by Autumn Hurlbert
The saying, “It takes a village” could not be more apropos for my little family for the three weeks after Thanksgiving until the week before Christmas. It took a suitcase full of toys, six babysitters, two sets of grandparents, a visit from my husband, a theater staff member (for an early student matinee), the most generous and loving cast and crew, and immeasurable mommy hours of negotiation/bribery to facilitate childcare for my rehearsal, tech, and performance schedule for an out-of-town job during this season of thanks.
‘Tis the season of thanks, indeed. I accepted a contract at a brand new theater in Atlanta to play Jovie In Elf the Musical for five weeks leading up to the holidays; yay, employment! My husband is a psychologist, and the holidays are a delicate and hectic time for him and his clients. We decided it would be best for our 3 1/2-year-old son to spend the week and a half before Thanksgiving at home with Daddy, then come down to Atlanta with Mommy for the final three weeks (and a few days) of my contract. City Springs Theatre is run by generous, big-hearted folks, and with their help and permission, I was able to fly back to NYC during Thanksgiving week to be with my family before bringing my little one back down to Atlanta with me. It was a whirlwind week - a mixture of frenzied packing (and negotiations over which toys and lovies would make the trip), and cherished time spent with our NYC “family” for Friendsgiving. It was the perfect concoction for a fuel of thankfulness to get us prepared for our time away from home and away from best-friend-Daddy in Atlanta.
My little dude and I survived our flight down south and had a couple of days to adjust before I went back into rehearsals. The kiddo and I had some special mommy-kid time at one of the BEST aquariums in the country, plenty of time at his favorite place - Target, and some quality time with our incredible host family. My housing for this contract was graciously donated by board members of the theater; we affectionately called their home “the castle,” as it was a sprawling, gigantic house and our “little” apartment above the garage was three times as big as our apartment in NYC. Our host family, the Berrys, took us on as part of their own, and now we are all bonded for life. They pitched in and helped care for my kiddo when babysitters cancelled or when I was running late. They also loaned us literal baskets of toys and opened their home to us as if we’d all known each other for years. Thankful seems an inadequate description for the gratitude I feel for their warmth and generosity.
City Springs Theatre and our director, Steve Bebout, created an environment within the production schedule for me to be a full-time mommy and a full-time guest performer. The cast and crew treated my little one like a member of the company, and they entertained him and loved on him in the ways that only creative, magnanimous theater folk can do. Family is a word that has many connotations for me. My family is comprised of my relatives, my in-laws, my friends that I call my family, and… my theater tribe. The very essence of theater, to me, is family. A group of seemingly mismatched personalities, gathered together to exchange lessons for love. We are masters of empathy - in exhibiting it ourselves, in teaching it to others through storytelling, in eliciting change leading by example. What better group of people to help raise a child and to be our village? My cup runneth over.
Having a child while maintaining a career in this business is no easy task, but the rewards are overwhelming in the amount of exposure my child receives to people from literally every walk of life. To be thankful is to be humble, and I am truly humbled this holiday season by the generosity and love within our incredible theater tribe, wherever we may encounter them in the world. Happy holidays and cheers to a new year of gratitude! May you feel this season of thanks as fully as we have been afforded to!