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Following a dream: a dedicated mom of four rekindles her love of the stage

by Meagan Francis on March 25, 2011

Stephanie Precourt and her daughter, Ivy

As I’ve shared here…and shared again...one of my biggest pre-motherhood passions was theater. I was the teenage girl who stood in front of a mirror and choreographed dance numbers for fun on Friday nights and gave up my summers to rehearse 8 hours a day for musical productions. To say I was “a little bit bitten” by the theater bug would be like saying March in Michigan is “a little bit torture.” No, it was full-on obsession.

When I met Stephanie Precourt–many of you will know her as the cute-beyond-belief creator of Adventures in Babywearing–I knew I’d like her because we had so much in common (large families with one girl after several boys, similar parenting styles, we even live near one another!) But after meeting Steph and having a few conversations it came out that we have even more in common than I knew: we are both theater lovers who had put that part of ourselves on hold to raise our families. And while we both love our families and wouldn’t change anything for the world, still…we both miss our pre-motherhood passion.

Or should I say ‘missed’? This May, Steph is producing and directing the Valparaiso, Indiana production of the Listen To Your Mother show (created by the also incredibly awesome and talented Ann Imig)–and I’ll be one of the cast members, reading an essay I wrote about what I learned about motherhood while attending a mom & baby yoga class.

I was so impressed by Steph’s initiative and guts, producing a whole show all by herself after years away from the theater. It’s such a fantastic illustration that moms can pursue their passions when the season is right, even after time away. Stephanie very graciously answered a few questions about her theater background, motherhood, and how she got involved in this new production–I hope you’ll find it as inspiring as I did.

Meagan: Can you tell me about the role theater played in your life pre-motherhood? How did it make you feel back in those days….did you think it would always be part of you?

Stephanie: I grew up in the theatre. From as far back as I can remember I was in church plays and musicals as my Mom was usually the director. Then in third grade I got involved in a children’s community theatre guild and was hooked. I just knew I was meant to be on stage. I was involved in theater in high school and college, as well as community productions. I went to college in Chicago with the idea that I would someday have my own children’s theater. Then, like life happens, I got caught up in other things and grew farther away from my theater dreams.

" I hit a point in my life where it was increasingly important to me that my children see me doing something I love outside of our family/home." -Stephanie Precourt, Adventures in Babywearing

Meagan: And then you had children, and like many of us a lot of your pre-motherhood self got put on the back burner. Did you miss the theater? Did you find yourself, like me, sniffling over Youtube videos of productions just knowing that would never be you again…ahem…I mean, tell me how it felt for YOU.

Stephanie: I think because theater feels so much a part of me, like another limb, I would feel wistful for the days I had the freedom to commit to hours and hours of late rehearsals and performances. I couldn’t *not* feel it, but I tried to hide it and ignore it. Especially being an attached parent and breastfeeder, I felt like there was no marriage between babies and theater. And I always thought I won out of the deal, because here I am with my four beautiful babies. I mean, I felt like I had to choose. In the back of my mind I always thought, maybe when they are all grown up… but then I’ll no longer play the younger roles; I’ll be the old lady they need to cast! Or maybe the director.

Meagan: Ha! I can relate, there. I remember I had the exact same thoughts when I was younger, “Well, I can always do theater when the kids are bigger, but then I won’t be able to play the ingenue or the young romantic lead, I’ll be…the old lady.” Of course, in my head back then, the “old lady” roles were anything 40+. At some point I stopped being disappointed about that and started looking forward to it!

Stephanie: I totally know what you’re saying, and actually as I’ve matured I realize–whether in watching movies or live theater or even reading books, etc.–I find the older, more seasoned characters the ones I now want to play. Funny how it works out that way.

"I know without a doubt that after seeing this performance, everyone will be blown away."

Meagan: So now you’re getting back into the theater, with this production of “Listen To Your Mother.” What made you decide to take the plunge and re-acquaint yourself with this important part of your life? Did you feel any hesitation or face down any obstacles? Did you feel the need to justify it to yourself or your family?

Stephanie: I basically jumped in head first, eyes closed! But I am so glad I did. I think I just knew I had to do this. And the timing was right. I hit a point in my life where it was increasingly important to me that my children see me doing something I love outside of our family/home. Upon viewing last year’s Listen To Your Mother show, I immediately contacted Ann and wanted to be involved. It more than spoke to me, it breathed inside of me. I feel a lot of hesitation and obstacles AFTER the fact- just because it’s hard work and a ton of pressure to make sure it all works out okay. I mean, it’s all on me! But, not everything you love and succeed at in life comes easy. This is all well worth it, and the harder I fight against the pressure, the prouder I am of what I’ve accomplished. It’s no small feat, and I am doing it. I am so thrilled that I can combine my two “choices”- motherhood and theater (on top of writing.) It’s basically a dream! But it’s real. And I think some people might not take me seriously at first but it’s only because they might not understand the project. I know without a doubt that after seeing the performance, everyone will be blown away. I am banking on this.

Thank you so much for joining us today, Steph! I know you’re right that Listen To Your Mother will be a huge success–and if you are anywhere near the greater Chicago area, I hope you will come see us in action at 7 PM CT on Saturday, May 7.

Okay, readers, time for you to jump in: what pre-motherhood passions, hobbies or interests have you put on the back burner? Is there a way to re-introduce them to your life now?

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Brett Paesel March 25, 2011 at 6:11 pm

I loved this interview. It’s so important to find a way to follow your passions even after you’ve had children. I was an actress but left it for writing and never looked back. But even when I had two babies, my husband would watch the kids for three hours on a Saturday so that I could go to a cafe and write. It was slow going, but it was very satisfying and really is how I ultimately switched careers. Now that my children are older, I tend to be home at night with them and I’m trying to figure out a way to pursue a dream of taking a ceramics class. We’ll see. But congratulations to both of you for finding ways to pursue your passions! And good luck with the show.

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Tracey - JustAnotherMommyBlog March 25, 2011 at 6:43 pm

I would so love to get back into the theater. Doing ANYTHING. A small part, a tree, the person who holds up the wall. Anything.

I miss it, too. I finally see a point where I might be able to swing it and now? Now I’m scared again. Damnit. I thought I had gotten over the audition fright? Stupid auditions. Can’t they just watch me perform in front of my bathroom mirror? I’m really great in my mirror. :)

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Leah March 26, 2011 at 4:02 am

This is great! (And Valpo! My alma mater! :)) I have told my husband that once the kids are all weaned (or weaned enough that they don’t need me physically there), I’m taking a night a week for choral singing again. (Probably at Valpo. Heh.) I am pretty much ok with having to be the most essential person for a few years of the kids’ lives, but I can see myself already really looking forward to the years when I’m just not QUITE so crucial.

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Adventures In Babywearing March 26, 2011 at 6:12 am

Thank you so much, Meagan- just talking with you about it is such a re-affirmation for me. It’s so exciting, too, because I think we get so caught up in motherhood that we don’t even realize there is so much still ahead.

Steph

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Ann's Rants March 26, 2011 at 6:20 am

Wonderful interview, and extremely validating and inspiring. You are both incredible, incredibly women.

xo

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Stefan March 26, 2011 at 7:38 pm

Way to go pulling off the return. Me I am still slogging away with the 5am scribble before kids get up and rebounding from recent no thank you letter that didn’t jive with the playwriiting comeback I had planned in my head. Important I guess to try to remember the joy of each step – the creating, the risking, the hoping, the hanging in there, and not just the triumph and applause when it all comes together though that is certainly sweet too.

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Holly March 26, 2011 at 8:11 pm

What an inspiring story. I am certainly trying to make sure that I also fulfill my own dreams, while making my kid’s dreams come true, too. I’m also a total theater buff but have never figured out how to work in it. Instead I am a spectator and I review plays, loving every minute. I am in awe of you both for going to work on such an amazing play. I hope it comes to NYC!

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Erin March 27, 2011 at 5:32 am

What an inspiration you ladies are! After years of wondering how to incorporate my “old life” of singing and songwriting into my mom world, I got in touch with my old producer and we’ll be in the studio creating again in the next few weeks. I’m a giddy girl just thinking about it and excited to introduce my kids to a magical world of making music!

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Vanessa @ Strickly Speaking March 27, 2011 at 10:45 am

Oh I loved this interview (I love interviews!) and I really admire and love Stephanie – I am so inspired by her decision to put together this show and I’m so excited to hear all about how it turns out!
Oh I love the arts. Singing, dancing (although I am hopelessly UNco-ordinated), acting – oh acting. I love acting. Or, I used to. :)
Photography, outdoor sports that involve BIG things like the ocean or a mountain or a cave – something that makes me see how BIG the world is, how amazing and awe-inspiring it all is.
Cooking, baking, things that involve the senses in an almost overwhelming way.
I truly love to experience LIFE and I hope that I can communicate that to my boys.

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Marketing Mommy March 27, 2011 at 7:03 pm

A wonderful interview between two of my favorite mom bloggers. I agree it’s important to show your children what mom can be beyond “mommy.” I love hearing my girls describe me to others: “she works in a big building, she’s a roller skater, and she made my hat!”

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Christine March 28, 2011 at 10:36 am

I really relate to this post, especially the part where Stephanie says it was important for her that her children see her pursuing something exciting to her and outside the home. That is a big motivator for me too. I’m doing the same thing over here in Brooklyn. I make progress in fits and starts but one of the things that keeps me trying is that I know my kids are watching and learning from my experience.

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Joni March 28, 2011 at 12:56 pm

I am going back to school at 34. I can’t expect my daughter to push herself when she sees mommy working at dead end minimum wage jobs. Best of luck in this production, for all of you!

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Ally April 1, 2011 at 11:25 am

I wanted to be in musical theatre for my entire life, just like my Broadway actress mom except I was going to keep doing it and not quit to have a family…till sophomore year of college when I realized that my boyfriend was going to be my husband and I didn’t want to live on the road. I did two college productions after we got married, so I could keep the scholarship I was so proud of…and then I graduated and it stopped. And we have two babies and we’re not done. And my voice has matured and gotten powerful but I can’t even sing on the worship team on a regular basis, because I have a tiny baby who can’t be away from me that long (though have I taken him to a rehearsal and nursed him while singing an unfamiliar song, in Spanish, in harmony, with no music in front of me? You betcha, and I felt awesome). My husband would like me to get back into music and theatre, but realistically, when is that going to happen? I do feel like I’ve lost that part of me.

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