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Being a “Broadway Daddy”

I was leading a tour of friends backstage at ANNIE (in 2013) when I described my schedule: “We’ve got eight shows a week, including Wednesday and Saturday matinees.”

“Whoa. How do you do it? When do you see your kids?”

“Oh, it’s great,” I said. “I get to spend all day with them five times a week. Before leaving in the evening, I feed them and they basically go to bed an hour after I leave.”

“When do you get home?”

“Eleven thirty.”

“You must be exhausted.”

“Well, it’s a good exhaustion.”

But this description was filtered. Usually I say, “I’m stuck ALL DAMN DAY with my kids and around 4:45 I count the seconds until the sitter relieves me and I to blaze a trail out of my apartment.”

I’m lucky to have such complaints.

When Ellison was born, I was in PRISCILLA… and my partner was unemployed. He’d joke with anyone who’d listen, “Yep, Gavin gets to put on a wig and high heels and talk to adults while I’m stuck babbling with a 5-month-old. So I pour another glass of wine…”

(Disclaimer: I never wore a wig in Priscilla. But yes, I wore heels in a couple of the production numbers. And my partner was stuck home in “witching hour” hell.)

So, when employed, I can say my day job is fatherhood. Then, at night, I have a well-paying hobby: entertaining on Broadway. I mean…talk about living the dream.

Plus, when I’ve done a show for months (or weeks), I don’t have to think too hard about my job. That was helpful during my boys’ first few months. I was sleep-walking through my show.

HOWEVER, I don’t bring a tired performance to the stage. (Actor friends: insert snide comments, below. Go ahead. But re-tweet this blog post, while you’re at it.)

As I see it, the difference between Broadway and not-Broadway is the talent (or mental devotion) to hide fatigue (whether baby-caused, alcohol-fueled partying, or mental weariness from your 456th performance.)

And Dr. Spotlight helps tremendously.

Somewhere in there artistry fits in, I’m sure.

Also, having kids places me in a minority on Broadway. I try to keep my kid anecdotes to a minimum in the dressing room. No one cares about Ellison eating a jar of capers or Colton saying “bye bye baby poop”.

But when there are other parents in shows, I stand backstage and discuss “who won parent-of-the-year, today?” (Meanwhile we’re dressed as cupcakes or in tuxedos and doing stretches NSFW.)

And after the show, when my cast mates still have another few hours for TV (or drinking), I look at the clock and think, “ohmigod, I gotta sleep NOW.”

When cast mates come in for a matinee looking like they went to bed at 6am and woke at 11, I smirk.

I remember those days.

I miss them.

No I don’t.

Fellow actors: chime in with your parenting/performing comments.

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5 Comments

  1. I appreciate this post so much! I have often wondered what being a Broadway parent is like. I am a “regional theatre” parent – and a single mom to complicate things. When I’m doing a show its a challenge for me AND the kids. Homework has to be done right after school, dinners have to be prepared the night before to be ready to be heated to make it to the theater on time. Most of my castmates are single or child-less. They don’t truly understand what a challenge it is. Or how hard it is to come to last minute rehearsals or stay out to celebrate after performances. Many have asked why I don’t move to NYC to try my luck on Broadway. Well, not so easy to do when I am raising two kids alone. The cool thing is my daughter has taken an interest in theatre and we sometimes get to be in shows together! Thanks for reminding me that I’m not the only theatre parent out there because sometimes it feels that way!

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  2. I appreciate this post so much! I have often wondered what being a Broadway parent is like. I am a “regional theatre” parent – and a single mom to complicate things. When I’m doing a show its a challenge for me AND the kids. Homework has to be done right after school, dinners have to be prepared the night before to be ready to be heated to make it to the theater on time. Most of my castmates are single or child-less. They don’t truly understand what a challenge it is. Or how hard it is to come to last minute rehearsals or stay out to celebrate after performances. Many have asked why I don’t move to NYC to try my luck on Broadway. Well, not so easy to do when I am raising two kids alone. The cool thing is my daughter has taken an interest in theatre and we sometimes get to be in shows together! Thanks for reminding me that I’m not the only theatre parent out there because sometimes it feels that way!

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    • So glad you wrote. And you know: you’re doing the lawd’s work, for sure. I’m writing from a point of privilege of which I’m very well aware. Being on Broadway means more stability, predictability and finances. Everything comes to an end, of course (except Wicked and Phantom, of course.) And I’ve been unemployed for the better part of the last year. But I gotta believe something will come my way, soon. Anyway. blah blah blah me. What YOU are doing is so much more admirable. And good for you! – following your passion and raising your wonderful children. Hang in there! You’re NOT the only theatre parent who sometimes feels alone on a deserted island (with great lighting and makeup).

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  3. Discovered your blog through your recent post on Queerty.

    As someone whose only experience with Broadway is being in the audience, I’ve wondered how members of a Broadway show balance parenthood with work. As a CPA, my job is only mentally taxing. But, for folks like yourself who work on Broadway, your jobs seem mentally demanding (I have no idea how y’all remember your lines and dance steps.) as well as physically challenging. I can’t imagine having a job that requires such a high degree of energy and then coming home to my responsibilities as a dad. Many kudos to you for being able to do it!

    This post was a fun peek into the life of someone who is both a dad and a Broadway performer.

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    • Hi, again! Thx for writing that, Kenny. As I hope I made clear, I feel so so so lucky when gainfully employed on the b-way. (Hoping that happens again, soon). It’s a great schedule (i think)! Days fairly free, not much time lost w kids. But when they’re older it’s gonna get harder…nights and weekends are their thriving time when they’re in school! I’m gojng to write more about that lifestyle, soon. I think this entry was far too general. I have way funnier details to explore soon. Thanks for reading!!

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