Radical Parent-Inclusion Project
Seizing on The Playwrights Realm’s core value of reflecting the full spectrum of humanity, The Radical Parent-Inclusion Project (RPI) aimed to confront the challenges of working parents in the performing arts by applying best practices of support within every facet of our Off-Broadway production of Mothers. The production tackled various obstacles in order to create a collective support structure, including:
● Overwhelming financial and logistical burden of childcare over the course of auditions, rehearsals, and performances.
● Adherence to six-day work weeks that restrict contributors’ work-life balance while on contract.
● Lack of employer transparency on caregiver policies or available provisions for parent needs within a professional context.
● Challenging access to networking opportunities such as opening night, special events, and talkbacks.
● Impossibility of attending theatre due to lack of childcare.
RPI did not aim to “solve” the problem of children. For those who choose to be parents, children are a fulfilling and important part of their lives and in many ways, make them better artists. We want to celebrate that, encourage visible parenting, and make life a little bit easier for everyone.
More than ever, mainstream media has spotlighted the burdens placed on parents in our country, with features highlighting these problems in The New York Times, Washington Post, Forbes, and numerous other high-end publications. The arts (and theatre specifically) have not truly engaged with the problem of parent-artist access, which is also an issue of equity and inclusion. As we seek to lift up the voices and communities that have not been fairly represented in the past, our process must engage with the socio-economic realities for parents, and our work must engage in unique and theatrical explorations of the experience.
Some of the specific challenges that have already been uncovered through PAAL’s research which we aim to tackle with RPI:
● Many parent contributors are early and mid-career artists at the crux of elevating their professional trajectory and need additional support not to drop off the path.
● The majority of caregivers in our society are women, and the motherhood penalty socially and professionally exists in the performing arts world as well.
● Fathers are often overlooked for support when they attempt to take on caregiver responsibilities because institutions don’t consider them in caregiver benefits.
● The socio-economic impact of caregiving increases exponentially when other factors are involved, such as for artists who are single parents and/or people of color.
Who helped us guide RPI?
The Realm partnered with Parent Artist Advocacy League for the Performing Arts (PAAL), a national resource hub and network for individual parent-artists, caregivers, and institutions to create points of parent-access and implement RPI. The Realm’s Producing Director Roberta Pereira and PAAL Founder Rachel Spencer Hewitt acted as Project Leaders.
Parent Artist Advocacy League for the Performing Arts (PAAL) is a national resource hub for individuals and institutions to address the silence and lack of support surrounding family life in the performing arts. PAAL initiates conversations across the country among theatre professionals, both employer and employed. Through their National Handbook and PAAL Award list of family-friendly theatres, PAAL promotes best practices that abolish discriminatory practices and language, especially against pregnant women and mothers, by raising awareness, developing work culture protocol, addressing the childcare dilemma, promoting and creating pathways back in for mothers who take time away, and providing resources for self-protection. PAAL created the first all-discipline National Childcare Grants and has been featured in numerous publications, including The New York Times, American Theatre Magazine, and WAMU for NPR News in Washington D.C. and at national gatherings, including multiple TCG conferences, BroadwayCon, and StateraArts’ annual conference on gender equity in the arts.
Broadway Babysitters, LLC is a referral-only boutique sitter service with mobile liability coverage, individual, audition, and special/theatrical event caregiver services based in New York City. They are a PAAL partner organization and the preferred vendor for The Playwrights Realm's RPI Project.
What did we offer?
PAAL and The Realm collaborated with parent-artists involved in the production to identify the best ways to support them, including:
● Family-friendly scheduling: including five-day, six-hour work weeks; rehearsal plan released by week versus by day; holiday childcare provided for as applicable (when children are out of school). This also resulted in an increase of per hour payment for the entire team during rehearsal.
● Intentional hiring of parent-artists in lead positions.
● Family-friendly housing for early-career playwright Anna Moench (who is a mother-artist and woman of color).
● Flexibility of on-site expectations for creative staff with children, welcoming children in the space at specific moments.
● Increased support for parent-artists during high-demand episodes such as tech week and opening night, including childcare provision options.
● Childcare-accessible matinee available to all ticket-holders.
The Radical Parent-Inclusion Project aims to model the kind of world in which we aspire to be living in, as the play Mothers is an unsparing indictment of the one we are in. As an organization dedicated to nurturing the next generation of extraordinary early-career playwrights, we see extraordinary potential in achieving our mission through dismantling the barriers preventing parent-artists from receiving support in the theatre by creating, tracking, and illuminating new pathways of access and approaches to production through immersive and radical parent-inclusion.
The Playwrights Realm’s Radical Parent-Inclusion Project was underwritten with special support from the Howard Gilman Foundation, the James S. & Meryl H. Tisch Fund, Lynn & Stephan Solomon, The New 42nd Street, and Venturous Theater Fund of the Tides Foundation.