The theatre world and parenthood don’t normally work well together. You usually have to sacrifice one for the other. Sometimes the late nights of theatre interrupt your regularly scheduled bedtime routines, and sometimes a kiddo’s illness means having to skip out on an event. However, over the past few years I’ve found that they can compliment each other quite a bit as well. Here are my top 10 tools theatre has taught me…that help me as a mom.
10. Not everything is a crisis. It’s easy to get caught up in the stresses of every day life, especially when caring for a little one. But if you’ve had to search for a band-aid in a darkened backstage, while your hand is bleeding because you were an idiot who just accidentally stabbed herself on stage, while not trying to get any blood on your clothing, props, set dressing, when you have to go back on stage in t-minus 2 minutes…you know what hectic feels like. And you learn to chill out. Everything will work out. You will figure it out. Freaking out never solves a problem.
9. A theatre is more fascinating to kids than any toy or tablet. Anytime Zoey has joined me at rehearsal, she has fascinated by the actors, the environment, the catwalk, the lights, the numerous (excellent) hiding places. Now, I’m not suggesting allowing your kid to run rampant (in fact, that’s a terrible idea), but allowing them to explore a place that takes so much of your time is completely worth it.
8. Allow yourself to play. If there’s one thing theatre has done for me, it’s teach me how to play. How to engage in life with wonder. How to explore relationships and myself. How to reach out of my comfort zone. All of these things have been insanely valuable for me as a mom.
7. Don’t provide commentary on your work. I think it’s a natural habit for a lot of people to down-play their work (whether it be in theatre, writing, cooking, baking, planning, whatever). So, we preface things by saying, “Oh this was a last-minute thing.” or “I’m not sure if this will be any good.” If we provide those slightly self-deprecating comments, we won’t be disappointed if we fail or mess up. Theatre has taught me to stop that. Let your work speak for itself. It might be complete shit, or it might be really good. Or it might be a work in progress. Whatever it is, allow it to be. Don’t slight yourself, don’t close yourself off.
6. Be interested. If you are interested in life and the people around you, you will become interesting. We are the sum of all our experiences and relationships, so be curious. Allow yourself to ask questions. Learn about the world around you. You really never know when little curiosities will help you. And showing a true interest in what your kiddo has to say teaches them to be interested as well.
5. Say yes. Okay, I’m stealing a bit from Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (and any other person who has ever done improv or theatre). But it goes along with my previous point. Say yes to opportunities. Be open. Opening doors can lead to more doors and windows and attics and all kinds of things.
4. Be responsible for yourself. This is a key nugget of truth that theatre has taught me. The absolute best thing you can ever do as an actor, director, stage manager, whatever…is never blame someone else. Be responsible for your work, don’t make excuses, and most importantly, always be responsible for the energy you bring into a space.
3. Energy is a really big deal. If you carry stressed energy into a performance or rehearsal space, the other actors and crew will feel it. If you carry a relaxed energy into a space, suddenly things work, new ideas are formed or tried, the people around you are able to breathe. Energy can kill a moment or it can make one. Kids are just like those other actors and crew, they feed off (and usually mimic) the energy you carry around. Make it useful.
2. Only you define yourself. In theatre, and most professions in general, it’s easy to make it a part of your identity. With creative professions in particular it can be hard to distinguish who you are versus what you do. So, when you’re auditioning for a show and don’t get a callback or you submit a script and it’s returned to you, it’s easy to make the jump of, “If I failed at that..I am a failure.” What I’ve learned is that just because I’ve been rejected, does not mean I’m a reject. At the end of the day, I will still be Amanda. Nothing can change that. Once I started embracing that mantra, rejection turned into different opportunities. I started to define myself by what I was willing to try, not by all I didn’t achieve.
1. Be present. One of the first things you’re taught in acting is how to be in the moment. Sure, you’ve learned lines and blocking, but that’s not the interesting part. The interesting part is what happens when cast and crew alike are present and available in the moment. When you are responding to what is given to you. This is such a valuable idea, and so much harder than it seems. It’s easy to get caught up in the audience noise, the missed cue, the pedantic monologue…but all of it fades away once you accept your environment and live in the present. The same rings true for life, we can get caught up in the to-do lists and bill payments and social media, and forget to take a breath and be here now. Live with what you have right now.