How to Tour and have a family. Rachel Cole talks kids with Anton Berezin

Welcome to Stage Door Shrink, a regular column penned by Rachel Cole aimed at helping performers chortle their way to a #win.

This question may have never crossed your mind if you’re young, single or disinterested in having children. Whilst having a family always requires compromise, for performers it asks so much more. Our work requires long hours, late nights, tours, fit bodies and alert minds, which can seem at complete odds with having a family. As Sondheim says “Is it always ‘or’, is it never ‘and’?

As a mum, I feel this. #thestruggleisreal. I purchased my daughter for $350 on Gumtree about 4 years ago. She was a breakup buy to comfort me on those long lonely nights- she’s a high energy, intelligent redhead. My dog does everything a small child does, and more! She shares my bed, we share a bowl of porridge for breakfast (she has the second half), knows about 30 verbal commands and wakes me up in the night to go out. She is a delightful inconvenience, but still an inconvenience when I go on tour. The point is, is life about minimising inconvenience? Are actors to put their lives on hold forever? You could- not take holidays, not have pets, and not have partners or children. But what is going to keep you warm at night… other than the dog?

I often hear people talking about the ‘sacrifices’ parents have to make when having kids. And traditionally, that burden is placed on women. Interestingly, research draws a distinction between sacrifice and compromise. Sacrifice, or the burden of ‘giving up’ is normally placed on one person when the other is unmoving. It is difficult to give graciously and often leads to resentment. Compromise, however, is when a dispute is settled by mutual concession. Happiness is met with compromise. Having a family in our industry requires mountains of compromising and an understanding partner, particularly if you intend on continuing acting after kids – you might be away, you will have an unstable income and you will have non traditional work hours. If you are looking to have kids, make sure it’s with someone who genuinely believes in give and take.

Anton Berezin
Anton Berezin

Lets talk to someone with actual children, not fury ones. Anton Berezin is a familiar face on Australian stages. The multi-talented musician, singer, producer and businessman studied Law before performing in: The Secret Garden, Chess, Dr. Zhivago, Wicked, Fiddler on the Roof, Cats, Cabaret, The Producers, Once and many Production Company shows. Anton and wife Tess, have 3 kids: 14, 13, and 10. Together they run The Entertainment Store, which licenses family brands and children’s TV shows as well as producing theatre in Melbourne. Here is his advice on having a family, touring and being a performer.

1. The job will never love you back

I would think twice before sacrificing everything for a job. Just because you have given your everything to showbiz- your time, attention, money and love, it doesn’t owe you anything. I learnt this the hard way after being cast as the alternate in the original Jekyll & Hyde, thinking my time had come, and then we got cancelled. You do not necessarily reap what you sow, so consider very carefully how much of yourself you are willing to give for no guaranteed reward.

2. There is never a ‘right time’ to have kids

Kids will always be a wonderful yet inconvenient interruption to your work life (sleep life and every other life)- particularly for the mother. If you are always waiting for the ‘right time’ to start, it may never come. Murphy’s law applies to kids- the moment you decide to start trying; you will probably book the gig of a lifetime. Be sure you want them, be sure you are financially stable and go for it. Kids are not as expensive and annoying as everyone would have you believe. They’re good fun.

3. Understand what you are asking of your partner

If you intend to keep touring after you have children (and your partner stays at home), you are effectively asking your partner to be a single parent for a time. This is no small thing, so be realistic and empathetic.

4. Set down ground rules before touring

Each couple have to make their own rules, but its important that these are laid out, stated and agreed upon before you have kids and regularly reassessed to make sure they are working for you both. Tess and I decided that both of us could never be on tour at the same time. That would be too destabilizing for our family. Discuss how often you will communicate and visit. Whilst this may seem unromantic or clinical, it doesn’t leave room for disappointment. If I’m away on tour, I will come home every weekend, it’s expensive, but absolutely worth it for us.

5. Keep communication open

The demands of parenting vary at different times of kid’s lives. Keep communicating with your partner about whether your mutual needs are being met. There may come a point where you decide you don’t want to be away at all, and that’s ok. You just need to keep talking and be honest.

6. Family has to come first no matter what your job is

In terms of touring, someone has to be at home with the kids- children need an anchor. Sometimes we negotiate who that will be at any given time, and sometimes we have employed a nanny. You may have to turn down a contract, if it’s an Asian tour or away for too long etc… There are some important milestones you might miss if you’re touring, but you can do your best to see them all.

7. Find income between contracts

Between contracts, performers need to use their skills to do something useful: produce your own shows, teach, sell vocal tea, run an online theatre magazine etc… You might be able to exist on Mi-Goreng 3 meals a day, but your kids cannot. This effort amounts to ensuring you have financial stability between contracts. When I was 20, I started The Entertainment Store, writing shows for kids and performing in them. Now with my partners Troy Sussman, and my wife Tess, we employ staff including producers, graphic designers, set designers and musicians. This means, regardless of whether I am in or out of contract, our family has a source of income and the 3 little mouths will not go hungry come closing night. At The Entertainment Store, we are always looking for staff- we audition a few times a year for actors.

8. Realize you may never sleep again

This is true for any parent, but most can sleep at 9pm after the kids go down. However, when you don’t get home from work until midnight, your kids still wake up at 6am, and need school lunches. Sleep becomes a luxury rather than a necessity. When you are chronically tired, it’s easy to lose your temper. It’s important to work hard to keep your parenting clear. Sleep when you’re dead.

9. See what you can negotiate with the producer

If you are touring with kids, consider what you can negotiate before signing a contract. Sometimes performers can negotiate larger company accommodation to account for their kids, parental leave, significant days off etc. It is important that you are upfront about this at the beginning of a contract, both for your sake and the producers. Inform yourself about your entitlements as a parent (i.e. leave) with Equity.

Rachel Cole is a Research Psychologist masquerading as a Swing & Nessa Rose Understudy on the Australasian tour of WICKED. She likes to think about what makes people tick. She also likes: Podcasts, politics, pepperoni pizza, property, puns, puppies and cheap things. If you know of a political podcast full of puns we can listen over a cheap pepperoni pizza while we walk a cheap dog looking at cheap property, we might just be fast friends.

Rachel Cole

Rachel has a degree in Psychology from The University of Sydney but is currently masquerading as understudy for Miss Honey and Mrs Wormwood in the Australian production of Matilda the Musical. She likes to think about what makes people tick. She also likes: Podcasts, politics, pepperoni pizza, property, puns, puppies and cheap things. If you know of a political podcast full of puns we can listen over a cheap pepperoni pizza while we walk a cheap dog looking at cheap property, we might just be fast friends. Follow Rachel on Instagram at: @rachelacole.

Rachel Cole

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