It's a wonderful feeling to see my children bring joy and laughter to thousands of people every night. Granted, they're an unconventional group born of an unconventional mother. My kids are a bunch of pirates, mermaids, cartoons, and space aliens. There's even a dancing iguana in the mix. Brilliant and talented as they are, however, my kids also require round-the-clock care and attention. I couldn't be more proud -- but my children are exhausting.
Before I go on, maybe I should pause to explain what the hell I'm talking about: In a nutshell, I'm a Broadway producer, and my kids are the plays I bring to the stage. My shows are filled with larger-than-life characters that bring joy and inspiration to thousands of people each day. I stand at the back of the theater like a proud mother, glowing and reflecting on how happy I am to have produced these productions. But as a 33-year-old woman, I'm starting to think about another kind of production I should be giving birth to, the kind of production that cries, spits, crawls, and poops: a baby.
I have long applauded the fight for feminist equality and women's rights. I have done my best to be supportive of female colleagues and strived to make my mark as a professional woman, not only for myself but for my entire gender. Though great inroads have been made over the last 50 years, Gloria Steinem's work is yet to be finished, and there are still hills to climb for women in the workplace. Moreover, I must question what, if anything, is being done for gay women in the workplace. While my work comes first at this moment in my life, I am committed to one day living a life in which my family and my children come first. My mentors and role models have guided me to pursue work success as a measure of my life success, and I am grateful for that, but I am deeply saddened by the lack of mentorship and example that I have found for gay motherhood among professional women.
The newest addition to my brood is Peter and the Starcatcher, a prequel to the classic Peter Pan story, currently in previews at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. Two blocks over is New World Stages, where my off-Broadway production Voca People is playing an open run. The premise of Voca People is simple and straightforward: a spaceship full of aliens (who all happen to have perfect pitch) crash-lands on Earth. As they set about repairing their vehicle to return home, the Vocas sing through the history of music, from Mozart to Madonna -- all entirely a cappella. I like to think of Voca People as my brainy, quirky middle child. Not everyone will understand him, but those who do will appreciate his unique charm. The show is one of the most exhilarating things playing on a New York stage right now.
And then there's my nomad, the wandering child who never calls. The Magic School Bus Live! is a children's musical based on the beloved book series, and after months on the road, it is getting ready to wind down its national tour. (Side note: this is where the dancing iguana comes from, in case you were wondering.) There is also the national tour of The Addams Family and the revival of Annie, which I'm co-producing on Broadway next fall. My life is incredibly fulfilling, and my days are fully occupied. I don't sit still, and I love every waking minute, but I know this lifestyle is not forever. I just don't know how and when I'll make the change and what that change will look like. This unknown frightens me to the core.
To recap: we've got the kooky-yet-lovable Addams family; a redheaded orphan girl who winds up with an atypical yet lovable family; Peter Pan and the orphaned Lost Boys; a bunch of lost aliens; and a magic school bus full of precocious, eco-friendly fourth graders. Are we sensing a pattern here? Trust me, the thought has crossed my mind, too. I produce shows that appeal to families and dreamers. I want to inspire, astound, and transform a mind in just the way I am transformed by theater. I want to change lives and open the hearts and minds not only of adults but of children I've never met, and then one day of my own children. I am just starting to feel that pang of maternal longing when I pass by a happy mom and her adorable child. Then a minute later that little angel turns into a screaming toddler, and I realize that I'd prefer the screaming toddler from CAA instead of that brat! Nevertheless, deep down I know that one day I will be ready for my own screaming toddler. But when should that happen? And how will that happen? I literally cannot picture how this next step comes to fruition, and then I feel an even larger pang of uneasiness and longing. I don't believe a woman -- gay or straight, single or partnered -- must completely give up her career in order to be a mother, but I don't know how to make that happen, and I don't feel as though anyone wants to help me discover this.
In thinking about how my personal life informs my work, and vice versa, I suppose Peter and the Starcatcher would be the most obvious candidate, because the story itself draws heavily on themes of exploration and adventure into unknown worlds. The characters discover hidden strengths in moments of crisis and are forced to find creative ways of overcoming their adversaries. An important and affecting moment in the play is when Peter Pan teeters on the brink of adulthood and faces the pain and emotion that comes along with growing up but chooses instead to "just be a boy for a while." Yes, it's nothing new: we have always known the fate of Peter Pan, but watching it every night from my current vantage point filled with wonder and uneasiness about my own life's next steps has become an entirely affecting and monumental experience for me. Peter's desire to "never grow up" is informing me about my choices ahead and the lessons that my life in the theater have taught me as it relates to family and commitment.
My show Voca People is very much routed in family and commitment, which is another interesting angle for me right now. The commitment of the cast of Voca People is absolutely astounding. All over the world, Voca has become a way of life and has become its own unique family. I don't think it's a surprise that many members of the Voca People cast have left relationships, jobs, and other commitments in order to focus further and commit longer to the Voca People career. My personal commitment and attention to Voca People is like nothing I've ever done before. The show has literally changed the way I spend my time. When Voca People was invited to Las Vegas to perform at the MDA Telethon, I gave up my Labor Day weekend and accompanied the trip. This spring, when the Voca People cast will be performing at a private event as the opening act for Sting, I will be there. That kind of flexibility won't be possible when I start a family, and I have to learn how to temper that and accept that.
I look around at my straight, working-mother friends, and I know the pains they go through with their work-life balance. Sneaking on their Blackberry during naptime, heading back to the office after bedtime, relying on husbands for the "non-mom" needs, which is frustrating for both Mom and Dad. I feel great empathy for my friends, and I know they struggle with their "path," too, but they also have years of examples and dozens of friends and colleagues to emulate. The majority of working lesbians I know are not mothers, and the majority of working mothers I know are not lesbians. Lesbians not only have to overcome a physical hurdle in becoming a mother, but they have an intellectual hurdle to climb. Gender roles cannot help guide our decisions and actions like our straight-mother counterparts. And that's a lot to deal with.
Of course, I understand that building a successful career and a successful family life is complicated. Theoretically, I accept that I can't really have it all, that sacrifices must be made. It would be very easy to just change jobs or slow down my career. The fact that being a gay mom will undoubtedly bring its own set of special challenges is enough to make any working mom pause, never mind the working mom who is out until 11 p.m. most week nights. Still, the show must go on. I can no less help being gay or female (or white, or Jewish) than I can help being a part of the theater community. It's as much a part of my identity as anything else and will continue to be even after I add "mother" to the list. Becoming a mother is not a choice I may make; it's a way of life I will take. I know that. I just want to feel confident in beginning that process, and I want to have the tools to do it right.
I look into my future, and staring back at me is a giant black hole. There is no book I can read or course I can take in order to better understand and prepare me for motherhood as a gay woman. Although I am blessed to have these kooky children and a creative and professional family to call my own, a clock is now ticking inside me. Life is sequential, and although I can't have everything all at once, I want to know that I can have everything in the end. I am looking to my peers and forebears in the working lesbian mom community to help with these important questions. How and when do we become mothers? What is our path? And how do we navigate the new set of emotions we will surely encounter? I would really like to challenge us all to help make this next generation of lesbian mothers more prepared and more confident.