Jenn and Tony were first featured here on Day 17. This is an honest, beautiful reflection from Jenn on being married, being a mum, and being an artist.
There is a cliché out there about how when a woman gets married and has kids she loses her identity, forgets her own passions, and focuses so much on what everyone else needs that she casts her own needs aside. P'shaw, right?
I'm not so sure...
I think I may have begun to whittle myself into a model of that cliché, though I've been fighting it every step of the way. . . Tony and I have always semi-jokingly used the phrase "Us against the World" to describe our approach to life. We started Halcyon as a way to do something great together, and we always meant to continue that approach when we had kids. When Tony, Jr. was 3-6 months old, Tony was rehearsing Yerma and he really wanted me at rehearsals. There were a lot of nights when I sat nursing in a corner while they rehearsed, thinking "Why did I come?"
I knew Tony wanted my feedback and wanted me to be involved, but it was pretty rare that I actually got to watch what was going on. Yet, I never decided to stop going. I knew Tony wanted me there, and in theory I wanted to be there. I wanted to be like the families I grew up with who always had their whole family in the show, and would take turns watching each others kids while a scene was being rehearsed. However, growing up I did shows in a schoolhouse that was turned into an arts center in the middle of the woods. . . When you rehearse in a room at Sheil Park, or a room in a church with an AA meeting next door, there's nowhere for the kids to go and no other kids to watch them. (Insert a plug for our own space with babysitting services HERE).
During performances of Yerma, when Tony Jr. was in the dream scene at the beginning, Tony would go to the theatre after work and open the doors for the actors, and I would go to our house and get Tony Jr., take him to the theatre, nurse him while we waited for his "Big Scene" so he wouldn't disturb the performance, then bundle him out and take him home on the bus. It was 9 p.m. before we got home, sometimes not much earlier than Tony, and there were a few times where neither of us were dressed for the weather.
One night, the temperature dropped from 55 to 40 degrees between leaving the theatre and getting home, and it started to rain. I was in a short sleeved shirt with an old navy trench coat and Tony jr. was in a long sleeve shirt and pants, a light coat but no hat that I remember . . . I put my coat around him and prayed for a bus that never came. I ended up walking from Irving Park and Damen to Foster and Damen, and stopping at CVS on Lawrence to buy a fleece blanket and one of those weird winter hats with the hard cardboard bill in the front to warm him up...That was one of the first moments when I thought "What's more important? Theatre or my family?"
Since the kids were born, it has felt as if Tony and I have worked better with a "divide and conquer" approach to our lives. It has made sense that the "divide" would be him at the theatre and me at home. He can run tech, and I can nurse...and honestly, a lot of times it just feels better to stay home. The kids get a bedtime routine, I get to be with them and feel needed by them, and it's important to me to be a mom that is THERE.
At the same time, Tony's writing and online presence has really helped Halcyon grow. While I have always been involved artistically, and have actually directed more shows for Halcyon than Tony, I haven't maintained a presence (or done the work) of the...Executive-isory-ness. . . As a result, I have felt less and less connected to, and less and less needed by, this amazing company that was started by us as equals. He was doing more of the producing, reading of scripts, being the one there for tech weeks. . . It made sense for him to take on the role of Artistic Director and me to become Associate A.D. That's the roles we were playing.
I think that led to me feeling even less needed by Halcyon, and more needed by the kids, which made it even more appealing to be the one that stayed home. I would go to rehearsals or shows, and not really know what to do there. Or have to call Tony to fix the problems. . . At home, I always had the answers, the kisses and hugs, and yes, the milk!
The "Divide and Conquer" has been feeling more and more like "Divide, and Tony Conquers." Its been no one's fault; up until now it has been the best way to proceed. And I'm sure he feels pretty conquered when the kids want me to do bedtime... and bath-time... and everything else :)
However, I love this company just as much as he does, and I want it to succeed just as much as he does. The same way he wants our kids to succeed. Thankfully they are getting old enough now where we can really do more of the Kid Stuff 50-50... I am back to tackling the Theatre Stuff 50-50 as well. If I want to be an equal voice in this theatre company, I have to be an equal voice... the same way I am in my marriage and with my kids. I have to do the work.
The first step, a small one though it is, is to change the name of my blog... The Life of a Theatre Wife used to sound kitchy and fun to me. Now it sounds like "A Cute Little Wife in the Corner, writing a Cute Little Blog to have something to share with her strong, hard-working husband". (Boy, that sounds bitter. But that Bitter Woman is who I DON'T want to become.) If you have a Blog Name you think might be good, let me know...
The second step will be taking a newly found love of marketing I have acquired, and really trying to use it to Halcyon's benefit.
We'll see what comes third... I'll keep you posted!