A 3 month rehearsal period for mother actors in York

Next Door But One is a community arts based theatre company in York. Part of their mission is to find new ways of making theatre accessible to audiences, and also for the artists that work with them. Director Matt Harper-Hardcastle has been working with actor and mother Anna Rogers since 2016, and they have been exploring ways in which the rehearsal and production schedules can be inclusive and accommodating for Anna, including ways in which her children can attend rehearsals.  This month, as the company begins working on their latest production, Laura Wade’s Colder Than Here, Matt got in touch with Mothers Who Make to share the company’s new approach:

We have cast two actresses who are mothers of young children and so we have taken the decision to spread a 2 week rehearsal process over 3 months to make it easier for their parental commitments.

Since making this decision we have had other local actors contacting us to say how refreshing this is and how much this would also help them.

In this interview, Anna tells Matt of the difficulties she has found about the dual identity of parent and artist, and what working with Next Door But One have been doing to support her:

  1. Tell us about Anna the Artist and Anna the Mother

Anna the Artist is a writer, illustrator, storyteller and actress. I am known for my unique artistic style as Miss Trout, where my work is woven into stories and spangly illustrative makes, alongside my blogs & projects that campaign my deepest passions and beliefs through my creative outlets. I am a working professional actress and voice over artist experienced in theatre and film. 

Anna, the Mother has three beautiful children, aged 6, 4 and 15 months. My brood are a wonderful little bunch, full of zesty, scrummy yumminess, that always keep me on my toes and have truly enriched my life for the better.

2.What is difficult about being both a mother and an artist?

Anna on Radio York with youngest child

Anna on Radio York with youngest child

Being a mother and being an artist are the two main elements of what makes me ME. They go hand in hand really because without one or the other I'm essentially not complete. The juggle is real. It's tough to be both an artist and a mother. Being true to your responsibilities, needs, ambitions and ultimately being your full self is a big, tough cookie to crack; balancing work/ homelife takes some serious figuring out. But once you decide what's really important to you, I think it all becomes clear. You CAN be both and be good at both. It means creating and taking the right opportunities, not compromising core values that are important to you, and ultimately being honest and realistic about your needs as a mother and as an artist, and making them work for you.

 3.What has been your experience with NDB1 and in what ways has working with them supported you to be both a mother and an artist.

Next Door But One have been fabulous to work with from the get go. The company's ethos is all about supporting artists such as myself who need flexible work without the discriminatory judgement of being a parent. From saying a confident 'YES' when I have needed to ask to bring my baby to work with me, to encouraging me to apply for future projects knowing I have children and need to factor my home life into said work schedules. Working for NDB1 allows me to be both a mother and an artist without having to compromise the two most important things to me - my family and my work. I feel very supported and understood, and most importantly I feel empowered and proud to do what I do as a mother and as an artist. 

 4.What examples from NDB1 could other companies benefit from?

So many companies fail to take into account that being a mother (or parent in general) doesn't automatically mean you become a drain or liability to the business; it can actually mean the opposite. Mothers are multi taskers, hard workers and they thrive on results ... isn't parenting all this and more? If more companies trusted in their employees like NDB1 do and made the necessary flexible adjustments required, more mothers would be confidently working knowing they are supported and believed in. NDB1 are inclusive, non-discriminatory and champion making the arts and work in it accessible for all. These values and more are great building blocks for other companies to get on board with.

Matt with Anna’s son during a rehearsal

Matt with Anna’s son during a rehearsal

Anna is currently in rehearsals as ‘Jenna’ for Next Door But One’s upcoming production of Colder Than Here by Laura Wade. Following this, Anna is being contracted by Next Door But One to bring her skills as an artist and mother to be an associate on the company’s development of an inclusive stage adaptation of Phillip Pullman’s The Firework Maker’s Daughter. 

We look forward to hearing the results of this rehearsal period!