into account
  • not being able to see as much live theatre – not the time to – a place where ‘digital theatre’ comes into it’s own
  • you end up talking to people you’d never have spoken to before
  • example given of the Unicorn Theatre – attitude, changing the way you think, the way you physically bring up your children, the environment you create is up to you and the people around you
  • involving children in rehearsal process – playing
  • example given of a meeting with an agent being effectively ‘over’ having gone well when the question of age, being in a long term relationship came up because all that added up to having babies and therefore being ‘no use’ to him. Point made that a co-operative would be genuinely unlikely to take that attitude, as would many agents
  • hearing a lot about people’s skills developing after they’ve had children, if you acknowledge that you may not want to perform for a year, 18 months, 3 years or whatever having had a baby then what else can you do, what other areas do your current skills lead you towards?
  • having children focuses you
  • it’s like open space – whatever happens happens, whenever it starts is the right time for it to start
  • how do you tour with a 13 month old? Using a local child-minder?  What if something goes wrong, the minder can’t get there and you can’t get to the theatre?  It’s not like an office where you can call in to tell them you can’t make it in today.  ACTION – encouraging theatres to have local childcare lists and child friendly digs lists available
  • experience of regional theatres particularly being very positive and flexible over the arrangements that need to be made with actors who have children
  • Equity are good in terms of offering advice in certain areas eg benefits available to you
  • rep theatres used to have crèches in the olden days and apparently there used to be ‘homes’ for the children of touring actors, a bit like temporary foster care
  • in terms of the ‘moral’ question point made that there’s the responsibility to ‘breed the good people’. That it falls under the remit of ‘if you don’t leave the house today you won’t get hit by a bus’ – you just can’t think like that
  • parenting is a whole other ball game, a whole other session