Theatre: A Man’s World, But What About Mothers?

Theatre: A Man’s World, But What About Mothers?

Mothers in Theatre: The Double Bind

Theatre has long been a male-dominated institution. From the actors on stage to the directors and producers behind the scenes, men have traditionally held power in the theatre world. But what about mothers?

Mothers who work in theatre often face a double bind. They are expected to be just as dedicated to their work as their male counterparts, but they are also expected to be the primary caregivers for their children. This can be a difficult balance to strike, leading to significant stress for mothers.

The theatre industry often overlooks the challenges that mothers face. Work schedules are often long and unpredictable, and childcare can be expensive and difficult to find. As a result, many mothers feel like they have to choose between their careers and their families.

Generation X woman (mom) with upscale hair ready for her scene

This is a problem for mothers and the theatre industry as a whole. Mothers bring a wealth of experience and talent to the table, and their absence is a loss to the field.

The theatre industry needs to do more to support mothers. This means providing flexible work arrangements, offering childcare assistance, and creating a more family-friendly culture. It also means changing the way that we think about motherhood. Motherhood is not a liability; it is an asset.

When we value the work of mothers, we make the theatre industry a better place for everyone.

Photographic portrait of actor mom with a spotlight on background

The Work-Life Balance Dilemma for Mothers in Theatre

The theatre industry has long ignored mothers’ challenges balancing work and family responsibilities. This is because motherhood is often seen as a personal rather than a professional issue. As a result, mothers often feel pressure to “appear” childless to be taken seriously in their careers.

This pressure can be incredibly stressful, leading to several negative consequences for mothers in theatre. For example, women who are mothers may be less likely to be hired or promoted, and they may also be more likely to experience burnout.

This is unacceptable.

Mothers are an essential part of the theatre industry, and they deserve to be treated with respect. We must start by recognizing that motherhood is not just a personal issue. It is also a professional issue, significantly impacting women’s ability to succeed in their careers.

Once we acknowledge this, we can make the theatre industry more supportive of mothers. This means providing flexible work arrangements, offering childcare assistance, and creating a more family-friendly culture.

We need to do better for mothers in theatre.

They deserve successful careers without choosing between work and their families. We need to create an industry that welcomes and supports mothers so they can reach their full potential.

Theater as a Tool for Social Change: Marie NDiaye's Theater of the Mothers

French playwright Marie NDiaye uses her work to explore the role of mothers in a patriarchal society. Her plays often feature mothers made to make difficult choices to protect their children. NDiaye’s work is important because it gives voice to the experiences of marginalized women and challenges the traditional view of motherhood as a selfless act.

NDiaye’s plays are metadramas, meaning they reflect on the nature of theater itself. This is evident in how her plays often feature mothers compelled to play roles prescribed by society. For example, in the play Papa Doit Manger, the mother is driven to sacrifice her own needs to care for her husband and children. This role is both physically and emotionally demanding, ultimately leading to her death.

NDiaye’s work is a powerful reminder of how theater can be used to challenge patriarchal oppression. Her plays offer a critical view of how society expects mothers to behave, showing how these expectations can be harmful. By interrogating the role of theater in the oppression of mothers, NDiaye’s work shows how theater can raise awareness of social issues and offer a path toward social change.

Mother working at home with baby reading email from theatre company

Join Us in Supporting Mothers in Theatre

Gender discrimination is prevalent in all professions, and exorbitant childcare costs and lack of availability continue to struggle when caregivers need to work. Our social order still runs on an outmoded conception, assuming that one parent is at home.

However, theatrical motherwork goes beyond working parents’ everyday struggles in fulfilling the theatre’s unique demands, from production schedules to fundraising, promotional, and networking events. These are all predicated on the idea that the theatre professional is available around the clock. There can be an attitude within the theatre, as well, that when one becomes a parent, there are unstated consequences for the decision.

Further, theatre professionals who have children need to create the illusion that they can work any time and any number of hours to stay in the race, yet if they do that, they feel they are sacrificing their children, and guilt ensues. It takes careful planning and negotiations on the parent’s part; balance is difficult. Support is not here yet.

Mothers in Theatre: The Unpaid Work

Mothers in theatre need to make difficult choices and many sacrifices. Being part of a play, which historically does not pay much, means that any money would go toward a babysitter; therefore, it stops becoming a means for income but rather a non-paying hobby. It only furthers the story of the unpaid work of mothers.

Theatre mothers with young children without a support system must choose: to work or be a mom. Like many institutions, theatre must examine how it operates from an outdated patriarchal mode. Access to affordable childcare, government subsidies for self-employed and contracted, flexible schedules, and flexible medical leave are imperative for theater. Further, patrons should seek out art/theatre by and about mothers. Marie NDiaye’s theatre is an important endeavor, bringing attention to the issues of mothers and the theatre on the stage. It is possible to make theatre more inclusive to mothers, although it will take a multi-dimensional approach and a shakeup from the institution to the group to the individual.

Please join us in supporting these efforts to make theatre more inclusive to mothers. Together, we can create a more equitable and supportive environment for all theatre professionals, regardless of parental status.


Make Theatre More Inclusive to Mothers

In conclusion, theatre needs to be more inclusive to mothers. We need to create an industry that is welcoming and supportive of mothers, so that they can reach their full potential.

Here are some specific actions that the theatre industry can take to support mothers:

    • Provide flexible work arrangements: This could include things like telecommuting, flextime, and job sharing.
    • Offer childcare assistance: This could include things like on-site childcare, subsidies for childcare, or help finding childcare providers.
    • Create a more family-friendly culture: This could include things like providing paid parental leave, flexible work hours, and a supportive work environment.
    • Change the way that we think about motherhood: We need to start seeing motherhood as an asset, not a liability. Mothers bring a wealth of experience and talent to the table, and we must value their contributions.

Call to action:

We urge you to join us in supporting these efforts to make theatre more inclusive to mothers. Together, we can create a more equitable and supportive environment for all theatre professionals, regardless of parental status.


Rusch-Drutz, Corinne. 2004. “Stage Mothers: A Qualitative Analysis of Women’s Work Experiences As Mothers in Toronto Theatre”. Journal of the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement 6 (2).


Ndiaye, Noémie. “CHAPTER XXI. Theater of the Mothers: Three Political Plays by Marie NDiaye” In Women Mobilizing Memory edited by Ayşe Gül Altınay, María José Contreras, Marianne Hirsch, Jean Howard, Banu Karaca and Alisa Solomon, 363-380. New York Chichester, West Sussex: Columbia University Press, 2019.

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Open Mic Nights as a Tool for Performing Artist Moms

Open Mic Nights as a Tool for Performing Artist Moms

Finding the balance between your passions and responsibilities can be challenging with the demands of motherhood, family life, and career goals. However, it’s crucial to keep exploring new opportunities and expanding your artistic reach. Open mic nights offer a unique opportunity to showcase your talents, meet new people, and grow your network.  These events allow artists of all skill levels to showcase their talents and receive audience feedback. This post will explore how you can navigate open mic nights as a mother/parent, from selecting appropriate material to building connections with other performers and venue owners. We’ll also discuss the positive impact of participating in open mics on your skills and career as a performing artist.

Research and Preparation

Before you dive into open mic nights, it is essential to research and prepare. In starting this article, finding an up-to-date comprehensive list was challenging, as many venues closed with the pandemic, and others either stopped their open mics or only did them seasonally. The last thing you want to do is arrange for a babysitter, arrive ready for your performance, and learn that the date listed was for last year. So, find local venues that host open mic nights and attend as an audience member. This way, you will get a sense of the vibe and style of the performances, which will help you prepare the right material that aligns with the audience’s interests. Also, research the venue’s policies, such as time limits, sign-up procedures, and content restrictions, ensuring you are well-prepared and can showcase your best work. Finding the right venue can make your experience more successful.


Knowing what type of audience you’ll be performing for is essential. Some open mic nights draw in a more mature crowd, while others cater to a younger demographic. Some events even have specific themes, such as poetry or hip-hop nights. Research various open mic nights in your area and attend a few as an audience member. You’ll get a sense of which event will be best for you. Don’t be afraid to ask other performers for recommendations. If you’re new to open mic nights, starting with smaller events before moving on to larger venues is a good idea. It will help you build confidence and get comfortable performing in front of an audience.

Choosing the Right Material

Once you’ve found your open mic night, select material that matches the tone and audience. The key to nailing an open mic performance is selecting the appropriate material. You want to choose pieces that highlight your strengths and resonate with the audience. Avoid performing pieces that are controversial, offensive, or too long. Focus on the work that showcases your unique voice and tap into what the audience wants to hear. Start by choosing something you’re comfortable with, showcasing your strengths as an artist. But don’t be afraid to push your boundaries by trying out new material. Before taking the stage, practice and time your piece. Most open mic nights have a time limit, so make sure your performance fits. Choosing the right content for your staged performance is one of the most crucial steps. We advise selecting familiar material you know well, reflecting your artistry’s message. If you are a musician, choose a song you can perform confidently. If you are a writer, choose a piece representing your style and capturing the audience’s attention. Moreover, make sure the material is appropriate for the venue and audience.

Prepare Yourself Mentally

The thought of performing in front of others can be intimidating, so practice visualization techniques, deep breathing exercises, and positive affirmations to calm nerves. Visualize your performance and receive warm applause from the audience. Rehearse in front of your kids. Isn’t that what they’re there for? 🤭

Building Connections

As a mother/parent, you may have personal stories to share that can connect with audiences. It’s essential to relate with your audience and build rapport. Be sure to introduce yourself to the venue owner and other performers. A simple introduction and a quick chat after your performance can go a long way. Not only will it help you build a relationship with the venue, but it can also lead to collaborative opportunities with other performers down the line.

Networking is vital to success in the performing arts industry. Open mic nights provide a great opportunity to connect with other performers and venue owners who can offer you options in the future. Feel free to share your contact information or social media handles. You never know whom you might meet at an open mic night, so being friendly and open to new connections is important. After the open mic, attend other events where your new connections perform. Building relationships with these people can lead to future collaborations, bookings, and opportunities.

Take Advantage of Feedback

Open mic nights offer the chance to receive feedback from audiences and other performers. Use this opportunity to improve your skills and connect with other artists. Be open to criticism and take time to reflect on the comments you receive. Remember that constructive feedback is essential for growth. Unfortunately, not every performance will be a hit. Sometimes, the audience may not respond in the way you hoped. But don’t take it personally! Instead, take it as a learning opportunity. Solicit feedback from other performers and audience members to understand what worked and what didn’t. Most open mic nights embrace constructive feedback to help performers grow. Additionally, open mic nights can lead to professional opportunities, such as invitations to perform at other events, collaborations, and recording opportunities.

Record Your Performance

Recording your performance is an excellent way to critique your performance after the event and determine areas for improvement. It can also provide material for sharing on social media platforms, helping to increase your reach and following. Before taking the stage, ensure you have permission to record your performance. Filming allows you to review your work later, improve, and share your progress with others. You can post the recording on your social media pages or YouTube channel or use it to apply for paid gigs. Additionally, you can use the footage to showcase your talent to potential fans, investors, and collaborators.


Participating in open mic nights offers numerous benefits. For one, it’s an opportunity to practice your craft, whether singing, stand-up comedy, or poetry. It’s also a chance to experiment and test new materials without the pressure of traditional performance. Open mic nights can also help you grow your audience and gain exposure, as many events are free and open to the public. Look at all the possibilities: gaining exposure, improving your performance skills, building your network, trying out new material, and getting audience feedback. You never know; if you share this article with your artist friends, you may meet another mom doing the same thing. Open mic nights are a supportive and encouraging environment where you can connect with and learn from other artists who are on a similar path.

Navigating open mic nights can be a valuable experience for performing artists. By starting small, selecting appropriate material, connecting with other performers and venue owners, and benefiting from the experience, mothers in the performing arts can continue to pursue their passions and expand their reach. Whether you’re just starting or a seasoned performer, open mic nights offer a valuable opportunity to connect with others, hone your skills, and share your talent with live audiences. So why not give it a try? You might just be surprised at what you can achieve. So, go out there and shine!

We have a starter list for you, just below. Be sure to comment below with your ideas and experiences!

Image of upclose microphone and lights behind shimmering in magenta and blue. Open Mics list for the 413 and beyond!

Add to Our List of Open Mics!

This started as a long list and got shorter and shorter. We took out anything that didn’t look like it was currently offering open mics. Help it grow? We know the list is small and regional, but here is our list from June 2023 for:

Open Mics 413

Bishop’s Lounge – Northampton, MA

The Rendezvous – Turners Falls, MA

The Dream Away Lodge – Becket, MA

Open Mic with Gundy at JJs Tavern – Florence, MA

Wurst Haus– Northampton, MA

Play Incubation Collective Pic Salon– various locations in the 413

 Luthier’s Co-op – Easthampton, MA

Paradise East Open Mic Night  -Northampton, MA

Workshop 13 – Ware, MA

The Stomping Ground– Putnam, CT

Irish Ale House– Springfield, MA

Hitchcock Brewing Company– Bernardston, MA

Open Mic listings:

Eventbrite listing for Northampton, MA open mic June 2023

Boston Comedy Open Mics -all of Massachusetts