Musical theatre is a lifestyle. It's not just a hobby, a pursuit, or a passion. It is an all-consuming, life-immersing experience! Many of us embrace this experience for as long we are able, show after show, year after year. We tread the boards as often as physically possible, until we inevitably crumble with sickness or injury and take a reluctant break, during which time we thrash the RENT soundtrack, learn Spring Awakening back to front and ‘Fosse’-it around the kitchen. All the time planning our next chance to hit the stage and unleash our inner (and, for many of us, also outer) performer.
What many of the young ones may fail to realize just yet is that ‘real life’ catches up with us. Though, when we do a show, it feels like that the rest of the world ceases to exist, it actually keeps on going. Remarkably relationships progress, the world forges ahead and you may even find yourself standing at an alter professing undying love! Of course a lot of this happens outside of the ‘show season,’ but none the less you may wake up a Mr or a Mrs with a healthy-sized mortgage. Never fear though, married people are still allowed to do theatre. Yes, as ludicrous as it sounds even those of us over 30 are allowed to participate (I had to check the fine print on this one as, after a few theatre trips, I was under the impression that the cut off was 12.)
This really says it all.
Life, marriage, houses, work, are all reasonably 'theatre friendly.’ I inform you now that what will make musical theatre participation infinitely more difficult is a child. Let’s be frank, if you are a woman, at the outset you will simply be sore and a little fat. Follow this quickly with tired, exhausted, and perhaps even a dash mental. If you are a man, you are firstly traumatized by witnessing the ‘natural wonder’ of birth. Followed immediately by the afore-mentioned tired and then simply drained by the effort it takes to work out what it is you need to do to avoid the wrath of the nutter that has inhabited your wife’s body. This goes on for many months (in some cases years). Theatre becomes a distant memory, perhaps even a dream, a sweet dream where you can touch your toes and wear skinny jeans in the foyer.
The creatures that we bear and nurture have stealthy, ninja-like ability in the art of taking over our lives. Before you know it, your cast recordings are traded in for Hi-Five, The Wiggles and other such rot, all of which you will sing along to in your best mezzo/soprano voice. Your dance classes become their dance classes and you may find yourself roped into playing the dance school's Miss Hannigan in their rendition of Annie. Sadly you may not even mind this, possibly even enjoy the opportunity to perform, because the two dogs and children are desensitized – you need a fresh audience!
You will swear to see all the shows of the season, as you did in days gone by, but, low and behold, the children require food and clothing, which is, really, selfish. So your theatre visits become special events designated for the closest of friends' performances. You will thoroughly enjoy the times you step back into the world you once knew so well. You will wish you were back up there, secretly believe you could have had ‘that’ role over her in a heartbeat and recreate the chorey to your kids' dismay for at least a few days. You will analyse your schedule, refer to your calendar, reassess babysitting options and try to find a place for a show in your life. You start to remember that being a performer is part of who you are and you want that back, at least a little of it.
These guys made it work. And they're making money out of it.
I’m here to assure you that you can have your cake and eat it too! Not because I’ve done it, but because I am determined too. I’ve seen it done. Balance is a beautiful thing and this life only works for all the members of the family unit when it is attained and maintained. So the key is patience. The little muffins may require your undivided attention for a while (possibly longer than you ever bargained for), but eventually you can have some ‘you’ time back. The chance to display your own individual talents in the way you love – musical theatre! I am going to sing my guts out everyday whilst I vacuum or wash dishes, I shall attend my Monday night tap and jazz classes (even though I am by far the eldest participant… possibly ever), I shall speak to my children in many character voices and accents (questionably the cause for their own nondescript delivery of the English language) and I shall hone my skills during my hiatus from the stage. I’ll be perfectly prepared for the plethora of ‘slightly mature’ character roles available to me down the track. A love handle or two doesn’t go astray for many of these types of roles also, so in the name of method I shall quit the exercise regime altogether, cause that’s how dedicated I am.
Everyone is different, but, from my vantage point, if I do my job right as a parent now, my kids will be the first ones cheering for me when I hit the boards again in the future.
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