This story mostly relates to how we are offering flexibility to our staff (many of whom are artists). When I came back to work after having my second child, it became clear very early on that it's not possible to work in the arts and afford daycare for 2 young children. The cost of daycare would pretty much eat up my entire net income. So after many conversations with our Executive Director, Lucy Eveleigh, who is also a mother, we decided that I could adjust my hours so that I can pick my son up from kindergarten and not need after school daycare. This allows me to remain in the arts (I was afraid I would have to take myself elsewhere) and also feel connected to the lives of my children. If something comes up at work later in the day, my son comes and joins us! There are enough toys and Play-Doh on hand to keep him busy while I wrap up my day. And sometimes other kids are around as well - so they can play together. The more critical mass of parents there are, the better, as we all help take care of each others' kids when needed. It's like a community of parents, inside an office. It has been a very rewarding journey for me, and also good for the Fringe.
Everyone in the office has flexible scheduling and we are able to accommodate everyone's needs. We also have an open office with extra work stations set up, so that staff and community members can drop in and do work as needed. This also allows space for caregivers to bring their family members in as needed.
We are a small shop - only one full-time employee. As such, we don't have the bandwidth to establish formal programs or initiatives, but we do have the latitude to be flexible and open. As such, we welcome small people in the theatre and have often seen directors, actors, designers, and technicians performing their tasks with a child in tow, on hip, strapped on, napping nearby, or otherwise occupied. We even carry babies ourselves from time to time when mom or dad need both hands free. We see how magical a place theatre is for young people, so we take full advantage of our ability to foster the joy that naturally occurs.
Free babysitting at shows, parental leave support, flexible schedules.
Flexible and different scheduling. Being fine with children in the room if needed.
Children of artists are welcome in our rehearsal halls at any time during the process, and at the theatre during tech rehearsals. Working parent schedules are prioritized and accommodations made for parents to leave rehearsals early to pick up their children from school or after school care. We have moved to a 5 day per week performance model and are actively working to move our entire creation process to a 5 day per week mode in the next two years.
We worked from the very beginning to create a schedule that was manageable for our new parent/artists. We scheduled rehearsal for 12 noon - 8 PM. This worked for parents who had family support for child care. It also allowed the 2 child actors to attend school in the morning. We have also dedicated private space for nursing mothers to pump and rest on breaks. We have coordinated carefully to make sure that no one was called only to sit and wait. We also tried to limit most rehearsal days to either 5-hour days or shortened days ending at 6 or 6:30.
Nightwood is a strong advocate for the ‘alternative rehearsal model’ of three weeks of rehearsal prorated over four weeks. This model provides shorter workdays and two-day weekends, enabling those with caregiving needs (as well as diverse abilities and energies) to be accommodated. Roughly, you can do a five day work week of six-hour days or a six-day work week of five-hour days. In some cases, we've worked from 9 am-3 pm so that parents can drop a child at school, rehearse their show, and be at end of day pick up without any childcare costs at all. Also, there is always hot chocolate in the office and a couch for the kids who regularly populate our workspace (as well as flex hours/a work from home understanding when the need arises).
We have altered/decreased rehearsal times to suit caregivers who wanted to be home by 3:00 to meet their school-aged children. We have allowed parents to bring their children (and one dog incidentally) to rehearsal/meetings. We have invited parents and their children to preview/dress rehearsals.
PACT offers flexible work hours for its staff members, including soft start and end times as well as working from home (see: Covid). When the office is open, it is truly open – staff members can bring their kids to work and the kids are welcomed into the space and made to feel at home (see: office supplies).
We flew in a performer's retired parents-in-law and provided them with a small living allowance so they could take on primary caregiver-ship of the performer's daughter. Their and their partner's schedules were in almost precise opposition, so this was actually more cost-effective (and more exciting for the whole family) than providing hourly caregiving. We have also shortened rehearsal days, provided feeding rooms, and provided special accommodations for new mothers at home and on the road.
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