From the mouths of the little’uns

Notnow Collective did not get the ACE Emergency funding.

We cried.

Now, although we are small, with no real capital or loud voice, we want to make this weird position open and transparent.

Firstly, we acknowledge and are very appreciative of the immediate response that the Arts Council offered. We are sharing the relief for all the peers who were able to secure the funding, and will hopefully be able to navigate these times safely.

 

We are also humbly sharing this space now with those who profoundly feel the void.

 

At the point of theatres’ closure we were in the middle of touring our new show Pepper & Honey – a unique project connecting us with those who know our work, but also significantly expending our work to new audiences up and down the country.

Our audiences took part in the story about having in common much more than what divides us.  

Following the cancellations, we decided to honour our on-the-road team’s fees as much as we could, knowing how heavily they depended on those fees.

Plenty of touring overheads simply went down the drain.  Some hires already paid for we were able to reduce, thanking each individual and company who were forthcoming.

 

Arts Council were great, fully understood our position and reasoning, and agreed we ring-fence the remainder of the money to resume the tour when theatres re-open. They recognised how important it is for us to reachliveaudiences and participants with this liveevent. We would also like to pride ourselves in being able to give immediate work to our freelance team, as soon as we are good to go. We all now we’ll need it.

 

Right now, hanging over us are the ongoing expenses we cannot stop, avoid or reduce: they need to be extended for at least 7 months if we are to resume our tour.  

To finance these expenses we will either have to pay from our own pockets (as self-employed workers who have no savings and currently, no income) or we will need to cut into the ring-fenced pot, subsequently look at cutting the number of shows, or participation activity.

 

Inevitably, the sensation of “not being relevant enough” seeps in.  

Yes, this is not a good or productive place to linger in, but we’ve arrived here, accompanied by Fear and Worry.

 

We are a young company, made up of passionate, visionary freelancers with caring responsibilities, with four passionate, hard-core, relentless years behind us. Like many from this industry, (and despite business mentoring telling us otherwise!) Notnow Collective is made up of many personal sacrifices, and too many long or unpaid hours. This is reality of many in the independent sector – the passion often drives us forwards. We are not alone.

 

We were making it work despite the challenges of lacking support network – as our extended families live far away – juggling work, home, inflexible and expensive childcare, long hours and low incomes. We’ve set up new homes and found new communities.

Yet, we were steadily getting somewhere. We were growing.

With audiences and participants at the heart of what we are doing, we are continuously looking at how to challenge the language, the systems and the spaces that are not accessible and flexible enough.

We wanted to see more varied people call themselves active and happy audiences, or artists.

 

Over the last few weeks we have been connecting with fellow carers/parents-workers-from-home, which made us even more aware how much need there is for the work we have been developing. (This is also the cue to honour the magnificent efforts by Mothers Who Make and PiPA Campaign). Whilst acknowledging everyone’s precarious position, we are also aware how compromised is the mental health of those who juggle many plates in the air, but all from the spaces of our own homes – and for some those space are VERY confined.

 

We need to process the grief. Not just for the funding we did not get, but also for all the opportunities that were laying in front of Notnow – our projects and our collaborators: new venues, new partnerships, thrilled audiences, delicious biscuits. finding new ways to work and present work, celebrating artists who are navigating working alongside caring responsibilities, and seeing people celebrate other culture and language on their stages and in their communities.

Great core team, complimenting each other with individual strengths and skills.

Most of all, hard work finally started giving some fruit.

Today we are acknowledging our Good Work Done, alongside the Tears and the Fears.

 

Tomorrow, we will have to move on, one foot in front of the other, however small those steps might be.

 

Direction yet unknown.

 

Change is the only constant thing.

 

Radical things come out of radical times.

 

 

Although not sure at the moment in what capacity we will be able to exist, we want to keep connecting with people who find solace in knowing they are not alone – particularly those juggling childcare and work from home at the moment – more info soon on open (ZOOM) spaces for those who need them.

 

We also want to connect with more peers who have not been Emergency funded –thinking and actioning. Space to re-think our future(s) together?

 

 

Thanks for reading, and sharing this moment with us. If you recognise yourself in any of the above and want to get in touch, please do:

 

info@notnowcollective.com

 

or through our social media on Twitter and Facebook.

 

You are not alone. We are not alone.

 

 

 

 

 




CALL OUT: PARENT AMBASSADOR

Notnow Collective is looking for a Parent Ambassador for our audience development programme in collaboration with Attenborough Arts Centre, Leicester.

Notnow Collective specialise in the baby-friendly, baby-welcoming and baby-proof shows for adults. We welcome babies into our performances and want to enable our audiences to enjoy a great night out at daytime, without needing to spend money on the babysitter.

Parents of young children often feel isolated and found a great benefit in coming to theatre performances geared at them, but fully welcoming of their children.  At the same time, this is not something often seen or offered and therefore we need to find ways of letting our parent audiences know what is happening in their local venue.

We have now been awarded funding to engage with outside collaborators within the local community to help us develop future audiences for this work.

We are looking for an individual who is a parent/carer local to Leicester, and very well plugged into local parent-baby groups, activities and places and local parents network.

You don’t need to be from the art background, but should be curious about widening the ways parents of young children can engage in activities that are geared at them, not just the babies.

This is a paid opportunity on a freelance contract basis (£15 per hour) ideally suited to an individual on the parental leave, stay-at-home parent or a part-time/freelance worker. It will require about 10-12hrs of work over a period of 6 weeks.

To apply please write a cover letter introducing yourself and explaining why is this opportunity of interest and how you think you might contribute to this activity. Please email it to info@notnowcollective.com with “PARENT AMBASSADOR” in the subject line. Deadline for applications is 4th May 2018. The interviews will be held at Attenborough Arts Centre the following week and will be fully welcoming of children.

 

Call out: Performer

Notnow Collective would like to hear from male actors who can move, sing and/or play an instrument!!

We are looking for a male performer (25-50) to join DadMan: The Bathtime Warrior team and play the part of DAD #2. You will be required to work for 1 week on the final R&D phase, and then rehearse for 4 weeks before the show goes out on a national tour. All relevant dates are below.

We are looking for a  terrific team player, hard working and versatile performer, comfortable with devising and movement, plays an instrument and/or has a good singing voice. Ideally with a West Midlands base, as the tour will be based from Birmingham. Notnow Collective encourages people with caring responsibilities to apply, although you do not have to be parent to be considered. Stage combat training is a bonus, as well as the current DSB check.

 

Important dates:

R&D Week: 23rd-28th April 2018

Rehearsal period: 14th May-8th June (Birmingham)

Tour dates (still to be finalised):

9th June – The Quarry, Bedford

10th June – Attenborough Arts Centre, Leicester

27th June – Stamford Arts Centre

21st Septmeber– Theatre Clwyd

25th October –  Cast, Doncaster

27th October – Derby Theatre

1st & 2nd November – Square Chapel Halifax

7th November – Wolverhampton Arena

January 2019 – 5 further UK dates dates TBC (between 25th January and 10th February 2019)

FEE:

  • £458 per week for 4 weeks’ rehearsal
  • £150 per day for the 13 touring dates in total

To apply please send your CV, headshot and a cover letter (no more than 1 side of A4) outlining why you want to work on this project and with Notnow Collective by midnight Friday April 13th  to info@notnowcollective.com, with the “DADMAN PERFORMER” in the subject line. Auditions will be held on 19th OR 20th April in Birmingham.

 

The show:

Dadman: The Bathtime Warrior is show, created by two mums, performed by two dads.

DadMan is a warrior. He stands strong at the gates of an ideal Birth-Plan and sings the blues about Being The Only Man At A Parent And Baby Group. This show is partly quiz, partly story intertwined with live music and original songs, partly total fantasy where DadMan dives in and out of the bathtub, running into Trust, Breasts, Flexi –Hours, Soft Play Areas and Sex (not necessarily in that order, or at the same time!!).

Notnow Collective specialise in the baby-friendly, baby-welcoming and baby-proof shows for adults. We want to enable our audiences to enjoy a great night out at daytime, without needing to spend on a baby-sitter.

For more info browse our web. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Call Out: Production/Technical Stage Manager

Production/Technical Stage Manager

Notnow Collective are hiring a Production/Technical Stage Manager for our forthcoming tour.

We are looking for a hard working and organised individual to support the rehearsals and tour of our new show “DadMan: The Bathtime Warrior”.

DadMan: The Bathtime Warrior is the second show by Notnow Collective, supported by Arts Council and Sir Barry Jackson Trust. The project includes a nationwide tour throughout 2018 and early 2019, and Audience Development activity. We create work for adults to which we welcome babies. Our focus is to help the venues in engaging new audiences, in particular parents of young children.

PERSON SPECIFICATION:

ESSENTIAL

  • At least 3 years professional experience of technical stage management and small scale touring
  • Ability to compile production technical specifications for venues
  • Experience of re-lighting shows using the lighting designer’s plan
  • Experience of setting up and running of AV
  • Knowledge of Qlab to a high standard
  • Awareness of current Health and Safety regulations, including CDM

Regulations (Construction (Design and Management)

  • Experience of writing and managing Risk Assessments
  • Driver with valid UK driving licence happy to drive a touring van
  • Experience of managing production budgets
  • Good communicator
  • Ability to work under tight deadlines and to organise workload efficiently
  • Knowledge of Word and Excel

DESIRABLE

  • First Aid trained
  • Holds a current DBS check (dates within the last year)
  • Familiarity with relaxed performances
  • Familiarity with family/early years shows

DUTIES

  • Writing and distributing rehearsal and production schedules
  • Taking the lead on liaising with Set Designer regarding the delivery/transport of the set
  • Liaising with the LX/AV designer around LX/AV design and hiring of all the necessary equipment.
  • Compiling technical specifications and liaising with the venues regarding technical details and get-ins
  • Leading technical set up for each performance
  • Leading the get-out of each show and packing the van
  • Support Performer #3 in the technical operation of the show during rehearsals and performances.
  • Hiring of touring vehicles and managing the hires and returns
  • Liaising with the creative team about rehearsals and tour logistics
  • General stage management duties during the rehearsals and tour including maintaining The Book, sourcing and maintaining set, props, and costume care, running props, etc.
  • Managing the set and equipment storage
  • Ensuring compliance with Health and Safety regulations
  • Preparing, updating and distributing Risk Assessment
  • Writing and issuing Show Reports after each performance
  • Reporting regularly to Artistic Director and Project Manager, coordinating production expenditure
  • Contribution to evaluation of the project including a blog post reflecting on your experience of stage managing a baby-friendly performance
  • Operating the Difference Engine during 4 performances – training on this will be provided (*see note below)

* The Difference Engine is a tool for delivering captions and audio description to the mobile devices of audience members at a performance (or other event).

Designed by Talking Birds, it is intended for site specific, promenade, small scale or touring performances, made by small companies who have thus far been unable to afford the conventional access solutions, or unable to fund the necessary audience development to attract deaf or hard of hearing audiences to see our work.

Important dates:

Rehearsal period: 14th May-8th June (Birmingham)

Tour dates:

9th June – The Quarry, Bedford

10th June – Attenborough Arts Centre, Leicester

27th June – Stamford Arts Centre

21st September– Theatre Clwyd

25th October –  Cast, Doncaster

27th October – Derby Theatre

1st & 2nd November – Square Chapel Halifax

7th November – Wolverhampton Arena

January 2019 – 5 further UK dates dates TBC (between 25th January and 10th February 2019).

Pick up and returns around these dates will be confirmed by mutual agreement of Project Manager and Production Manager.

The tour still awaits full confirmation.

FEE

  • £1832 to cover 4 week rehearsal period (ITC rate of £458 per week).
  • £1950 for 13 odd touring dates (at £150 per day)

Deadline to apply is 11th April 2018, 5pm. Interviews will take place in Birmingham in the week of 16th April 2018.

To apply: Please send up to date CV together with the cover letter which outlines your interest and suitability for this position (max 1 side of A4) to:  info@notnowcollective.com with the “DADMAN PRODUCTION/TECHNICAL STAGE MANAGER” in the subject line.

Please include names and contact details (e-mail and telephone) of two referees. They might be contacted prior to possible offer of the role.

THE SHOW

DadMan: The Bathtime Warrior

This is a show about not baby-sitting your own kids.

DadMan is a warrior. He stands strong at the gates of an ideal Birth-Plan and sings the blues about Being The Only Man At A Parent And Baby Group. He courageously navigates the precipices of School Runs. DadMan enters the contest for the title of The Breadwinner armed with swords and Lego.

This show is partly quiz, partly story intertwined with live music and original songs, partly total fantasy where DadMan dives in and out of the bathtub, running into Trust, Breasts, Flexi –Hours, Soft Play Areas and Sex (not necessarily in that order, or at the same time!!). Finally, DadMan realises there is actually another, much bigger mountain to climb.

Dadman: The Bathtime Warrior is a devised show, created by two mums, performed by two dads, with contributions from 5 dad-artists, including Daniel Bye.

Notnow Collective supports parent-artists in the performance industry, which can be so notoriously inaccessible to those with caring responsibilities. We try to work alongside our collaborators’ caring duties, and open our rehearsal space to kids. We try to implement the chaos and order of parenting into the dramaturgy of our work, creating a “baby-proof dramaturgy”.

Notnow Collective specialise in the baby-friendly, baby-welcoming and baby-proof shows for adults. We want to enable our audiences to enjoy a great night out at daytime, without needing to spend on a baby-sitter! If, on the other hand, they desire a baby-free experience, we offer an adult-only evening show!

Call Out: Project Manager

Notnow Collective are hiring a Project Manager for DadMan: The Bathtime Warrior project.

We are looking for a passionate, driven individual, curious about finding the variety in the way we engage with the arts and “baby-friendly” set-up of performances, and excited about supporting a young and ambitious theatre company.

DadMan: The Bathtime Warrior is the second show by Notnow Collective, supported by Arts Council and Sir Barry Jackson Trust. The project includes nationwide tour throughout 2018 and 2019, and an audience development activity. We create work for adults to which we welcome babies. Our focus is to help the venues in engaging new audiences, in particular parents of young children. By the end of the project we want to have helped the development of a stronger and more recognised touring circuit for baby-friendly work, laying the foundations for organising a consortium of companies who create in this kind of immersive way.

The job is specified by the number of days. We strongly encourage people with caring responsibilities to apply as it will be up to you how you spread your working hours, and where you do them from. We will regularly meet and update on the progress of the phases of the project needing attention. Fundamentally all we want to know is that the job is done, and done well!

Job Title: Project Manager

Description: Supporting artistic director Tina Hofman by project-managing DadMan: The Bathtime Warrior (show development, rehearsals, organising/delivering the tour and overseeing the audience development activity).

Fee: £3000

Dates: April 2018 – March 2019

Number of days of work: 25

Location: Midlands

Reports to: Artistic Director

PERSON SPECIFICATION

Essential 

  • Excellent communicator
  • Ability to set and meet deadlines consistently and delegate effectively
  • Excellent organisational skills, self-initiative and time management
  • Willing to work with an element of flexibility
  • Computer literate with strong Word, Excel skills
  • Excellent administrative skills, with at least 3 years relevant experience of project management for small/mid-scale touring theatre work
  • Experience of project-managing for small-scale theatre work
  • Basic day to day book-keeping
  • Experience of creating and managing budgets
  • Knowledge of drafting and reading contracts
  • Experience of writing/managing evaluation and reports
  • Ability to meet regularly with the artistic director Tina Hofman (either via Skype or face-to-face)

Desirable

Duties:

Supporting artistic director by project-managing DadMan: The Bathtime Warrior (show development, rehearsals, organising/delivering the tour and overseeing the audience development activity)

  • Working with artistic director on managing the callout, auditions, recruitment and contracting of the show’s creative team
  • Supporting the administration for Parent Ambassadors Scheme
  • Data and evaluation collection for project reports
  • Taking the lead on collecting data and submitting interim reports and evaluations to funders.
  • Supporting the evaluation of the project, including contribution to report for funders.
  • Supporting the production and tour management for rehearsals and performances, liaising with the Production/Technical Manager
  • Arranging travel, transport and accommodation
  • Managing the day-to-day budget and cash-flow, including controlling income and expenditure
  • Financial reconciliation of the project

FEE

  • £3000 to cover the fees for Project Manager based on 25 days between April 2018 & March 2019 at £120 per day plus reasonable travel expenses.

This job description is intended as a guide to the nature of the work required of this position, it is neither wholly comprehensive nor restrictive and is subject to review.

Deadline to apply is 6th April 2018, 5pm. Selected candidates will be contacted by 11th April. Interviews will take place in Birmingham in the week of 16th April 2018.

To apply: Please send up to date CV together with the cover letter which outlines your interest and suitability for this position, with the reference to job description and person specification (max 1 side of A4) to:  info@notnowcollective.com with the “DADMAN PROJECT MANAGER” in the subject line.

Please include names and contact details (e-mail and telephone) of two referees. They might be contacted prior to possible offer of the role.

Anticipated start day Monday 30th April 2018

THE SHOW

DadMan: The Bathtime Warrior

This is a show about not baby-sitting your own kids.

DadMan is a warrior. He stands strong at the gates of an ideal Birth-Plan and sings the blues about Being The Only Man At A Parent And Baby Group. He courageously navigates the precipices of School Runs. DadMan enters the contest for the title of The Breadwinner armed with swords and Lego.

This show is partly quiz, partly story intertwined with live music and original songs, partly total fantasy where DadMan dives in and out of the bathtub, running into Trust, Breasts, Flexi –Hours, Soft Play Areas and Sex (not necessarily in that order, or at the same time!!). Finally, DadMan realises there is actually another, much bigger mountain to climb.

Dadman: The Bathtime Warrior is a devised show, created by two mums, performed by two dads, with contributions from 5 dad-artists, including Daniel Bye.

Notnow Collective supports parent-artists in the performance industry, which can be so notoriously inaccessible to those with caring responsibilities. We try to work alongside our collaborators’ caring duties, and open our rehearsal space to kids. We try to implement the chaos and order of parenting into the dramaturgy of our work, creating a “baby-proof dramaturgy”.

Notnow Collective specialise in the baby-friendly, baby-welcoming and baby-proof shows for adults. We want to enable our audiences to enjoy a great night out at daytime, without needing to spend on a baby-sitter! If, on the other hand, they desire a baby-free experience, we offer an adult-only evening show!

Call Out: Audience Development Officer

Notnow Collective are hiring Audience Development Officer for DadMan: The Bathtime Warrior project.

We are looking for a passionate, driven individual, curious about finding the variety in the way we engage with the arts and “baby-friendly” set-up of performances, and excited about supporting a young and ambitious theatre company.

DadMan: The Bathtime Warrior is the second show by Notnow Collective, supported by Arts Council and Sir Barry Jackson Trust. The project includes nationwide tour throughout 2018 and 2019, and an audience development activity. We make work for adults to which we welcome babies. Our focus is to help the venues in engaging new audiences, in particular parents of young children. By the end of the project we want to have helped the development of a stronger and more recognised touring circuit for baby-friendly work, laying the foundations for organising a consortium of companies who create in this kind of immersive way.

This job is specified by the number of days. We strongly encourage people with caring responsibilities to apply as it will be up to you how you spread your working hours, and where you do them from. We will regularly meet and update on the progress of the phases of the project needing attention. Fundamentally all we want to know is that the job is done, and done well!

Job Title: Audience Development Officer

Description: Managing the audience development activity throughout the project DadMan: The Bathtime Warrior by Notnow Collective

Fee: £3000

Dates: April 2018 – March 2019

Number of days of work: 25

Location: Midlands

Reports to: Artistic Director

Essential 

  • Excellent communications skills, ability to engage with both theatre professionals and members of the community
  • Excellent organisational skills, self initiative and time management
  • Computer literate with strong Word, Excel skills
  • Excellent administrative skills, with at least 3 years of experience in audience development
  • Experience of developing audiences for small-scale theatre work on the UK touring circuit
  • Ability to travel to Derby, Leicester, Birmingham and Wolverhampton to meet our partner venues and Parent Ambassadors Ability to meet regularly with the artistic director (either via Skype or face-to-face)
  • Holds a current DBS check (dates within the last year)

Desirable

  • Good familiarity with the baby-friendly set-up for adult shows
  • Familiarity with the dynamic of life of parents-to-be/parents of small children
  • Familiarity with accessible and relaxed performances and Extra Live Theatre
  • Full driving license and access to own transport
  • Familiarity of the current conversations around Parents In Performing Arts and Mothers Who Make

Duties:

  • Managing the audience development activity throughout the project DadMan: The Bathtime Warrior
  • Managing the Parent Ambassadors Programme at Attenborough Arts Centre, MAC, Wolverhampton Arena and Derby Theatre
  • Take charge of call out, interviews, recruitment and training of Parent Ambassadors
  • Regular meetings with Parent Ambassadors to check on their progress
  • Liaison between Parent Ambassadors and partner venues
  • Working with tour venues to gather audience data
  • Collaborate with the Marketing Officer to create and implement effective marketing strategies.
  • Contribute to Notnow Collective’s 5 year Audience Development Strategy
  • Contribute to interim and final reports and evaluation.
  • Regularly report to the Artistic Director

Fee is £3000 based on £120 daily fee for 25 days of work (plus travel), spread out in accordance with the needs of the project and by mutual agreement with the Artistic Director between April 2018 and March 2019.

This job description is intended as a guide to the nature of the work required of this position, it is neither wholly comprehensive nor restrictive and is subject to review.

Deadline to apply is 6th April 2018, 5 pm. Selected candidates will be contacted by 12th April. Interviews will take place in Birmingham in the week of 16th April 2018.

To apply: Please send up to date CV together with the cover letter which outlines your interest and suitability for this position, with the reference to job description and person specification (max 1 side of A4) to: info@notnowcollective.com with the “DADMAN AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT OFFICER” in the subject line.

Please include names and contact details (e-mail and telephone) of two referees. They might be contacted prior to possible offer of the role.

Anticipated start day Monday 30th April 2018

THE SHOW

DadMan: The Bathtime Warrior

This is a show about not baby-sitting your own kids.

DadMan is a warrior. He stands strong at the gates of an ideal Birth-Plan and sings the blues about Being The Only Man At A Parent And Baby Group. He courageously navigates the precipices of School Runs. DadMan enters the contest for the title of The Breadwinner armed with swords and Lego.

This show is partly quiz, partly story intertwined with live music and original songs, partly total fantasy where DadMan dives in and out of the bathtub, running into Trust, Breasts, Flexi –Hours, Soft Play Areas and Sex (not necessarily in that order, or at the same time!!). Finally, DadMan realises there is actually another, much bigger mountain to climb.

Dadman: The Bathtime Warrior is a devised show, created by two mums, performed by two dads, with contributions from 5 dad-artists, including Daniel Bye.

Notnow Collective supports parent-artists in the performance industry, which can be so notoriously inaccessible to those with caring responsibilities. We try to work alongside our collaborators’ caring duties, and open our rehearsal space to kids. We try to implement the chaos and order of parenting into the dramaturgy of our work, creating a “baby-proof dramaturgy”.

Notnow Collective specialise in the baby-friendly, baby-welcoming and baby-proof shows for adults. We want to enable our audiences to enjoy a great night out at daytime, without needing to spend on a baby-sitter! If, on the other hand, they desire a baby-free experience, we offer an adult-only evening show!

Sociology meets Theatre

 

guest blog post by Professor Esther Dermott, University of Bristol

@estherdermott

When Tina and Kristina emailed me, saying that they had come across my sociological work on fatherhood, and was I interested in collaborating on a new theatre piece, I was excited. There was an element of feeling flattered (for sure) but mainly interest in the prospect of doing something new; this was a very different prospect to writing a journal article or designing a research project.

I was also nervous, mainly because I wondered what DadMan was going to say about fathers and fatherhood. My work argues that contemporary fatherhood has changed. Specifically, that the idea of intimacy captures the essence of what men are looking for in a relationship with their children and is central to parenting practices now being adopted by men. So initially I worried that the play might pander to tired clichés about male incompetence that I have tried to challenge. Once I spoke to Kristina and Tina that concern went away: they had a feminist sensibility and wanted to capture the tensions between different kinds of work and care in a nuanced way that made sense to me.

My other thought was about how my academic work could possibly inform the piece. In an early version of the show, one scene had text from my book on fatherhood read aloud from a lectern, intercut with a father crawling round the floor engaged in childcare and expressing his worries about being a dad. I could see what the scene was trying to do, for me, it highlighted the tension between the detail of the everyday and more general claims about male parenting. But it also highlighted the limits of academic writing as ‘drama’ – my words just sounded really boring. In revising that element, Tina and Kristina were able to be informed by my research without being bounded by it, and to use sociological terms in a way that is also entertaining.

‘Impact’ is the term used in academia for taking your research outside of the university. Basically, it means that someone who is not an academic is interested in your ideas. Having that happen, and being involved in helping to make a piece of theatre, has been great. It has made me think again about what sociology can and can’t communicate about families, how we as academics talk to publics and the role that the arts can play in that.

On time management and productivity from a dad’s perspective

guest blog post by Daniel Bye

I don’t know if anybody has ever mentioned it before, but becoming a parent really eats into your productive time.

My wife works full-time and I am a freelancer so in order that our one-year-old daughter is not with a childminder all the time (which in any case we couldn’t afford), I look after her on Mondays and Tuesdays. The theory was that it would be just about possible to do in four days (Wed-Sat) the work I used to get done in five (Mon-Fri). Especially when you factor in nap time on Mondays and Tuesdays.

This theory has proven hilariously inaccurate.

For a start, I already worked plenty of Saturdays, so it’s not a 20% reduction in work time, it’s a 33% reduction. Also, unless I’m away from home, the working day is now at least an hour shorter, often as many as three. And as every parent knows, nap time isn’t work time, it’s when you get the laundry done.

(The one thing no-one told me about becoming a parent was that it would lead to a fivefold increase in the amount of time I spend dealing with laundry.)

But the key loss of productive time is actually the time it didn’t look like I was being productive. When you’re a writer, the time spent running errands in town, idly reading a book on a fascinating subject, or just having a Sunday, that’s all work time. This work is invisible to the casual observer. But under the surface, characters are having conversations, a dramaturgical problem is being teased out, or a fascination is becoming an idea.

I think about 75% of my writing used to be done in this way. By the time I finally got to my desk to write something down, or into the rehearsal room to rough it out, it came relatively quickly.

The amount of time I now have to follow an idle train of thought has been decimated. A child’s needs are so immediate that it’s rarely possible to stay in your head for more than a minute or two before you have to change a nappy or read Hairy Maclary for the fourth time this morning.

It would be conventional at this point to say that it’s totally worth it in terms of the sheer pleasure brought by our child. I’m not sure this process is susceptible to that sort of cost-benefit analysis. Like, I don’t regret for one second the fact that we chose to bring this tiny person into the world. She’s wonderful. The process of watching a person becoming more fully herself every day is an enormous thrill. I feel immeasurably enriched by her existence and I miss her every hour we’re apart.

I miss her every hour we’re apart, but after two days of being together, I really look forward to some time on my own.

 

For most of her first year, I was desperately racing to keep up with everything I was supposed to be doing. I didn’t succeed. It wasn’t all down to the baby that I got a bit behind: for four months of that first year when my wife started her new job, I ended up having Dot three days a week. We also moved house to a new city. We went through the full gamut of major life changes within the space of about seven months.

Still, it is becoming more manageable. I’m now almost at a point where I’ve caught up with everything I’m supposed to have done. With one notable exception, I’m at most a week or two behind schedule with any given project. By Christmas, I’ll probably have caught up entirely. Except perhaps for that one notable exception. Well, maybe two. But it is becoming more manageable. Honest.

It’s astonishing to me now how much time I used to waste. I say this as someone who’s always thought of himself as a pretty good manager of time. I was not notably unproductive. But now, if I get a few hours at my desk, I note that almost none of that time will be spent checking twitter and facebook. I am barely aware of what’s going on in the world of professional football, and that’s not just because Middlesbrough got relegated last season. Almost none of my working time will be spent dithering – I used to agonise over certain tasks until they were unavoidable. Now I write a first draft of that email or that document and it’s surprising how often that’s the email or document I’d have ended up with after agonising until the deadline. I usually have time to redraft it and because I’ve not wasted any time dithering and agonising, I’ve still spent less time on it than I would have before.

I’ll be honest and say that, as you’ve probably noticed, I haven’t done that redraft on this blogpost. Generally, though, I’m getting to a point where I’m doing better work in less time than before I became a parent. So now, if I get a few hours at my desk, it astonishes me how much it’s possible to do.  (Anyone planning to have children on this basis should know that the first year is murder whatever you do, and it only takes one night of (more) interrupted sleep for it all to come tumbling down.)

I’m not writing a new show at the moment, so I’ve no idea how this will all translate to the sharper end of that process. But I have spent a fair amount of time writing new material that may or may not develop into anything finished. One of these pieces of new material has formed a lot of my trains of thought over the past month and I’m excited to note that I’m now able to follow those trains of thought for more than a couple of minutes. Hairy Maclary still stops them in their tracks, but somehow I’ve adjusted to the new rhythms of life and these days they wait for me in the sidings.

Someone once said to me, if you want to get someone to do something for you, ask a busy person. A not-busy person will have so much time that they won’t schedule your thing, they can do it whenever, and it will slip and slide and never get done. Meanwhile, a busy person will do it next Thursday at 10.35am.

Now I think that if you want something done, ask a parent.

Don’t, though. It’s just a figure of speech. They’ve got enough on their plate.

Baby Friendly Matinee performances: from the perspective of a Technical Stage Manager

by Tom Moseley, stage manager on “Wonderwoman: The Naked Truth”

For the past 10 years I have been involved with theatre and performances for children, so the idea of having accommodation for children or people with additional assistance requirements was not anything new to me. However, being involved with a show for adults who will have babies and toddlers with them was a totally new experience.

The addition of babies and toddlers in the audience impacted nearly every aspect of the performance, There were several things that I had to be aware of in the set up of the performance and during the operation of the show.

  • The Audience lights have to be kept on throughout the duration of the show so at no point during the show do the parents have a moment when they cannot see their child, and the child cannot see the parent to try and keep the child as calm as possible. Parents may have to leave the space to change their child’s nappy or if it is in too much distress.
  • The stage lighting has to be kept bright enough to make it possible to see any crawling children without impacting too heavily the more intimate scenes, so the actors don’t accidentally trample babies during scene changes.
  • The audio has to be loud and clear enough to be heard, but not loud enough to startle and upset the children, which ends up being one of the toughest thing to get right when operating a show in a space for the first time.
  • Toddlers will move around the performance space, there is no way of avoiding it, so the cast has to be aware of their surroundings at all times and for all moves, so do I. Being flexible with timings for the scenes, sometimes they will run longer because of baby intervention, making music run out before the end of a scene, being able to loop it as seamlessly as possible is a consideration that has to be at the back of my mind. Exactly the same issue with scene changes themselves, they may take longer with babies moving around the space. I find there are a few parallels with performing promenade shows, having audience members in your way that you have to be aware of at all times.
  • At the end of the show the audience will stay in the space for upwards of 35 minutes to speak to each other and the cast, so having enough audience music is a must, I was totally unprepared for the amount that parents do not want to return back to the house, causing the length of time that they stay in the auditorium to be quite large for a show this length.

Overall the atmosphere of our baby friendly matinee shows is very different than our purely adult evening shows, the baby friendly matinee shows have a far more relaxed atmosphere, this developed over the duration of the run, I am sure this is to actually put the parents themselves at ease and to make them feel as comfortable as possible that it is ok that their baby makes a noise (or lots of noise), one thing to note is that when one baby starts making noise it spreads to the rests of the babies like a wave across the entire auditorium, being somewhat reminiscent of being trapped inside a playgroup. To put it in noise perspective, babies have been measured crying between 115-130 decibels, which is as loud as a siren, or the legal limit for a concert. So 20 babies crying at once during a particularly emotional scene will never not be absolutely hilarious and mortifying in equal measure.

Another thing to watch out for with baby friendly matinee shows is that toddlers really add to the show in a way that only toddlers can, the freedom to roam about the stage has left some particularly hilarious moments, making it a real struggle to not laugh so loud that the audience notices my existence, my particular favourite was seeing a child decide that the floor was her mortal enemy and so headbutt it with enough force to sound like a bass drum, get back up and keep waddling around the stage like it never happened.

This show is the single most positive show that I have ever been involved in, the audience are always itching to leave their positive comments and go out of their way to speak to the cast. It resonates with parents in a way that is unlike anything I have ever worked on, and the baby friendly matinee is the one that makes it obvious that the show has a purpose, seeing new mothers having the ability to relate to a show and to other mothers, to know that their struggles are completely normal is absolutely magical, and any inconvenience from children making noise is shared by the entire audience who all relate and understand the embarrassment and that it is not anything to worry about because everyone’s baby will be doing it.

In conclusion the baby friendly matinees as a technical stage manager can be hilarious, complicated, noisy and go on much longer than you expect them to, but no matter how they go they are always different and unique.

 

 

Directing, purple rabbit and baby-friendly theatre

guest blog post by Oliver O’Shea, theatre director

We are sat at a table, reading a new section of the script. Written in the very early hours of the morning, this text is based on the previous day’s work, in which we were devising a new scene for the updated version of Wonderwoman. We are trying to concentrate, and both Kristina and Tina are closely considering the words as they read their parts aloud.

Today, we are not in a windowless basement, but instead in a rather spacious room which overlooks a calm lake of Cannon Hill Park in Birmingham. In fact, it is sunny today and the light pouring in through the windows is bright and pleasant. But we are squinting at the papers and tablet screens in front of us. Not gazing out of the window.

And yet…out of the corner of my eye, I spot something concerning which is happening in the corner of the room: one of the aforementioned large windows is slightly ajar, and poised between the frame and the ledge is one of our props. Not just any prop, but a purple toy rabbit, which we have recently decided will now play a rather prominent role in the performance. Gripping the leg of the rabbit, and determining its fate is a grinning two-year-old; Kristina’s son to be precise.

I hasten to reassure you that we had already established at the start of the day that the windows of this first storey room were (as expected) childproof, and could only be opened about an inch or so. The only danger was to the rabbit. And perhaps any unlucky jogger or pram-pusher who might be strolling below…

Before it could be dropped to its demise, the rabbit was reclaimed from his grip, and our renegade Assistant Director set new ‘tasks’ with other toys instead. Perhaps we should have foreseen that using children’s toys within our performance about motherhood would only make rehearsing with young children in the same room more challenging. But then again, we probably would not have decided to use these toys in performance, if we had not been inspired by their presence in the rehearsal room in the first place.

 

 

 

 

Kristina, Tom (stage manager), Oliver (director) and Tina

As a young, single, male theatre director without any caring responsibilities, joining the Notnow Collective for this project was a revelatory, inspiring, at times challenging – and, yes, occasionally frustrating – experience. Typically when early-career directors receive training, a more experienced director passes on their ‘process’ and ‘practice’ from a predominantly aesthetic perspective. Now, having had time to reflect on my two weeks with Notnow Collective as their rehearsal director and dramaturg, I wanted to consider in what ways the conditions in which they find themselves working, are influencing their artistic practice. And more broadly, whether we should be as bold and imaginative in our working practices, as we attempt to be in our productions.

Even in the most formal and conservative of rehearsal processes, invisible and unspoken influences affect the atmosphere, and thus shape the work which is being created in ineffable ways. Working with a toddler in the rehearsal room, changes the rhythm and the manner in which a scene is rehearsed, for instance; it changes how we approach the scene and shifts the priorities of attention. So, the performance itself diverges from its existing form – when working in a rehearsal room, everyone in the room contributes indirectly to what is created, whether actively or not.

In addition to evening performances, Wonderwoman will be presented with baby-friendly matinees on-tour. I was delighted and enthralled watching the first performance of Wonderwoman at mac, Birmingham, observing how the dynamics of the performance are transformed by having over twenty babies and infants in the auditorium. And on reflection, I wonder whether would Kristina and Tina be so resolutely focused and unflappable during these performances, had they not rehearsed with distractions and interruptions from their own children?

And as for my own work as a freelance director, I contemplate how my own rehearsal style might shift and adapt as I work on other upcoming projects. Perhaps I will welcome the interruption, the disruption, the tangent more readily than before; and perhaps the greatest discovery is that the real moment of drama is to be found in the dangling of a prop from a window on a sunny day, rather than from the words on a page.

If you want to know more about Oliver’s work check his website https://olioshea.wordpress.com/