One of the hardest parts of being a professional actor is having a young family and even harder if you are a single parent. Booking childcare at the best of times can be a nightmare but when you have to travel half way across the country to work which means uprooting your family can be even worse. If you have a spouse who work a 9 to 5 job it can make things so much easier, but even that has its down as life only becomes about work and looking after children.
It is heart breaking when people say ‘why don’t you just get a real job, where you can work during the day and be there for the children in the evenings?’ But why should anyone have to give up their dream? Children are part of that dream, and it is sad that the arts industry is working so hard to make people take it seriously as a profession don’t have any established system in place what helps with childcare, just like every other profession has too. Whilst the argument way be that ‘we are subsided’ or ‘we rely on commercial funding’ and the money has to be spent on the production only.
Yes it does, because when plans were submitted for the funding there was no thought given to the actors or crew who might have families that need to be supported while the individual works. In the commercial world business actually have to invest in services to support their employees so why is theatre any different? Surely a funder will understand that you are employing humans who have children and they need looking after while the parent works, whether local to where they live or on tour children still need looking after, it all comes down to behaving towards employees (the actors) the way any other industry supports theirs.
I once heard it said that ‘When you are in a production you are at the beck and call of the producer’ and I think this is so right. Yes it is the same with any other industry, you are at the beckon call of the boss, but there is a contract that supports the individual’s rights and that seems to be missing from theatre. There has to be boundaries, there has be limits and a line that needs to be drawn. Having a service whereby you can drop your children off, either on or offsite and know they are safe while you work is important and producers don’t necessarily have to pay for the service, but they should at least know what’s available and be able to give an idea of something is within the budget of what they are paying.
So is it wrong to shout out and ask that whether the show is funded either commercially or subsided by grants, that producers need to stop putting so much of that profit into their own pockets and start investing in the people who work for them in this industry, because at the end of the day it is the actors that will make the name of the producer. So if actors start turning work down from those who don’t support them and they pass the word round to other actors and crew member then that will be the down fall of a producer and especially in this day in age when we have campaigns like Times Up and others. In today’s world with the internet and social media it doesn’t take long for bad news to spread.
We are hearing so much recently that actors need to challenge the status quo. If you don’t get a role because you are not the right height, size or you don’t have the right hair colour then you need to challenge it and the same when it comes to childcare, there is no reason why a producer shouldn’t be able to support you if you have a young family.
No actor should be that desperate for work that they can’t have a discussion or ask for more information and that they feel they are being worked like a puppet because that is not what the Arts Industry is about. It’s the reason the industry has fantastic unions who work so hard for their members to ensure they are treated fairly and get what they deserve.