What is it like being in a show business family?

We went to a play last night and looking thru the playbill I read the actors biographies. They talked about all the places they do shows; New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, etc… and it got me thinking, what’s life like when you move every 6 months to do a show?

Plus the show was about what life is like for performers and their families. Always dealing with the struggles of looking for their next acting gig, backstage dramas, dealing with fans, directors, promoters, agents, and everything else that goes with theater.

I know many performers came from families with similar backgrounds where one or both parents performed. I’ve met a couple where one of the parents business was say being a guitar player or drummer for various bands.

So I’d like to ask, do you know of any “performer” families where one or both parents work full time in the theater?

Do you know any people who used to be full time performers but gave it up for a normal job?

I know quite a few circus performers; most do short run shows, like corporate gigs, or stuff like cruise ship work. Quite a few have kids.

Some do the full on nomad thing, largely or completely home educating the kids, no real home base bar maybe a caravan or something. I don’t know anyone who’s kept that up after the kids turn maybe 10 or so, and schooling becomes a little more complicated.

Mostly though, once they have a kid, they settle down, and one parent either stops performing completely (and maybe gets a new job) when they have the first kid, or just takes occasional gigs that are easy to get to, and for which they don’t need to make a new routine (making and learning new routines is really time consuming, and takes a lot of focus), while the other carries on travelling for work, using their house as a base.

For some, the stay-at-home partner does a lot of the admin work, including arranging gigs, others are part of a group where either one member does most of that, or the group hired someone.

For the people I know, they’re rarely away for more than a week or so at a time, so it really isn’t too disruptive, and they do get a lot of home time during quiet seasons. My uncle who works on the oil rigs off Scotland on 6 week shifts found it much harder to stay involved in his kids’ lives.

A few. It isn’t the life I’d want for my family, but it works for theirs. A few people who have spent time on the RenFaire circuit with kids in tow being homeschooled. A few who have managed to have fairly mainstream lives - a lot teach and perform. Or do grant writing or administration for some sort of arts organization for a regular (small) paycheck and perform.

I have met, but don’t know, people who have really nice arts jobs. A flutist with the Minnesota Orchestra who has a six figure a year job goes to my church. I’ve met a few people on Guthrie staff over the years - they have a regular equity job, they aren’t cast in every show, but enough shows to make a living. I used to know a costumer and a stage manager over at the Guthrie, they had regular jobs - but weren’t performers.

The one that I think would be impossible with a family is to be on a Broadway touring show or a Cirque touring show - where you are in a town for a few weeks and move on - and the show tours for years.

Based on what several members of the Aragón family say (multiple generations of clowns and equilibrium artists, and one of my generation happens to be the most successful TV produced in Spain as well as a comedian), being part of a huge family was more of an unusual thing than the moving around. I’ve had friends who moved as often as they did due to being the children of engineers and, like them, moved between countries multiple times in an era in which that was extremely rare.

I’ve known people who went to the summer fairs or others which match school breaks with the whole family, but if attending a fair at other times it would be an all-male, none-in-school crew: the women stayed in their permanent homes with the kids. Very often fair workers are related (or “as if” by their own criteria) or meet many times in the same circuit; they’ll swap teenagers/young adults in part as a matter of apprenticeship.

A former classmate of mine is a percussionist. He met and married a surgeon during a stay in Brazil: his last music group had been successful enough to take a sort of sabbatical to go there and study the local percussion styles. They live in his hometown; she’s a doctor with the national healthcare system, he’s a SAH dad when not working; once they had their first kid, he started limiting his jobs to things that he can usually commute to (studio jobs, teaching, and he’s a member of a local classical orchestra but they rarely travel and when they do it’s always been a few days).

It would be interesting to have your kids see you on stage, in full make up. Or in the case of the circus in costumes and makeup.
That would be funny. Here is someone dressed like say a clown, on the side being a parent and say having to discipline their kids.

I know a few non-professional circus families - i.e. people who treat circus school like other people treat traveling sports.

And its serious business. Circus performing takes a ton of discipline - even the clowns need to hit their marks and be where the need to be. Even the clowns have danger in their routines. You don’t become a good juggler (a basic clown skill) as a kid without work.

And when you get to aerialists, wow. A good friend of mine has a daughter who works the ribbons. Its dangerous, it takes incredible strength, and you don’t get good at it by not having discipline.

In an act, circus performers are often not only responsible for their own safety, but there is often someone else on stage. You aren’t paying attention and what should be a simple catch turns into two people who are injured.

Performing families in my experience often have a lot more discipline than an average household. Kids need to sit quiet through rehearsal. They start taking care of themselves early because if mom and dad are both in shows, there may not be money for a sitter. If the kids want to follow in their parents footsteps, they’ll need skills - for theatre families, that’s dance, singing, a musical instrument is a good idea, plus acting, body control, voice control and being able to perform Shakespeare without sounding like a stilted doofus. Musicians start picking up instruments at a young age, you’ll need to be able to write it to be successful. And there is a ton of listening to it you need to do as well. Artists take years to become good painters or sculptors, you don’t start throwing pots and manage a 2 foot wood fired bottle that is saleable overnight.