Home time is precious, but livings are made on the road
It’s easy to think of live performance as a commodity to be consumed. But performers are people — and many are parents. For years, actors and musicians have followed an unwritten rule: The show must go on, and your family can’t get in the way. But contemporary artists are rewriting the rulebook. We recently spoke to three hardworking performers who balance performing and parenting. They make it look easy. But it’s not.
Dad by day, 'Outlaw' at night
Nick Lerangis is a musician, singer, songwriter, and actor. He’s written songs for and performed with Walk the Moon, and is a frequent performer in Florida Studio Theatre’s musical productions, most recently “Outlaws & Angels.” His art demands a nomadic existence. But for Nick and his wife, Jennie Goldstein, a management consultant with OpenTent, the demands of parenting come first. Their son, Bobby, is 18 months old — that’s not a part-time job. Their solution? Bring the whole family on the road for Nick’s gigs around the country. But how is that practically possible?
“It’s a question of time management,” says Nick. “Bobby goes to daycare two days a week, so that Jennie can work full time and I can get a little rest before my next show. On Fridays, I’ll play with Bobby and care for him during the day. On weekends, Jennie does the daytime parenting.”
“We’re burning the candle at both ends,” Jennie says with a laugh. “There’s no such thing as a typical day.”
How do they manage this juggling act? Nick and Jennie credit the Parent Artist Advocacy League (PAAL) for watching their backs. “I thought I was the first person who’d ever done this,” says Nick. “They assured me I wasn’t, and talked me through all the practical details, which mostly centered around housing and space.”
He notes that FST was equally supportive. “They offered me the part in ‘Outlaws,’” he says. “I said, ‘Thanks — and I’d like to bring my family with me.’ Their response was immediately, ‘Great! How can we help you out?’”
“We really felt an instant bond,” adds Jennie.
That bond held in place through the run of “Outlaws & Angels.” That show closed early, like thousands of others around the country. “Bobby got to see me perform on the last night,” says Nick. “He really got a kick out of the show, and that meant a lot to us.”
Nick, Jennie and Bobby have been sidelined for the weeks ahead. How are they coping with it?
“Like I said, an actor has no typical days,” says Nick. “This is the hand we’ve been dealt — and we’re enjoying our time together as much as we can.”
Acting and parenting are two tough jobs. Tracy Michelle Arnold excels at both. She recently portrayed the hard-pressed editor in the Asolo Rep’s production of “The Lifespan of a Fact.” She’s also the proud mother of Gus Truschinski. Marcus Truschinski is his devoted father — Tracy’s husband, and a fellow actor at the American Players Theatre (APT) in Spring Green, Wis. Their roles as parents and performers were inseparable from the beginning.
“We were performing together in ‘As You Like It’ when I got pregnant,” says Tracy. “I kept acting throughout my pregnancy and closed my last show just a few weeks before our son was born.”
How did they manage in the years that followed?
Gus attended traditional daycare as a toddler — but that only helped during the day, and actors obviously work evenings. To bridge the gap, Tracy and Marcus created a babysitting network of experienced teens, college students, and fellow starving artists. “That network has been critical for us,” says Tracy. “Finding someone to watch your child from 5 p.m. to midnight involves lots and lots of phone calls, texts, emails, and chats. My husband’s parents live an hour and 20 minutes away, and also occasionally come to help.”
As Gus grew up, his parents adjusted their strategy. Now, they basically work in shifts. During APT's off-season, they try to book out-of-town shows that don’t overlap. Gus (who’s now 11) attends public school, and fills his afternoons with sports and piano lessons. One parent stays home, while the other performs in another city — as Tracy recently did for the Asolo Rep. That strategy pays the bills. But it isn’t easy.
“The greatest hardship is being away from home and family,” says Tracy. “We try to line up brief visits that accommodate our unorthodox schedules. Thank goodness for FaceTime. It allows us to see and talk with one another several times a day.”
Tracy adds that online technology also connects her to a network of other performing parents.
“We’ve formed a digital tribe,” she says. “We delight in our families’ successes and offer support when one of us falters.”
That support system is now more vital than ever. Life in the time of COVID-19 means that school’s out and the show doesn’t go on. How are they coping?
According to Tracy, Gus (a dedicated honors student) is now a dedicated online student. The pandemic has slashed his parents’ income as actors, but they plan to hit the ground running after the quarantine ends. Until then, they’re playing lots of board games, staying grateful for their health, and practicing the old-fashioned art of conversation. More than that …
“It’s brought us all together as family,” says Tracy. “It’s also deepened our bonds with other families around the country. That’s one of the perks of raising a child in a family of actors. Gus is constantly being introduced to new people and places. It’s taught him the universality of humanity — how we’re all more alike than different. These days, that lesson is more important than ever.”
Home on the road
Lucy Tight and Wayne Waxing are the husband-wife duo of Hymn For Her, a genre-busting, hard-traveling, psychedelic/bluegrass/rock-and-roll band. The band’s touring schedule rivals Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere” odyssey. So far, they’ve been to Philly, Copenhagen, Kalamazoo, Zurich, Deer Isle, Paris, Dublin, Lichtenvoorde, Cloanakilty, Penzance, Berlin and Sarasota. And their daughter, Diver, has been right there with them.
Was bringing her on the road a tough decision?
“No,” says Lucy. “Music has always been our life. We will always be musicians — and we knew Diver would be an extension of our musical journey.”
According to Wayne, Diver (who turns 13 in April) is following in their musical footsteps. She sings and plays a host of instruments. Diver’s also composed a few songs — and they’ve performed a few onstage.
Before the pandemic, Diver was home-schooled on the road and tutored in a Montessori school just outside of Sarasota. The family’s hardworking van is now parked for the foreseeable future. But Diver’s education won’t stall. According to Wayne, “She’ll learn online, like most of the kids on the planet.”
A positive attitude goes a long way in a tight situation. But are they suffering from cabin fever?
“Not at all,” says Lucy. “We spend a lot of time at home together when we’re not on the road. We’re used to chillin’ out, writing, recording, cooking yummy meals, and just spending time together. We’ve spent many years living in a 16-foot Airstream, so our 900 square-foot house is like a castle.”