Thursday, June 4, 2009

Acting and Nursing: Theatre Thursday

When the May Queen was 6 weeks old I began rehearsals as Agnes in Dancing at Lughnasa. During the day I would learn my lines while nursing The May Queen. We joked that when she began talking it would be with an Irish Brogue. In the evenings I would leave her, mostly with my husband or with adult friends from our church, and the occasional very responsible teenager.

Rehearsals typically lasted 3 hours, and we would take a break about half way through. I knew that our break was later than usual if my milk started to leak. During our break I would hide out in the (thankfully very clean) bathroom and pump. The director, a single woman in her 50s, was fortunately very understanding, and told me to take as long as I needed. She also encouraged me to bring The May Queen to rehearsals on the nights we couldn't find someone to watch her, and so the director would pace back and forth in the rehearsal hall with a baby on her arm while we rehearsed. The other actors took turns when they were off stage. The gal playing Rosie liked to entertain her with the gloves we were knitting (I had to learn how to knit for this show. Gloves, no less. Even though the director gifted me with the needles I used in the show and I thought I might knit something else, I never have). On our break I would sit in the lobby and nurse. During the run of the show I pumped in our dressing room at intermission.

The unmarried man and teenage boy probably learned a little bit more about nursing and pumping than they bargained for during this show. I don't think I realized at the time how lucky I was to have such an understanding and accomodating cast and crew. I've later heard such horror stories about people nursing and pumping at work and in public. For me, their "whatever" attitude made it possible for me to do something I loved.

Getting back on the stage after giving birth was a crucial step for me in regaining my identity apart from The May Queen's Mommy. It also helped me find a home in a new city... I was pregnant when we moved and hadn't done any theatre. Getting back on stage and in with the theatre crowd gave me a chance to round out my exclusive new role as mommy, and also helped me step outside of the rather stressful world of the church my husband worked at there. The role of Agnes, even though it wasn't the part I originally wanted, was a real treat to work on. A friend I met and worked with later told me that although Maggie was the flashy one (the part I wanted, naturally) Agnes had always been her favorite, and that whenever she looked at me she could tell there was so much going on. Which was the fun of Agnes, actually. She certainly wasn't flashy. But oh, the depths. I also had to learn Irish step dancing, which probably helped me get back into my pre-pregnancy pants.

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I'm hoping to start a mini-series this summer: Theatre Thursdays. I thought about doing it back when I posted a picture from Angels in America. I enjoy the reminiscing, and ya'll seem to enjoy the stories. I know I have several other theatre folk out there reading- if you'd like to play along sometime, let me know, and I'll link you up.

15 comments:

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

What a lovely post and lovely idea! I'll definitely play when possible. What I don't have, are pictures, for the most part.

I love Dancing at Lughnasa.

de said...

This is a wonderful post for many reasons, but my favorite is that I believe it would be inspiring to new mothers who are uncertain how to, or if they can, continue their own lives after giving birth. My biggest regret is that I think I missed opportunities due to my own insecurity.

Kat said...

People in theater generally seem to be very open minded and supportive. How lucky you were to have such a cast and crew. That is awesome.
Makes me want to go back to the stage. ;)
And yes. I love your stories. :)

kaye said...

I don't have any stage stories . . . but I would enjoy reading yours.

slouchy said...

sigh. this is lovely. wish i could see you on stage sometime.

No Mother Earth said...

That's so funny. I was going to email you to see if you could share your nursing and rehearsing stories. I was wondering if it was possible.

No Mother Earth said...

Or rather, HOW it was possible.

Ms. N said...

Sounds like a great idea. I might not have any pumping in the theater stories, but I love reading stories that involving the surprising kindness of others!

alejna said...

This was really great. I'm glad you're going to be doing this series.

How great that you had such a good experience with the nursing and pumping while doing a play. I'm mightily impressed with you for your determination. Alos with the director for her willingness to accomodate.

I've been very lucky about the people I work with, too. (Though my schedule is nowhere near as rigorous as a rehearsal/performance schedule.) I was able to bring Theo to some meetings, though that's no longer viable now that he's crawling. I have to say that it's much harder for me to leave a meeting to pump than to feed a baby, though. (The pump doesn't fuss as much when it's time...)

wheelsonthebus said...

this is one of my favorite of your posts.

ewe are here said...

Sounds like you found a wonderful group of people to work with when you moved; what amazing luck!

Great post!

Woman in a Window said...

Gorgeous photos. You are gorgeous in these photos. And to think of a baby moving from hand to hand in support is mostly just perfect.

Mad said...

What a wonderful post. And you know what? Agnes is my favourite character in that play. Oh, it is such a wonderful play and such a great play to have had such a womanly experience behind the scenes with.

diaryofamother said...

From one acting mom to another, I so appreciate this post! To your success!

Magpie said...

wonderful story.

i think often that the arts are more forgiving to mamas. i know there's a ballet tradition of dancers coming back to teach and parking the babies under the piano. we've had it happen in our studios. and it's why my boss was so accommodating when i was nursing and pumping after i had my baby. she came to work with me daily, until she could crawl.