Maybe It’s A Stage?

by Alison Friedman in Mommy's Musings

Pregnancy and Mommy Life have been all about diapers and milk and temper tantrums and sleep learning and cuddles. The past two years and 10 months have taught Bryan and me how to communicate as parents and, even more recently, how to spell out loud on the fly. We’ve discovered the added expenses a child brings to the home and the importance of budgeting. We were also schooled in real estate as we sold our home and moved into a bigger house to make room for a growing girl. We have learned how to manage our relationships with our friends, parents and non-parents alike, and have had a rude awakening about the available nights in our social calendar (fewer!).

And with all these changes parenthood has brought us, I’ve welcomed the nuances that have affected the ebb and flow of our marriage and household. Sometimes it feels like it was this way all along. Sometimes we think back to a trip we took as newlyweds and are surprised to realize it was SO long ago!

I do miss the theater though. A lot of my mom friends in my current life would be surprised to even learn I’ve always been a theater girl. It came up in a conversation recently — I sort of just mentioned the theater as an aside and my friend stopped me to say, “Oh, you are into theater?” It kind of caught me off guard.

Of COURSE I’m into theater. I’m not “into” much else. Except pink laundry and hair bows I guess.

It hit me that my creative outlet felt like ages ago, when really, my last affiliation with the theater was when I assisted in directing one of my very favorite shows of all time and even announced my pregnancy during the rehearsal run. That was only spring of 2011! And yet, so much as changed and the closest I’ve been to a stage has been the Disney Jr. Live stage during a trip to the parks with Madelyn.

Opening night of "The Drowsy Chaperone" and Madelyn's first official welcoming into the theater world!

Opening night of “The Drowsy Chaperone” and Madelyn’s first official welcoming into the theater world!

Before the baby — before Bryan, even! — I was very involved in high school theater. I was in all the shows, took all the classes, and even started my school’s chapter of the Thespian Society. Hard core theater geek to the brim.

But my love for theater comes from all the shows my parents took me to here in L.A. and also New York. Autographed Playbills take up two boxes in my garage. I know this because I just moved them into the new house… that we bought for our family.

Before I stayed up late at night researching potty training methods online, I was reading message boards and participating in chat rooms (told you I was a geek!) about all the Broadway gossip. I could spew off names of every actor in a leading role on the Great White Way RIGHT now. But, actually, RIGHT now, I can only spew off the names of every puppet on the colorful Sesame Street (my inner Geek squeals into delight when my worlds collide and I proudly hear the voices of my beloved Broadway stars guesting ON Sesame Street. Tom Kitt and Lin Manuel Miranda write music for the show?! Sutton Foster sings a catchy song to teach physics?! Stephanie D’Abruzzo and John Tartaglia are consistently credited for puppetry?! Bliss.).

I also miss the kids. For a while, I took a leadership role and helped lead the kids at theater camp and assisted in directing them in “Willy Wonka.” Those kids are now so grown up! Some just starting college and some just getting driver licenses or entering middle school. I even got to share the stage with those cuties one night when I had to sub for one of our adult actors. Kids in theater are always a joy to watch because they’re still learning, they’re usually not jaded (yet!), and have such enthusiasm about what they’re doing on stage and the relationships they’re making off stage. Working with these theater kids was a huge catalyst for my decision to go back to school to get my teaching credential.

Chocolatey sweet time working with the "Willy Wonka" cast.

Chocolatey sweet time working with the “Willy Wonka” cast.

But I really miss performing. My unpracticed voice could use a few lessons to get some placement back. And I think I can still tap dance fine, so that’s good. And my brain craves sinking into a new script to memorize. My last time on stage was a play and it was a starring role, which was such a wonderful experience since I’ve usually enjoyed time in the ensemble or supporting-supporting roles. If I’d known that when I took my final curtain call in August of 2010 it would be the last time I’d be on stage before getting pregnant just three months later, I might have savored it more.

My community theater friends post audition notices on Facebook and every time I see them, I think, “THIS one! This is what I’ll come back for!” But in all honesty, I don’t know if that will really be possible while Madelyn is still so young. And then one day, she’ll have a younger sibling and the cycle will begin again. Do I want to miss out on birthday parties for Madelyn’s friends because I have Saturday afternoon rehearsal? Do I want to miss tucking her in most evenings because I’ll be at the theater? Can I be the best I can be on stage after a sleepless night from a sickness or changing wet sheets?

Damn, do I really want costumers to take my measurements on a two-year-old post-partum body?!

What I’ve also failed to mention is that once Bryan and I started dating, he joined me on stage. We saw the theater lights from our dating days to our engaged days to our married time. We had the best parties at the condo with our theater friends. We trekked into Hollywood to see other friends’ in their musicals and we hosted friends who lived too far to drive back to town for the Sunday matinee after the Saturday night show. Bryan and I were part of a network that was supportive, fun, and enlightening. Sometimes what we were doing was fluff and maybe seemed immature, but that doesn’t mean I can’t miss it.

Geeking out with some of my favorite Broadway stars!

Geeking out with some of my favorite Broadway stars!

When you’ve been gone for too long from something, it’s hard to get back in. I fear that our “theater family” has moved on without us; the ship has sailed and we’ll always have a place in the seats on the dock, yes, but there can’t be any steering of the vessel. From my vantage point, we’re old news. The Friedmans, who? Oh, the ones who had the baby and then never came back? Yeah, they are so three years ago.

The idea of auditioning again as a mom is almost more frightening than the very first time I ever did as a nobody. I feel out of place. The first time I auditioned, I didn’t know if I even had a place. But to come back and audition now, knowing I once actually had a place and maybe I won’t anymore, that’s intimidating.

From an obnoxious Jersey bride to a check-writing old lady to a wartime wife in a Christmas show to an immigrant at the turn of the century, I've been able to become many different people.

From an obnoxious Jersey bride to a check-writing old lady to a wartime wife in a Christmas show to an immigrant at the turn of the century, I’ve been able to become many different people.

I’ll be honest, one of the reasons most actors say they love theater or any other kind of performing is the ability to escape. Forgetting your own problems and taking on a new life is liberating and exciting. And let’s face it, motherhood can be exhausting. And hard. It’s much easier to play a tap-dancing, dumb blonde who gets swept away by a gangster lady in Asian disguise, looking to exploit young starlets for three hours than to clean up thrown food on the floor or calm a temperamental toddler. There have been days when I wish I could leave Madelyn and her diaper explosion to join a cast in a dance studio. More than ever, have I wished to shrug my shoulders and declare, “I cant. I have rehearsal!”

But those days are over as of now.

My creative outlets now are pretty limited. I enjoy writing and find creative freedom in this here blog and on my business blog, The Wedding Yentas, but my true passion is really theater. I would love for Madelyn to grow up appreciating theater and of course we’ll expose her the way our parents did for us. She’s already so musical, singing and dancing to any beat she hears. I’d be very surprised if she declared no interest whatsoever. And who knows, maybe one day we’ll join HER on stage.

So to all our friends who only met us post-baby, yes, we are crazy theater people. I bet we all had different identities and wore different hats before our babies were born, but Bryan and I wore lots of different hats… and wigs, and headpieces, and accessories… sometimes all in one night.

  1. Mimi
    9/13/2013 3:27 PM

    I am confident that Daddy & I (aka Mimi & Poppa, Madelyn) will see the THREE of you on a stage in the future! You guys will always be infected with the theater bug—-no antibiotic can ever take it away from you. ;-D
    What fun it would be to see the 3 of you together in the same show one day!
    The lights, the applause, the curtin calls wait for your return.

  2. 9/10/2013 1:45 PM

    I’m crying over here too. You struck a chord with me as well, a theatre lover myself as you know well. I was just thinking about this same thing the other day, the days of my youth, the singing, the dancing, the joy and the role that music and theater once played in my life. I know you will be back on stage someday soon. As for now, it seems you are playing the role of “mommy” ever so genuinely and ever so well. Much love to you my friend.

  3. Marilyn
    9/9/2013 11:40 PM

    Hey there. Here’s the good news…there is nothing like doing a show with your kid, even if you have to wait awhile. That’s the hard part. Although, for me, it was more singing than acting, growing up, I still had a really LONG dry spell, but, more good news, it does come back once you start up again and, bonus, it’s a whole new way to embarrass your kids. That probably doesn’t necessarily seem important now, but it really is great fun when they get older. Mostly, that’s because it’s almost impossible not to, so you may as well enjoy it. Seriously, you’ll be back and better than ever, because you’ll have many more experiences to draw on…heck, you already do! On the other hand, think of what you’d have missed if you’d chosen not to do the mommy thing. The most important thing is to enjoy these early years, because they go by SO quickly, and you can never have them back. You can always get back on stage, at any age, but you can’t have your babies be little again. I know. I’ve tried. 😉

  4. Pattie
    9/9/2013 8:33 PM

    I love this… much….so much in fact, I’m crying. It’s been one of those days. This was just the last straw for me to have a good cry and wail at all the wonderful things I have seen in this amazing family and all the things I will continue to see. I loved seeing you in your plays. I love seeing you in your roll as mom just as much, if not more. Love you sweetie.