Sunday, November 22, 2015

IrishTheatre ( World Theater) doesn't like pregnancy.

Why do we deny actresses the opportunity to work?
I worked almost exclusively in Theatre for two decades. I won't say it's hard work, certainly not compared to a multitude of other occupations. But it is demanding. You can't call in and take the night off because you have a sick day to use. Or because you're invited to a wedding. Or because it's Christmas Day. No. The show must go on. And if you're cast, you show up. You can't even call to say " I'm running 20 mins late , sorry!".
So theatre actors are often robust creatures of habit. Doing 8 shows 6 days a week eats into your life. It does consume. Particularly with your headspace , as all focus from when you wake ( subconsciously or not) is towards the time of the curtain.
But its different for men and women. Women have to deal with a lot just to get a job. One job . There are less parts written for women. If they are cast, they are often supporting roles. And while it is far less than the requirement in TV and Film ( which is absolute) actresses are demanded to be sexy. Sexy while sad, sexy while mad , sexy while happy and super sexy while being sexy. And über sexy while being cast. OK, it's not as prevalent as that with casting .... Perhaps... But there is a pressure we male actors never have to think about. Actresses dress as the part for auditions. They are very prepared. Actors grab a good coffee on the way. And try to remember a good anecdote for the room. ( ok maybe that's just me)
So our actress gets a job. Maybe gets a few. She's the hot young thing ( men are never a "thing" btw ) .
She's in her twenties and the world is exciting and fresh. The hard work is paying off. She has a couple of months rent in the bank.
She may be in a relationship. Having been hit on by actors, directors and crew for years , things seem to be in a really good place. This could be the guy ( or gal) ( disclosure , I'm married to an actress I worked with.... and her costume was a nun's habit.  Go figure.)
So this is usually the start of the end for most actresses. You see the biggest threat to this woman is not the industry that's stacked against her because of availability of parts. No. The biggest threat is inside her body. The threat of having a child. The threat of becoming pregnant.
OK , it's not an occupation where you can work right up till labor , it would be difficult to hide a pregnancy on stage ( although it has often been done) while playing a young virgin falling in love for the first time, perhaps ! Rather like an athlete , pregnancy impacts work.
And this is where we in theatre, we supposedly caring empathetic artists , destroy actresses. You see by this time there's a younger sexy "thing" on the scene. While the new mom is exhausted at home with no paid leave, No longer willing to jump through hoops because perspective has arrived. We move on. New mom can't afford child care. And can't be bothered to organize an entire day to read a " mom role" ( to teenagers) on two days notice. Because damn it she's breast feeding and hasn't worked the pumping out yet.
And we move on.
And then the baby is starting to feckin teeth and she hasn't been getting any sleep, and she feels like shit and not wanted and the last thing she wants to do is put up make up and a dress that used to fit a little differently and basically say " want me " to a director . Because deep down , or not even that deep , she doesn't feel anyone could want her. Other than this damn kid that she loves , but is sucking her career away each day. And she can't even go out the way she used to with the gang for a break , because she's still not drinking, because the breast feeding is going on longer than she had planned. Everything is going on longer than planned. The hours in the house alone , the walks in the rain with the stroller covered up, the time between phone calls from her agent.
And then a year has gone. And we've moved on. And maybe she should think about a second kid . Well, because.
And we assume she has given up.
A high percentage of the women I've worked with who have sustained careers in theatre do not have children. I have no idea of numbers , it is just anecdotal, but to me it's true. I have know actresses who didn't want kids and could sustain a career . I have known actresses who have wanted kids but didn't have any because they were getting work. And didn't want to loose a career. And then found themselves at a precarious age to have their own child. And I have known and witnessed actresses whom I've admired , disappear.
My wife disappeared for 7 years,( but that's her story to tell ) .
So here's a suggestion for the Abbey. Or the Gate , or Druid. But mainly the Abbey.
Lead.
Last years budget for the Abbey was something like 6.2 million ( I think I heard that number, I may be mad wrong) This suggestion does not cost much. Just announce next week that you will provide childcare during rehearsals and shows for any actress or director or playwright who works on a production. ( I'm presuming staff get leave) . What a great piece of PR that would be! What a caring gesture. What an incredible impact that could have on women's lives. Immediate impact. A simple gesture.
We loose too many voices because of childcare. I have been around actresses who have managed to do theatre while in the early stages of motherhood. And a more civilized work environment won't be found. Babies and moms at a work place make us all better. We all know that.
It's easier to be a mom acting in tv and film ( still hard) but I've been on sets where we work around feedings etc. And it makes us all better humans .
Lead Abbey Theatre. Lead .
It's a simple thing. Would you deny it to your wife? Daughter ? ( I'm addressing all who make the decision s there )
And why hasn't the 2016 program been changed yet? Were voices not actually listened to? Does stronger protest need to be planned ?
Because I know I'm holding back. 

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