Jan Maxwell, Follies
It's always hard to write about motherhood and career - especially in this business, especially around Mother's Day - when I'm away (Excuse me. Time-out for a little bawl fest). Our son, Will, is 16. I have to say that working in theater was much easier when he was younger. It seemed the ideal schedule: being home and, as time came for me to go to work, putting him to bed. There were jobs out of town and I always took him. I was so blessed to always meet a young actress who'd want to baby-sit. Will will never again be surrounded by as many gorgeous, smart women. He used to ask my husband, Robert Emmet Lunney, and I to go out so he could hang with them! But then, Will started school.
Taking your child out of school for even a day (hell, an hour) is a felony (or so it seems) so I came to the decision to never take work out of town. Follies is the first exception in 10 years. Even working in town is very hard - only seeing Will briefly in the morning, a couple of hours after school, then before I left for the theater.
When I was doing The Sound of Music in 1998, some of the nuns decided to get pregnant; but what better show to be in to show! Those habits are very forgiving. I went home between shows on matinee days, and volunteered my dressing room for nursing and visits. That made me think how wonderful it would be to have a family room for parents and their kids. Since that wasn't going to readily happen, I decided to put into my contracts that Will would be allowed in my dressing room at all times (full disclosure: no producer has put it in writing; there've been only verbal agreements which every producer has honored).
Will's experiences have been wonderful. He's met incredible people, and seen more theater than those five times his age. When the cast and crew weren't bringing him cookies, cake and gifts, he even studied! Heartbreakingly, while doing Follies on Broadway, I came to realize that one of the last things Will - at 16 - wants is to hang out in his mom's dressing room (He's relieved I'm in L.A., and that for five weeks I won't be yelling "Do your homework"!).
I'm often asked if it's hard to have a kid and be an actor. It's the same for any profession: You don't have as much time, you can't be as myopic, you prioritize. (Don't obsess. Kids won't allow it - unless it's about them.) You get into character at the theater, but it's important that you come through the door as Mom. Is it hard? Yes. The best things always are. The upshot of motherhood, which I succeed and fail at every day, is Will makes me try to be a better human being and that makes empathizing, acting, and telling stories vastly more interesting and deep. He teaches me every day. He keeps it real by humbling me and loving me. I love having that knowledge. He's a great guy. I'm so proud to be his Mom.
Annie Parisse, Clybourne Park
With two show biz folks in the family and a newborn, there were challenges. When I became pregnant, I didn't think I'd have to take a hiatus to be a mom. That was crazy. My first job back after giving birth was Clybourne Park at Playwrights Horizons in 2010. Emmett was 11 weeks old. The only reason I took the job was because I had no idea what I was getting myself into. If I'd known how difficult it was going to be, I probably would have said, "There's no way." It never occurred to me that I wouldn't be able to do both. Fortunately, my husband, Paul Sparks, was around, because Boardwalk Empire shoots in New York, and he was very involved. I thank God for that.
Tim Sanford and everyone at Playwrights Horizons were so supportive, so I was able to bring Emmett. I was given a space where I could nurse and spend time with him. Tim even found a crib from the previous show. Pam MacKinnon, our director, and Carol Clark, our wonderful production stage manager, organized rehearsals so I could pump and breast-feed. Without their help, it would have been impossible.
When we got to tech, Emmett was at home with either Paul or our nanny, but would be brought to the theatre during our dinner break. After our run, which ended March 21, everyone went his or her separate ways. It was like losing family. I'm so happy we're all together again. It's a testament to what a great piece of writing Clybourne Park is that everyone wanted to do it again.
We may have another actor in the family. Emmett, who's now two-and-a-half, asked me what the Walter Kerr Theatre was like, so I made him a little video. He's also come to visit. He'll either be "I don't want to have anything to do with theater" or "I love it."