Igniting connections across the globe.

Pregnant Performer: Who’s Gonna Hire Me?

pregnant performer
By Renée Baillargeon

I was speechless.  Fired before I was hired.  And by another woman!  Unlike a male theatre director you’d have thought she would’ve accepted and embraced my pregnancy.  But no.  She said,“I just know that when my little girl was born I was so overwhelmed that I couldn’t possibly have directed a children’s show. Your baby will only be six weeks old when rehearsals start and it will be a very demanding schedule. There will be lots of running around outside of the set rehearsal time.”  

She then acknowledged that although what she was saying was “perhaps not politically correct”,  (You think????), she felt she was being totally realistic. I wanted to scream and say “I already have a nine month old boy. I know exactly what I’m in for when this one is born!” But of course I bit my tongue. The Canadian theatre world is a small one and I couldn’t afford to antagonize anyone.

As I hung up the phone, I wondered if I would ever get to work in the theatre again.

I looked down at my blossoming stomach and thought, “Right. Who the hell wants a physical theatre specialist that can’t even put her boots on without tumbling over into a sommersault?” With such a short time between two pregnancies I hadn’t even had time to lose the five pounds I’d put on with my first born. After his birth I now weighed one hundred and twenty three pounds! At 5 foot seven inches that made me huge for photo shoots. Who ever heard of a fat female mime?

Industrial films and photo shoots were paying extremely well since mime had become the latest flavour of the month but I hadn’t been able to do either in the last year. And maybe I wouldn’t have made much money directing a children’s puppet show, not after I factored in babysitting and commuting for the minimum Equity wage, but I would’ve been BACK! BACK on the boards. BACK to what I loved!  I then quickly admitted to myself, that I loved my little boy too.  And I knew I’d love this baby just as much.  But it was all so unfair!

Then I did what every other new hormone driven mother does from time to time……..I sobbed.

Uncontrollably. My little boy stared at me for a few seconds and then he joined in.  I picked him up, jiggled him up and down, stroked his back and said through my sobs, “ Ssssh. It’s not true that misery loves company. Sshhh”. So a few weeks went by and my belly swelled along with my exhaustion. I began to believe that not only would I be fat forever, but even directors I had previously worked for would have forgotten me.

In my business there is always someone younger, thinner and prettier to take your place. Thank goodness I was trained in physical theatre (clown, mime, mask, choreography) which gave me an edge. And though I could also work in French or English, I began to mistrust my talent and my performance capability. I mean I was six months pregnant and my toes were on the other side of a mountain. And why were all my maternity clothes dirty at my belly but clean everywhere else? …….And I would cry again at the injustice of it all.

And then one day the phone rang and it wasn’t the doctor or the garage or the neighbour.

It was the principal of the Canadian School of Physical Theatre. We had never worked together before, and we only knew each other by name, but we had trained at the same school in Paris, France. (“L’Ecole Jacques LeCoq”).

“I know two weeks isn’t much notice to put together a show,” he began, and I thought to myself, “It’s perfect for me. Any later and I could be giving birth onstage”…….

He continued on to explain that he would need a female mime to perform for an awards show at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.  There would be three actors – one female, two males and we would rehearse five scenarios of what shopping was like during five different eras.  There would be three nights of three hour rehearsals and the show would be in 15 days. A one night only performance. The 3,000 seat theatre required a visual presentation rather than a spoken one. All of which would be underscored by loud music, projections and vibrant lighting.

There was a huge budget and the pay was great.

“Perfect !!” I thought. “No problem”.  I thought…… But I’d have to tell him.

“Um. I’d love to do it. But I’m…uh….six months pregnant”.

“Is that a problem? My wife worked up till her water broke.”

“Not a problem for me. Absolutely not!”

“Then it’s not our problem. It’s the costume mistress’.”

And it was. But she was great! In less than one week that talented costume mistress whipped up a 1900’s costume with a bigger bustle in back to counteract the bulge in front,  a long sweater and beads for the 1920’s, platform shoes and a tie dyed kaftan for the 1960’s, a full loose apron for the 90’s, and a large space suit for the future. I was rejuvenated. My world was back and fifteen days later, when the lights went down for the last time, the director winked at me before he said to our super human costume mistress, “It went so well tonight, that the company would like to do this again on the West Coast in two months”.

After a significantly long pause, she sighed, looked at me and said, “Capes. All I will be able to do is capes.” Laughing loudly, the director told her he was “just kidding” and as crew and cast joined in the laughter a warm and wonderful moment became etched forever in my memory. Two  months later I gave birth to another beautiful baby boy and six weeks after that I started rehearsals for another show.   This contract was longer and physically more gruelling than directing a children’s puppet show but my incredible family seemed to thrive on the resulting chaos……and still do.

Also by Renee:

Refugee, Survivor and Mother: Kim Sang’s Story

Join TheatreArtLife to access unlimited articles, our global career center, discussion forums, and professional development resource guide. Your investment will help us continue to ignite connections across the globe in live entertainment and build this community for industry professionals. Learn more about our subscription plans.

Love to write or have something to say? Become a contributor with TheatreArtLife. Join our community of industry leaders working in artistic, creative, and technical roles across the globe. Visit our CONTRIBUTE page to learn more or submit an article.
Share

Read more...