5 Family Friendly Practices towards Gender Balanced Irish Theatre

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MAM advises 5 FAMILY FRIENDLY PRACTICES

towards GENDER BALANCED IRISH THEATRE

(Introduced at Theatre Forum Conference June 2017)

Only two of the following solutions require funding and the costs for these are minimal.

1. Sympathetic Scheduling

Where possible adjust your schedules to accommodate those of your employee, the carer. This costs nothing and enables you to employ the best person for the job rather than just the person who is available.

2. Children in the Work Space

Find appropriate times to allow children into your work space in the care of their parent. This is also free. It enables practitioners and audience, who might otherwise be unable to access your work, to engage with you. As part of this, consider baby and child friendly morning or matinee performances that reflect school hours.

3. Family Friendly Staff Training

A family friendly attitude in your Front of House staff is the cost of one training session. Like the power of all good customer service it pays for itself quickly by generating new audience. If you host a MAM Cuppa or family friendly event, ask any MAM there for advice. All would be happy to help and we would encourage all venues to keep a MAM toy box.

4. Childcare

Consider a Pop-Up-Creche. It’s not as expensive as you might think. Garda vetted, registered childminders can be hired from agencies by the hour. Make a specific number of places available via advance booking, A service such as this will expand the demographic that can attend your audition, workshop, forum or performance.

5. Ask The Question …*

AFTER you have contractually agreed to employ anyone, ask them this question:

” Is there anyone in your life whose care you are responsible for and is there any way we can assist you to facilitate this while you work for us?”

This is the game changer. It will radically change the experience of the carers working for you who often hide the challenges they face, fearing their commitment will be in question. This statement from you removes pressure on carers to ‘out’ themselves. It will improve their attitude, output and ability to work creatively. Both PAAL and MAM have adopted the same question as a top initiative for theatres and best practice.

* Recommendation, Ineke Ceder, Wellesley Centers for Women and part of a supported initiative by MAM Ireland and PAAL USA

Parenting Room at TF 2017
Parenting Space at Twist or Stick Irish Theatre Forum Conference 2017

Implementing these practices in your work will require little extra funding while the results, MAM believes, will reveal extra women and a more gender balanced Irish theatre.

 

 

 

 

 

MAM are a member organisation of Theatre Forum and Tara Derrington spoke at the Theatre Forum Conference, Cork in June 2017 where she announced MAM 5 Family Friendly Practices towards Gender Balance in Irish Theatre.

Further Reading from Ineke Ceder.

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Up On Our Feet in the MAM Playground

 

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With the desire to ‘get creative’ burning in our collective chests, Mothers Artists Makers held a meeting in November to decide how best to harness our energies and talents, and to see if a MAM production might be a possibility in the near or distant future. With many of our members generously offering to hold workshops covering a wide range of skills, it was decided to begin with a ‘Rattlebag Week’. This was to be an exploration of ideas, forms, skills and a general flexing of our artistic muscles.

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As a starting point we had decided on a broad theme, ‘Labour’. Each individual 2 hour session was given a sub-theme such as flirtation;  sex; incubation; nesting; birth and post-birth. Our aim was to develop a way of working as an ensemble, to collect and ‘contain’ the ideas that could, and would emerge. There was a real desire to try it and see if we could work collectively while observing our family friendly practice. Our experience in producing a short piece for The Abbey (Observe the Mothers of Theatre Marching Towards the Stage) last September, had put fires in our bellies and shown us that working in intensive spurts often with our children in the room can (miraculously) result in a piece of theatre.

 

I was lucky enough to attend all of the workshops in ‘Rattlebag Week’. My children are all at primary school now, and I am mostly free in the mornings unless I have work on. I cannot tell you how much I am enjoying this phase! It has coincided beautifully with my involvement with MAM and these weeks of delicious creativity. I feel very lucky to be Dublin-based and to be able to avail of this amazing opportunity, made possible by Fringe Lab who provided MAM with the space.

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I  feel awake, alive and buzzing with a creative joy that I haven’t felt in years.

 

img_0251Our scheduling allows for school pick-ups, with workshops running from 10-12, and an ‘open space’ in which to write, develop or chill from 12-2pm. As with all MAM events, the group can change from day to day. All are welcome to attend when and if they can, and children are welcome. We had some beautiful scenes with babies in slings at Andrea’s Viewpoints workshop. In fact we had babies in arms or children present for nearly all of the first week of Playground. My 5 year old daughter joined me for the voice workshop with Marianne and loved it. I’ve really enjoyed the unpredictability of the changing, evolving group wondering who will be joining us on any given day. There’s a fresh energy in the comings and goings that keeps us on our toes in a great way. Certainly for this phase of exploration it has worked very well.

Each facilitator led us through a two hour workshop in their area of expertise. Sarah FitzGibbon kicked us off by leading us through some Process Drama techniques. We were up on our feet, creating characters, scenarios and improvising very quickly. No ‘feeling the fear’ in a MAM workshop, there simply isn’t time! Quick decision-making and thinking on your feet are necessary when you’ve only 2 hours to play with. I personally found this liberating, and it has prevented me from getting stuck in my head or fixating on one particular idea.

 

All in all a fantastic week for awakening the muse, stretching the creative muscles and seeing the possibilities.

Even though the workshops offered a diverse range of skills and processes, there was an real cohesion running throughout the work. Perhaps this is because of the common experience we share as mothers, and because we are collectively drawn to the themes that were real and unifying for us.

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There is something about the lack of pressure that wove a little magic into the way we are working. The fact that you have shown up, even if late, is enough. You are accepted in with the understanding of a group that has been there, knows you are not just a ‘flake’ or ‘can’t get it together’. MAM know the struggle it takes to get to a rehearsal space with or without your children on any given morning. If you’ve made, fair dues to ya!

Having reached the end of ‘rattlebag’ week, we embarked on the devising process led by Tara Derrington and Michelle Read. I sense an eagerness, a sense of anticipation and awaking in us. There’s a real camaraderie and a sense of allowing which I believe is our hidden treasure and our greatest resource.

By allowing, I mean acceptance of our individual circumstances and needs; respect for each other as women, mothers and artists; a  lack of judgement or placement within a perceived hierarchy; a lack of pretense and illusions of ‘doing it all perfectly’. The one up-womanship and the competition that is so often present in our younger careers, while scrambling for the next gig and picking over the pathetically few decent female roles, gone.

 We joked one morning at the beginning of the devising session, “sure we’re already winners, we’re in the room!”

And with that we seized these precious two hours and played like the kids we still are at heart.

Fiona Browne Founding MAM

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The view from afar…

Auditioning Mom is one of our favourite blogs, full of fellow feeling. This is what happen when MAM meet, albeit virtually and part of her series on What She Looks Like…where she interviews parenting artists.

https://auditioningmom.com/2017/02/16/what-she-looks-like-susie-lamb-actorwriter-eir-2/

Susie Lamb’s play HORAE is on in The Complex in Dublin from the 20th February 2017 for a limited run.

Playground!

This is not a traditional blog but for all of those of you who follow us, this is a new departure. We want to create Pathways back to Practice and this is how we hope to start….IMG_0528

PLAYGROUND 2017 Workshops

 PLAYGROUND is a programme of workshops supported by Fringe Lab, with extra support by The Complex and the New Theatre, that aims at  exploring ideas of interest to MAMs and the possibility of creating a piece or pieces of theatre. The word ‘Labour’ (in all its meanings) will be our springboard as the theme that will link the various workshops during the first part of the process.

PLEASE NOTE : THAT SOME SESSIONS ARE IN THE EVENING TO FACILITATE DAYTIME WORKING MAMS

PLAYGROUND Fringe Lab includes two different processes:

  1. ­Creative Process consists of a series of workshops facilitated by the expertise of MAMs and is designed to inspire and generate material for the devising process and possible future collaborations, inc. a MAM Cabaret.
  2. Devising Process will be facilitated by Michelle Read (Writer/Performer/Facilitator) and Tara Derrington (Director) to respond to the PLAYGROUND creative process, interrogating the ideas birthed there and exploring structures and mechanisms for developing those ideas into a piece or pieces of performance in the future.

 

As part of this wonderful opportunity of having access to Fringe Lab in the mornings MAM is also offering an OPEN SPACE:

OPEN SPACE offers MAMs the possibility to drop in at anytime between 12-2pm so that you can spend sometime with yourself, connecting with others, writing, meditating, thinking about your next artistic project… as you wish and you need. Feel free to come along even if it is just for half an hour during your lunch break.

As always with MAM’s activities:

  • Children of all ages are welcome unless specifically stated otherwise
  • You don’t have to attend all sessions, but we would love as many MAMs to participate as possible. None of this would be possible without the tremendous support of Fringe Lab, so come for what you can
  • We are scheduling some afternoon, evening and lunch time sessions to facilitate as many MAMs as possible
  • If you are coming from outside Dublin and need accommodation please put it up on the Facebook group or email us and we’ll try to find you a bed

 

January Creative Process Schedule

Venue: Fringe Lab. Sycamore Building, Sycamore St. Temple Bar.

Day 1 — Flirtation

Monday 23rd January. Workshop 10-12 / Open Space from 12-2PM

Sarah Fitzgibbon will use process drama techniques to help you take that stimulus/object  book from the bottom drawer to the workshop floor. Please bring something that inspires or intrigues you.

Day 2 — Sex

Tuesday 24th January

Please note this session is from 7-9PM

Marianne Araújo Marcote will unlock the creative potential for voice and body to sensually explore your creative voice. Please bring comfortable clothes.

Day 3 — Incubation 

Wednesday 25th January. Workshop 10-12  / Open Space from 12-2PM

Andrea Scott will use Viewpoints to collectively physically explore the theme of Labour.

Day 4 — Nesting 

Thursday 26th January. Workshop 10-12 / Open Space from 12-2PM

Sarah McKereghan will do some Composition work (the work of Ann Bogart and Tina Landau) to begin to draw together the work of the week.

Day 5 — Birth 

Friday 27th January. Workshop 10-12  / Open Space from 12-2PM

Pom Boyd will facilitate a writing workshop to get those ideas onto the page.

Some of the material will be brought onto the devising week but anything else can be brought together with other work to assist with development of other projects, such as a MAM Cabaret 2018.

 

Venue: New Theatre rehearsal space. 43 East Essex St. Temple Bar.

 Day 6 — Post birth

Monday 30th January

Please note this session is from 7-9PM

Diane O’Connor will give you the opportunity to put to test all that thinking on your feet built up from the first year! Using long-form improv techniques to create scenes and performances inspired by your own experiences.

February Devising Process Schedule

Venue: Fringe Lab. Sycamore Building, Sycamore St. Temple Bar.

Day 1 – Thursday 2nd  February. Devising 10-12  / Open Space from 12-2PM

Day 2 – Friday 3rd of February. Devising 10-12  / Open Space from 12-2PM

Venue: The Complex, 15 Little Green Street (off Capel Street), Dublin 7

 Day 3 – Wednesday 8th of February. Please note this session is from 5-7PM

Venue: Fringe Lab. Sycamore Building, Sycamore St. Temple Bar.

Day 4 -Thursday 9th of February Devising 10-12  / Open Space from 12-2PM

 Day 5 – Friday 10th of February. Devising 10-12  / Open Space from 12-2PM

A global gift from our Chicago MAM & #StandByYourMAM

Rachel Spenser Hewitt contacted us back in September. She wished to interview us about what we were doing as she felt it chimed with her experience in the USA. There have been a few dark days for American Feminists since then but also a successes in the #FairWageOnStage campaign.

Here is her article in HowlRound.

http://howlround.com/where-are-the-disappeared-women-of-the-theatre

Also, thank you to all of you who joined into our #StandByYourMAM campaign. See you all for more in 2017.

 

My Speech in The Abbey -UNCUT!

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Tara Derrington, mother, director and MAM founder spoke at One More Thing, the Waking the Feminist Event in The Abbey Theatre on 14th November 2016.

As there were so many amazing speakers, time was at a premium and speakers were told that their piece should last no longer than 90 seconds. As a result, and after some discussion with WTFs about the content of the MAM speech, some cuts were made to our final draft. Myself and the speechwriting team: Charlotte Harrison, Emma Lowe, Emma Mc Ivor, Fiona Browne, Hazel Katherine Larkin, Oonagh Mc Laughlin, Pamela Mc Queen, Sarah Fitzgibbon and Susie Lamb wanted you all to see the original piece which was written to the 300 word limit advised by WTFs. In telling our story and our vision for a family friendly theatre world of the future, we could easily have written twice as much again!

Tara holds a placard which reads:

WHERE ARE THE DISAPPEARED WOMEN OF THE ARTS? … AT THE SCHOOL GATES. NOW

A year ago I stood outside this theatre holding this sign.

People took photographs of it but no one talked. A year ago motherhood wasn’t on the agenda.

Today, I’m on the stage, representing 300 female theatre practitioners across Ireland who make up MAM – Mothers Artists Makers.

Inspired by #WakingTheFeminists, we’ve united to highlight issues of domestic isolation, marginalisation, and the disproportionate impact of parenting on the salaries of mothers who work in theatre.

MAMs surveyed average four and a half years third level training; and 16 years paid practice each.

After having children, over half our members surveyed lost ALL their income from theatre. 95% of the rest suffered reduced incomes. This makes theatre unsustainable for MAMs.

Solutions can include childcare. We also need choice: some parents at home for a month. Others need 20 years. However long it takes, we seek structured dignified pathways back to our careers,, which recognise that maturity is a strength, and parenting brings a powerful new dimensions to our practice.

FringeLab, The Abbey Theatre, Project Arts Centre, The Lyric Theatre , Rough Magic, Smock Alley, O’Reilly Theatre, Fishamble, Baboró, Town Hall Theatre, The Mac, The Mermaid Arts Centre and the Grainstore – by hosting our workshops – you make us visible again.

#WakingTheFeminists, by changing the time of this event to accommodate us, you embraced family-friendly practice. Sympathetic scheduling is MAM’s equivalent of a wheelchair ramp and ensure equal accessibility.

Is your theatre making family friendly?

54% of Irish women are mothers. MAM believes the major cause of gender imbalance in theatre is the exodus of women when they have children. This isn’t Mother Theatre ensuring survival of her fittest. It’s the loss of some of our brightest and best due to the unequal care burden on women. The ONE THING that is most unresolved in Feminism today? Motherhood.

(Picking up sign) A year ago I asked you to “Remember Us”

All MAMs in auditorium stand

Today, we are here.

All: Mothers. Artists. Makers.

 

Let’s be clear….

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From a coffee to a button, a journey of activation.

Waking The Feminists event was on 14th Nov. In the lead up to it, we thought we should put here what we are and how you can help.

MAM aims to:

  • Highlight the causes and effects of the disappearance of theatre practitioners who are mothers.
  • Establish structured, dignified pathways back to work for theatre practitioners who have taken time out from their career to parent.
  • Collaborate with theatre organisations, venues and companies to develop family friendly work policy and practice.

What MAM does:

  • We provide support and networking opportunities for MAMs through regular meetings and online conversation.
  • We foster creative opportunities for MAMs through workshops and liaisons with theatre makers in Ireland.
  • We advocate for political and social change that will improve working opportunities for MAMs.

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How you can #StandByYourMAM :

  • If you are a theatre maker, consider ways in which you can make your practice family friendly. This can include scheduling; budgeting for childcare costs and including them in your  funding applications; the accessibility of your rehearsals, performances, building and touring to parents and children. Talk to MAM. We can advise you of simple ways in which you can improve your engagement with parenting artists.
  • Remember US. MAM is developing a database of parenting theatre practitioners and their availability. Work with us to integrate MAMs into your theatre making. Do not assume mother artists are no longer available or will give less commitment.
  • Support political campaigns that aim to improve childcare provision and the representation of women in the workplace.
  • Value the role of carer. Parenting is a job, even if we don’t yet pay for it.

 Here is a response to the WTF event from one of our MAMs:

https://strutandbellow.com/2016/11/15/the-dark-man/