“The Radical Parent Inclusion project was the most groundbreaking experience in my career since becoming a parent. From the beginning of the process, I was made to feel comfortable asking for things that would make my involvement in the process easier on my family and myself. This had the unexpected effect of empowering me to have a stronger voice as an artist as well.”
--Anna Moench, playwright of Mothers
& parent participant in the Radical Parent Inclusion Project from PAAL + The Playwrights Realm
The first version of this PAAL Handbook made available to our partner theaters years ago included interviews and case studies from numerous theaters and organizations with comprehensive caregiver-positive practices, including Ariana Smart Truman of Elevator Repair Service, The TEAM, Rivendell Theater Company, and more who have budgeted for caregiver support consistently for years. When asked to provide a number for what comprehensive caregiver support costs, Ariana reviewed her budgets and returned with a consistent number for each year when the boundaries were flexible and scope runs wide: comprehensive caregiver support consistently cost less than 2% of the overall annual budget. In sharing the numbers with Roberta, she confirmed that her expectation with RPI was to identify where support could be created on every line.
What made RPI truly “radical” is the adoption of our recommendation to start inclusion in the budget narrative, create caregiver support at every possible opportunity, and track comprehensive support with the purpose of generating a template that now serves as the new standard for what should be expected in our field for caregiver support.
Solution pieces of RPI:
Radical Budgetary Investigation for Support
Compassion Training* (PAAL prepares the staff at The Playwrights Realm to receive and support caregivers in the endeavor.) (*See "Work Culture Resource: Compassion Training")
Employment Access (Childcare Support at Auditions, Callbacks)
Family-friendly housing & family travel accommodations
5-day rehearsal schedule
Intentional hiring of parent-artists (resulting in 58% of core creative staff were parents)
Flexibility of onsite expectations for creative staff with children
Free childcare during auditions
Childcare stipend (up to $1,000/caregiver)
Matinee with free childcare
Not knowing who would need financial support and how because budgets develop before creative teams are assembled.
PAAL Handbook Solutions for Budget Planning:
Find the “stress points” of financial support on your timeline for parents/caregivers., then build out support from those points with flexible application. (See "Creating Budgets for Support")
Handbook Solutions Application in RPI at The Playwrights Realm:
“Stress points” identify where parents need the most support so that even if the theatre has limited resources, limited resources can directly apply to greatest need. Examples of these stress points to budget for in RPI included the extended hours of tech week, after-hours networking opportunities (opening night show and post-show events, gala events, etc), out of town artists, and school pickup hours. The amount designated on the budget line was set at a minimum of $750 per parent, $250 above the recommended minimum.
Producer’s Note from Roberta:
At the end, we provided up to $1,000 per caretaker plus support for opening night, which resulted in approximately $5,500 for 7 caregivers in the company.
Boundaries for Audit:
To keep the funds flexible but auditable in accordance with legal compliance*, PAAL and Playwrights set the per person cap, created a survey for individuals on the project to apply for funds, made it available to everyone in the organization, and supplied a required follow up survey to track impact. (These impact surveys are included below.) *(See "Childcare: Financial Support and Creating a Compliant Caregiver Fund")
Other Family-Supportive Budget Line-Items in RPI:
Housing for a family, kid activities in the city, kid-friendly apartment amenities, membership to local sitter service with mobile coverage - Broadway Babysitters in New York City, and childcare reimbursements for gala and opening night attendance and participation.
PAAL-Provided Data on Financial Need from PAAL National Childcare Grant Program:
Of the individuals seeking financial assistance for childcare,
93% identified as female or non-binary.
75-80% characterized their promotional opportunity, new work opportunity, and creative opportunity to work with others as somewhat stalled, significantly reduced, or halted completely.
54% found their individual creativity characterized as somewhat stalled/slowed, significantly reduced, or halted completely.
Data on Impact of RPI Financial Support for Childcare:
Of the individuals seeking financial assistance for caretaking,
71% identified as female.
100% reported eased financial burden working in the performing arts.
100% reported increased focus on their work in the production.
86% reported ease in logistical burden of caregiver responsibilities.
86% reported relief from feeling unsure if I would be judged by the institution for having caregiving needs.
86% reported an improvement in work-life balance.
Events Supported by Childcare Provisions as Listed on Budget and Provision Type
Gala Event (Reimbursement: Individual Care)
Audition Childcare (EPA) (On-Site Hired Caregivers)
Audition Childcare (By Appointment + Callbacks) (On-Site Hired Caregivers)
First Day of Rehearsal (Group Care) (On-Site Hired Caregivers)
Rehearsal Weeks (Reimbursement: Individual Care)
Tech Week (Reimbursement: Individual Care)
Opening night childcare (Reimbursement: Individual Care)
Special Events Childcare (Reimbursement: Individual Care)
Note on Race for both Data Submissions Above: both PAAL childcare grants and hiring at the Playwrights Realm intentionally seek out and prioritize artists who are women of color. 57% of individuals who received financial support from RPI identify as women of color.
Participant Feedback on Budget Support:
“As someone with a longer commute the stipend was more helpful than the sitter services because my daughter is in school.”
“It was an enormous help and really was what allowed me to take the job. I can’t stress enough how the explicitly family positive nature of this project made every decision easier.”
Budget Line Items Addressed for Fiscal Support for Caregivers
Tangible caregiver items
Childcare Matinee Space
Childcare Matinee Sitters
Additional week of rehearsal Space
Actors & SM salaries
Auditions Childcare (open call AEA auditions)
Additional 3 days Childcare (auditions & callbacks by appointment)
Audition Childcare Space
PAAL Consultant fee
Assessment of Need
Once the company was set, PAAL conducted an assessment of need by creating a compliant survey asking for volunteer submission of caregiver stress points where support may be needed most. (The final image has been intentionally cropped to remove identifiers).
Brief Visual Presentation of the Project
SUMMARY | The Radical Parent-Inclusion Project (RPI)
WHAT The Radical Parent-Inclusion Project aims to confront the challenges of working parent-artists by setting a public precedent for theaters across the country of parent-friendly schedules and practices, via the Off-Broadway world premiere of the play Mothers by Anna Moench.
WHY From politicians to Silicon Valley to the arts, many industries now acknowledge the socio-economic burden of parenting. Within our field, PAAL and The Playwrights Realm will lead the charge in offering active solutions through precedents set in this project.
WHO The Playwrights Realm has partnered with Parent Artist Advocacy League for the Performing Arts (PAAL), a national organization that gathers best practices from across the country, creates resources for institutions, and implements solutions for restructuring production models. Playwright Anna Moench is a mother and The Realm is intentionally hiring parent-artists for the production who will also help guide RPI.
HOW PAAL and The Realm will talk to parent-artists in the project to establish how we can best support them, providing options which might include:
Parent, child, and caregiver travel and NYC housing;
Free childcare at auditions;
Children in the space, etc.
We will also have at least one matinee of Mothers with the Realm’s usual affordable ticket pricing (starting at $5 tickets for every show) and free childcare to encourage parents to attend. PAAL will create assessment tools and success trackers to articulate the efficacy of practices implemented on the project.
RESULTS A central goal of RPI is to share process, challenges, and results transparently so it can be used as a model for other arts organizations. We will do that through articles, local and national presentations, and RPI will be featured as the first nationally distributed case study for the inaugural PAAL summit held in New York City in late 2019 and PAAL National Handbook.
WHAT IS THE RADICAL PARENT-INCLUSION PROJECT?
RPI aims to confront the challenges of working parents in the performing arts by applying best practices of support publicly within every facet of a high-end Off-Broadway production. The production will tackle various obstacles by individual and discipline to create a collective support structure.
Overwhelming financial and logistical burden of childcare over the course of auditions, rehearsals, and performances.
Adherence to six-day work weeks that restrict contributors’ work-life balance while on contract.
Lack of employer transparency on caregiver policies or available provisions for parent needs within a professional context
Lack of access to networking opportunities such as opening night, special events, and talkbacks
Impossibility of attending theatre due to lack of childcare
What RPI does not aim to do is “solve” the problem of children. For those who choose to be parents, children are a fulfilling and important part of their lives and in many ways, make them better artists. We want to celebrate that, encourage visible parenting, and make life a little bit easier for everyone.
WHY THE RPI PROJECT NOW?
More than ever, mainstream media has spotlighted the burdens placed on parents in our country, with features highlighting these problems in the New York Times, Washington Post, Forbes, and numerous other high-end publications. The arts (and theaters specifically) have not truly engaged with the problem of parent-artist access, which is also an issue of equity and inclusion. As PAAL's aims to "elevate the national standard of care for caregivers," intentionally prioritizing the intersectional realities of caregiving; The Playwrights Realm seeks to “lift up the voices and communities that have not been fairly represented in the past,” our process must engage with the socio-economic realities for parents, and our work must engage in unique and theatrical explorations of the experience.
Some of the specific challenges that have already been uncovered through PAAL’s research which we aim to tackle with RPI:
Many parent contributors are mid-career artists at the crux of elevating their professional trajectory and need additional support not to drop off the path.
The majority of caregivers in our society are women, and the motherhood penalty socially and professionally exists in the performing arts world as well.
Fathers are often overlooked for support when they attempt to take on caregiver responsibilities because institutions don’t consider them in caregiver benefits.
The socio-economic impact of caregiving increases exponentially when other factors are involved, such as for artists who are single parents and/or people of color.
RPI intentionally chooses work that creates opportunities for the most vulnerable artists in these categories and will implement supportive strategies that could have potential long-running personal and professional impact on the journey toward parity and inclusion.
WHO GUIDED RPI?
Parent Artist Advocacy League for the Performing Arts (PAAL), a national resource hub and network for individual parent artists and caregivers and the institutions around the United States partnered with The Playwrights Realm, an off-broadway institution with a core value of reflecting “the full spectrum of humanity" in order to create and implement RPI. PAAL Founder Rachel Spencer Hewitt and The Realm’s Producing Director Roberta Pereira acted as Project Leaders:
Parent Artist Advocacy League for the Performing Arts (PAAL) is a national resource hub for individuals and institutions to address the silence and lack of support surrounding family life in the performing arts. PAAL initiates conversations across the country among theatre professionals, both employer and employed. Through their National Handbook and PAAL Award list of family-friendly theatres, PAAL promotes best practices that abolish discriminatory practices and language, especially against pregnant women and mothers, by raising awareness, developing work culture protocol, addressing the childcare dilemma, promoting and creating pathways back in for mothers who take time away, and providing resources for self-protection. PAAL created the first all-discipline National Childcare Grants and has been featured in numerous publications, including The New York Times, American Theatre Magazine, and WAMU for NPR News in Washington D.C. and at national gatherings, including multiple TCG conferences, BroadwayCon, and StateraArts’ annual conference on gender equity in the arts.
Organizational Project Leader RACHEL SPENCER HEWITT | Founder, Parent Artist Advocacy League (PAAL)
The Playwrights Realm is devoted to supporting early-career playwrights along the journey of playwriting, helping them hone their craft, fully realize their vision, and build meaningful artistic careers. Our innovative, hands-on approach helps make playwriting a viable career, and gives a spotlight to new talents, who otherwise might not be able to sustain themselves or have the time and resources needed for their craft. In addition to providing dramaturgical and production support, we provide human support so that our artists can have functional, creative lives through health insurance, generous stipends, and extra funds for trips abroad for research, theater tickets and more. Organizational Project Leader: ROBERTA PEREIRA | Producing Director, The Playwrights Realm
PAAL and The Realm will collaborate with parent-artists involved in the production to identify best ways to support them. Attached budget has breakdown on line items of support, including:
Public transparency of caregiver support throughout the process.
Comprehensive budgeting for anticipated caregiver support on every line item.
Family-friendly scheduling: including five-day, six-hour work weeks with union sanction, rehearsal plan released by week versus by day, holiday childcare provided for as applicable (when children are out of school). This will also result in increase of per hour payment for entire team during rehearsal.
Intentional hiring of parent-artists.
Family-friendly housing for early-career playwright Anna Moench (who is a mother-artist and woman of color).
Childcare provision options, either on-site during certain periods or through reimbursements.
Flexibility of on-site expectations for creative staff with children, welcoming children in the space at specific moments.
Transparency of need and requests through open dialogue with caregivers to create intentional policy and effective provision throughout the process.
Increased support for parent artists during high-demand episodes such as tech week and opening night.
When an institution develops practices that support parent artists, the application of these practices develops structural principles that have the potential to translate to all employees and contracted artists, regardless of parental status. Principles such as work-life balance, social disadvantage, schedule and budget flexibility, expectation adjustment for illness, grief, and birth, all require a willingness on behalf of the institution to recognize the humanity of the individuals contributing to the work created within its scope.
BEYOND RPI | GOALS & DELIVERABLES
By creating accessible opportunities for a new playwright of color and increasing access for parent artists who have children to participate, the impact of a production of this caliber, specifically in New York City, has the potential to set precedent, create resources, and define best practices for radical inclusion that supports parent artists. Additionally, it can illustrate new ways to support parent artists who are also vulnerable to additional discriminatory factors, directly addressing the gender parity dilemma in theatre.
SOLUTIONS FOR INSTITUTIONS
PAAL and The Playwrights Realm have committed to specific steps to assess success of this groundbreaking project and also share process, challenges, and successes publicly for possible replication field-wide.
SUPPORT FOR PARENT-ARTISTS
National and local press coverage for Mothers and RPI highlighting parent-artists involved in the production
Highlighting RPI and parent-artists through The Realm’s marketing, social media, lobby display, programs, etc
Record of the external impact of RPI through audience surveys
Talkbacks and community gatherings during the run of Mothers around the social impact of parenting and caregiving responsibilities
Childcare-accessible matinee available to any ticket-buyer
“When an institution does not evolve with best practices that include parent support, it risks suppressing, isolating, and driving out the most socially vulnerable regardless of their high professional capability and artistic potential.”
“Who We Harm When Parenting Isn’t Considered,” HowlRound Theatre Commons
Project Leaders Share Their Story
Rachel Spencer Hewitt, PAAL Founder; and Roberta Periera, The Realm Producing Director
Part I: The RPI Origin Story - Meeting of the Mother Minds
The screaming toddler reached up to his mother. As she gave a rousing speech at the TCG Fall Forum about the challenges of being a parent-artist, he grabbed at her, asking for attention. The mother paused her speech, scooped up her son, and then continued speaking as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. As I watched Rachel Spencer Hewitt in awe, I thought about all the difficulties facing parent-artists in the arts field. As a newish parent (my daughter is 2.5 years old) and a theater producer, at that moment I fully realized just how impossible our field is for parents, especially those like playwrights, directors, designers, stage managers and actors who work freelance in several organizations around the world.
Rachel, through the organization she founded--the Parent Artist Advocacy League for Arts (PAAL)--had already done some great work in examining the gaps in the field in terms of parent-support and also what support theaters across the country were already engaging in so I started thinking what would happen if we put all this work together within one production....
Rachel Spencer Hewitt:
“I want to do something radical.” The commitment in Roberta’s voice stopped me immediately. We had just finished participating on the panel at the TCG fall forum and had introduced our children to each other. The toddlers fought to leave our arms and take off down the hall as we made quick plans to touch base in the coming weeks and parted ways. Up to that point, as the founder of PAAL, I had spent years researching caregivers in the performing arts and both the beneficial and detrimental practices affecting them, from budgeting for artist families to childcare matinees to harmful and, at times, illegal employment practices. All of this research had proven a singular need: our field needed to elevate a national standard of care for caregivers and take the burden of support off the individual. This realization had resulted in the PAAL Handbook of Best Practices. In front of me, at that moment, Roberta’s readiness to put research to action was palpable. The Playwrights Realm had long established a track record for creating intersectional access for their artists, and on our first call, Roberta as mother and producer, cast a groundbreaking vision: a full off-Broadway production that publicly commits to radical parent support in every capacity. Our missions aligned and the Radical Parent Inclusion project was born.
Part II: Show Me The Money
RPI started like most great revolutions: with an Excel spreadsheet. As The Playwrights Realm team finessed the Mothers’ production budget, Rachel and I compiled a separate budget for RPI. Since parent-support varies from family to family and we did not have the whole team in place, we had to imagine what kind of support our parent-artists might need. Some of it included known expenses (like family-friendly housing for playwright Anna Moench and her family), but most of it were educated guesses (like onsite childcare during some of tech).
But how did we fund the Radical Parent-Inclusion Project? Honestly, it was a mixture of careful planning and a good back-up plan (doesn’t that describe most great endeavors!?). There were many aspects of this project that we had to commit to before we had funding fully in place (like engaging PAAL as a paid consultant and the family-friendly housing). The Realm has a wonderful history of fiscal responsibility where we amassed a surplus which we use for any exciting opportunities beyond the scope of our regular season. Katherine Kovner (Founding Artistic Director of The Playwrights Realm) and I agreed to use surplus funds to cover RPI costs in case we were not able to secure additional funding. Once we had a budget and a backup plan firmly in place, I called Emily Gilman at the Howard Gilman Foundation, who have been incredible supporters of The Realm. Using some input from that initial conversation, I created a proposal which we submitted to Gilman with a request for special funding, above what we already received from them yearly. Once Gilman committed to being a lead partner in RPI, we reached out to targeted individuals and institutions. In the end, The Playwrights Realm’s Radical Parent-Inclusion Project was underwritten with special support from the Howard Gilman Foundation, the James S. & Meryl H. Tisch Fund, Lynn & Stephan Solomon, The New 42nd Street, and Venturous Theater Fund of the Tides Foundation.
Part III: Challenges
“As a stage manager it did create one more thing to juggle the schedule and needs of actor/designers with kids but I felt PAAL/management understood that from the beginning and provided great support in that arena as well.” -Christine Daly, production stage manager for Mothers & parent
As with every ambitious idea, not everything in RPI went as planned, and we learned a lot during the process. Here are some of the main challenges that we faced:
Hiring parents intentionally:
It was essential to us to have parents represented in all sections of the production, but what we found that parent-artists tend to plan their jobs a bit further out. By the time we reached out within the regular production timing, many parent-artists were already committed to other work. We also had two caretakers on the team, who were responsible for elderly relatives. It is also worth noting that because of parent-artists leaving the field or not speaking about being parents for fear of discrimination, at times it was difficult to discover who was a parent. We spent a lot of time getting names from our networks, and this did lead to the discovery of artists previously unknown to The Realm. In the end, we did have parents represented across the whole production, including playwright, director, stage manager, 3 out of 4 designers, and 1 out of 5 actors.
Liability/security for children in the space:
It is one thing to make the grand declaration that “children are welcome in the space,” it is a more invested process to investigate the requirements of the space’s coverage and develop the protocol necessary to streamline a safe and consistent system. The matter of liability comes up often when talking about children and businesses, so the first step is making yourself familiar with the laws of your city and state (PAAL can help!) and any space you might rent. The next step is determining a chain of command from parents to stage manager and producer. This could add an additional layer of work for the management team in terms of figuring out schedules etc, but it removes this burden from the parent-artists.
The five day work week:
During rehearsals, this change was very well-received by the whole team. In this case, because we were working on a world premiere of a new play, we decided to add a week of rehearsal to make up those days. This meant that actors and stage management were being paid for an extra week (and making more per hour than with the 6-day rehearsal week) but it did add a significant amount to the budget. We also made no changes to our tech schedule (4 days of 10-out-of-12s), and although parents and caretakers had access to up to $1,000 for childcare reimbursement during the process we want to look at that schedule so the individual days are not so long.
On the 5-day rehearsal schedule: “Although I am not a parent-artist myself, the promotion of work/life balance throughout the production of MOTHERS was incredibly refreshing and something that the theatre industry desperately needs more of.”
- Anonymous creative team member
Free childcare at auditions:
One of the reasons why this field is so difficult for parent-actors is that it costs them to interview for most jobs. Free childcare at auditions would reduce this barrier immensely so it seemed like a no brainer. In practice, however, the ratio of cost to people served for this idea was not great. We had sitters available for the whole period of Equity Principal Auditions (EPAs). The parents who used the service were very grateful, but there just were not that many of them relative to non-parents. For the auditions by appointment, we could be more directed and that worked better. This summer, The Realm will be do their EPAs jointly with several Off-Broadway theaters. I am already in talks with partner theaters to offer childcare doing those so we can increase the impact while lowering the cost for individual theaters.
Part IV: How Did We Do?
“I can’t stress enough how the explicitly family positive nature of this project made every decision easier and ultimately made the whole experience an unqualified joy.” -Max Gordon Moore, actor in Mothers & parent
“It was nice to be on a show where talking about my kid was ok, encouraged even.” -Porsche McGovern, lighting designer for Mothers & parent
Rachel Spencer Hewitt:
In my interviews with parents, it was too common to hear stories of inconsistent support where caregiver needs received blank stares or reckless responses that resulted in silencing and shame. I knew from these stories that it wasn’t enough to enter a workplace and start adjusting budgets and practices; we had to lay a foundation of support within work culture to make comprehensive change. For RPI, we gathered the entire staff of The Realm to engage in PAAL’s innovative Compassion Training. The curriculum consists of guided dialogue of concerns, socio-economic and ethical relevance, and examples of best practices in interactions. Caregivers involved in RPI later expressed experiencing unprecedented support from every staff member they came in contact with, who not only welcomed conversations on caregiving responsibilities but also knew how to move the conversation forward. From that point, we provided childcare at auditions at callbacks to ensure that access was also paved for access to employment opportunity.
The intersectional gender impact of RPI is one of its greatest successes. Of the individuals who received caregiver support, 71% were women, and over half were women of color. One hundred percent reported both an ease in financial burden working in the performing arts as well as increased ability to focus on their work. RPI also provided support for an artist with substantial eldercare responsibilities as well as created opportunity and support for single parents. In a survey of outcomes and impact from all participants in RPI, caregiver and non, the five-day workweek was lauded as a more humane and sustainable practice that benefitted all participants in multiple areas of their life, including logistically, financially, and artistically. ***
Past research indicated childcare matinees were popular in theory but poorly attended, so we made strategic adjustments to improve outcomes, including activating parents in the PAAL network, changing the show time, and opening up registration for children as young as 3 months old. By adjusting the matinee from the traditional 2PM to 4PM, we created a time that was conscientious of family schedules. We also opened up registration for children as young as 3 months old. This required a greater number of sitters, but 50% of the children at the matinee were under 1, which shows there is a great need for this. With these adjustments, we partnered with Broadway Babysitters to provide free childcare for audience members on-site at New 42 Studios. As a result, we surpassed the maximum registration (with 22 children) we sold out the childcare matinee, exceeding all expectations. Parents entered the space ecstatic, sharing their awe that attending the theatre with support was so possible.
Part V: What Comes Next?
“I have never had the kind of support provided during this production. If there is a possibility for other companies to implement one or more of the services The Playwrights Realm provided it would benefit the entire artistic community.”
- Maechi Aharanwa, actor in Mothers & caretaker
PAAL partnered with The Public Theatre in December 2020 and again in December 2021 to host the first national summit and first international summit dedicated to caregiver support in the performing arts and media with RPI as the featured comprehensive case study and other leaders with case studies to participate. At the summits, we launched both institutional and individual membership opportunities and hosted dialogues on international impact and various case studies. We have found that most institutions want to support caregivers, but many don’t have the time or resources to dedicate to creating effective systems.
The institutional membership directly serves this need by conducting surveys, and generating resources, community, and training for an ever-changing landscape of sustainable work structures. PAAL acts as a centralized hub where institutions can simply join to gain access, accountability, and advocacy so that support for caregivers isn’t created in our field by whim chance, or contingency but through conscious, sustainable, and compassionate planning that results in benefits for all contributors. For individuals, the membership provides resources on family rights and how to engage with career and family responsibilities. PAAL is partnering with member theatres to help them start their support initiatives, including childcare funds, compassion training for staff, childcare matinees, and supportive work culture practices. For more information, visit: paaltheatre.com/membership
For The Playwrights Realm
The Radical Parent-Inclusion Project was just the beginning for The Realm. Part of our goal was to decide which strategies of parent-artist support we would continue implementing. For starters, we will be more intentional about stating that we are a caretaker-friendly institution, so as not to place the burden of asking for support on the artists. We will continue offering a caretaker stipend for artists, and as mentioned before, we are investigating a way to offer free childcare during group EPAs. For future seasons, we are committed to parent-artists but will have to continue doing targeted fundraising to support our offerings.
Find out more about the Radical Parent-Inclusion project at playwrightsrealm.org/rpi