Thursday, September 21, 2006

Working Mother

One of my oldest and closest friends recently (8 weeks ago) became a mother. She is an actress in Chicago, and she even more recently (2 weeks ago), started auditioning again. She called a few days ago asking for this advice: "What do you do with the baby when you audition?"

I bring one or both of my children to probably 95% of castings/go-ses/auditions. I walk in the room and I survey the immediate reaction of those present. Whoever smiles, shows interest, actually TALKS to me, is the person that will probably end up watching my kids when I go in the room. Sometimes someone offers-usually a fellow mother (who may or may not have her child with her), or someone who just likes kids. If no one offers and no one has shown interest, I usually make an announcement before I go in the room: "Will you all keep a collective eye on my children and make sure no one kidnaps them?" I guess it's more of a rhetorical question really.

I have only had a handful of less than ideal experiences. 1. Both babies at 4 months old cried the entire time I was in the room. Someone was holding them and happy to do so, but they were literally tired and not having it. I still remember what the auditions were for: Nine, the musical and BJ's Warehouse commercial. 2. Once when I was at the Equity Building waiting for a musical audition I was asked not to stand in the line to go in because my baby and I were distracting the other actors. In fact, it was so out of the blue from the monitor, that I think someone had requested I was put in my place. 3. I approached someone to watch my child and she said she was extremely uncomfortable doing that. ok...I just asked the next person.

My rules: I never ask the person who is RIGHT after me. I do not ask the person who seems really into their copy/preparation. I do not expect anyone to touch, hold or feed the baby, because I would never want them to get messy. I do not bring my children to callbacks (except for that one time....story later).

After talking to my friend, I realized that I am pretty lucky that things have gone so well for almost 5 years now (if you count carting the baby to auditions with me while in utero). I also expressed to my friend that if people are going to immediately be dissinterested in me because I am a mother and because I bring my children with me, then I am not interested in working with them.

Then there was yesterday. I walked into a large room. There were about 30 people waiting to get their photos taken for a go-see for a print job. In I walk with my 17-month-old who immediatly runs over to the light box to touch it. The casting director at the table yells rather loudly: "No, no, no, no, no, no!" Got it, I am right behind her. Discretion at that point was out the window. I filled out my sheet and tried to keep her quiet. I noticed another mother there, with her baby that seemed more like 2. I noticed her nursing at one point and I asked myself: "Hmmm...I wonder how that works when mom leaves?" simply because nursing toddlers seem pretty attached to their mothers. Well, it was mom's turn and she had her friend hold the child. The toddler promptly began screaming, and the casting director proceeded to quite deliberately insert her fingers into her ears.

I was probably the only one who noticed this "gesture", (the screaming didn't seem to be HURTING anyone else's ears), so I tried to suggest to the woman watching the kid that we step out into the hall, but she didn't listen to me. When the mom was done I pointed out how rudely the casting director had been, just to sort of be like a mother on her side.

So then my daughter starts up crying, which TOTALLY makes sense because we had just come from being on set for almost 3 hours, she had thrown her bottle on the train earlier to it's demise (it cracked in half on the bottom, milk EVERYWHERE), and had only taken a few tiny sips of a milk I bought her, and she was tired. After the plugging ears crazy casting director, I went out into the hall to try to get her to stop crying. I was actually saying to my 17-month-old: "Please don't do this now." I spied some M & M's at this little coffee bar in the studio and grabbed them, promising to pay later. I sat her on a chair, opened up those M & M's and let her chow down. A woman sitting next to her volunteered to watch her: she had 2 boys at home. And she was an angel while I got my photos taken.

Here's the thing. If that casting director, who obviously lacks compassion when it comes to the plight of wanting to mother and make a living, isn't interested in me simply because I bring my children with me(...which I am not saying is the case, because I don't know for a fact, but the whole plugging ears thing makes me think maybe she was trying to tell us mothers something...), then I wish she would just tell me so that I didn't waste her time, my time, and risk hurting her preciously, sensitive (rather large) ears.


Amber said...

I'm actually shocked people are willing to watch your kids while you audition! I personally would be nervous leaving them in a room of strangers. Not because the strangers would do anything but what my kids would do to them. :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post - I've often wondered how you pulled it off!!