NIDA is seeking volunteers, specifically a baby and mother, for a brief walk-on appearance in one of the upcoming June Season productions, The Writer, featuring actors in their final year of training. It is directed by a professional director, Zoë Hollyoak.
The following brief provides some information about the play and the importance of having a real baby onstage along with some practical details about dates and the scope of the commitment.
The Writer premiered at London’s Almeida Theatre in 2018. It is written by Ella Hickson, one of the UK’s most prominent playwrights.
A young female playwright and an older male director find themselves alone in an empty theatre. She wants a new form of theatre that dismantles capitalism and overturns the patriarchy. He’s turned on by the commercial potential of her rage.
He flirts. She stares him down. She wants to do things her way. She wants to change the shape of the world. And without warning it does, revealing stories nested within stories like Russian dolls, each more brilliant and daring than the last.
The Writer takes aim at the business of making art – the compromises it demands, the people it chews up, and the endless ways in which patriarchal power can infect. It rocks the very foundations upon which theatre is built.
The play asks for a real baby onstage, for about two minutes. The baby should be under 8 months or so. It’s a critical part of the action and of the play’s meaning. All productions of the play have had a real baby.
Why is a real baby important and what happens?
The play pulls at the very fabric of what theatre does, how it reflects the work (or doesn’t) and its so-called realness. The presence of a real baby – explicitly not a prop baby or doll – is the main pivot point of the play.
When the baby is first mentioned, it’s an amplified sound. But then things change:
The sound of a baby crying. It sounds incredibly real and incredibly close.
Writer What is that?
Boyfriend I think it’s a baby. Boyfriend re-enters the sitting room.
The sound of the baby again.
I think it’s coming from next door.
Writer There is no next door.
The baby again – this time it sounds different – like really really real.Boyfriend goes to the door, opens it, takes a real-life baby off stage management – the Boyfriend bounces it and makes coo-ing sounds.
Writer That’s not our baby.
Boyfriend I think Mummy is just scared. I think Mummy lacks confidence.
Writer That’s not true.
Boyfriend I think Mummy doesn’t want to be happy.
Writer I don’t know if that would make me happy.
Boyfriend Look at her.
Long pause – she does, the baby’s gorgeous – she holds her – so tight, breathes her in, her heart breaks a bit.
Writer That child belongs to the woman in the wings. That child is being paid to be here. Doesn’t that strike you as slightly fucked up? Do you want to come and take your child back?
Boyfriend We have a baby.
Boyfriend shows the baby to the Writer.
We had a baby.
Writer That baby has been bought. It’s being paid to be here. I did not give birth to that baby.
At this point in the play, the audience needs to understand that what The Writer says is true. She has called out the illusion of it all. A few moments later, everything falls apart – “their life and all its potential is packed away” – the set comes apart, the Boyfriend becomes an actor, and “The mother of the baby comes and takes the child”. Just like The Writer said, she’s been waiting in the wings.
The full sequence is 2-3 minutes.
Consultation with the Office of the Children’s Guardian (NSW Government)
The NIDA Producer/Production team has a good relationship with the Office of the Children’s Guardian, which is responsible for guidelines around employing children in NSW.
Di Misirdjieff, NIDA’s Producer, has sought the advice of the Child Safe Officer of Children’s Employment at the Office about the play and volunteer engagement to ensure that NIDA has a protocol based on the Office of the Guardian’s Code of Practice.
Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the baby and mother volunteers is our first priority. We will follow this process:
- 2, 3 or even 4 volunteers to spread the time commitment across the 11 performances.
- Use the Office of the Guardian’s Code of Practice as a guide including:
- Scheduling the play in the earliest performance time of 7pm to ensure the mother and baby can leave as soon as possible after your brief appearance. You should be out of the building by about 7.40pm.
- Having a nurse on standby for all performances.
- Having a separate dressing area for the mother and child.
- Monitoring and limiting rehearsal time (though, in this instance, no significant rehearsal is required).
- Having a prop backup ‘on the night’ to allow for any unforeseen circumstances so that the wellbeing of the baby is always the first consideration.
- The Production Stage Manager will prepare a full risk assessment and procedure based on the above once rehearsals commence
- Any advice/requirements from the baby’s mother would be considered and, where possible, accommodated.
The production runs for 11 performances and the dates/times are as follows:
- Open Dress Rehearsal: Tuesday 6 June – 7pm
- Preview: Wednesday 7 June – 7pm
- 1st Performance: Thursday 8 June – 7pm
- Then 7pm performances on June 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17.
- Matinees at 1pm on 13 and 15 of June
- Matinee at 11am for NIDA Open Day
You could nominate which performances you’d be happy to participate in.
Your first commitment is likely to be a short time during a dress rehearsal, to introduce you to the cast and company and to orient you in the venue and set.
If you have any questions at all or you are interested in volunteering yourself and your baby to participate in The Writer please contact Di Misirdjieff Diane.Misirdjieff@nida.edu.au or on 0413 043 150.
Thank you for considering,
With our best regards,
David Berthold Di Misirdjieff
Artistic Director in Residence Producer