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  • Tamara von Werthern

blog 2 - it’s getting real, baby!

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

Hello! Welcome to my second blog about my play Baby Dolls nearing its R&D week. When I wrote the first one, we’d just received the funding from Arts Council England and I was raring to get going, and now we’re in the very thick of it. And it’s so exciting!!!

On Wednesday evening (just after bedtime) I held the first creative writing workshop in our series of three, and it was a bit of a revelation. True to the themes of the play, this one was about how to combine motherhood and creative writing and we invited mothers and those contemplating parenthood to sign up. I spent a long time thinking about writing exercises that would feel both productive, encourage good time management and would also dig into some of the themes of motherhood. In the event we had 12 women participating and the focus was excellent, especially considering that some of them were writing with small children sitting on their laps. We used writing prompts with slightly triggering words such as ‘Rest’ and ‘Mother’ and wrote to time limits, we composed letters to our children about what we do when we’re alone, we even wrote a short play using our before motherhood self and our after motherhood self as opposing characters. It was a lot of fun. We also had a chance to talk about our concerns and practical limitations on our writing posed by our situation and how to make the most out of in some cases very limited time. It felt good to be able to tell those with toddlers that it does get easier, that children really do grow so quickly and time will come back to us. It turned out that the biggest threat to our creativity most of us had

looming over was household chores. There is a very easy solution for this, which is: lower your standards. After all, you’ll feel better with a novel under your belt or sitting at the premiere of your play with a floor that hasn’t been hoovered in a while, than sitting in a sparkling house feeling a bit unfulfilled. That might sound glib, but I think it’s very important to take the space and time you need, and to assuage those feelings of selfishness and guilt. Writing is an important valve and will improve our mental health at a pressurised time if we allow ourselves the time and space to do it in.

It was a great evening, and to me it also felt like a homecoming. I realised that for years I have hidden the fact that I’m a mother in the theatre world. I was worried it might make people think I wouldn’t be able to deliver to deadlines, that I wasn’t as reliable or available for meetings etc than other writers who didn’t have children. I know for myself that that isn’t true, but it’s still an assumption that’s out there and that I myself battle with as well. Hearing other mother writer stories and meeting so many of them in a safe space felt very empowering and reassuring.

Our casting call for the R&D week went out a couple of weeks ago, and in this we were asking for women to come forward who had some experience of motherhood, or strong reasons why they either don’t want to or can’t become a mother, and have engaged deeply with the subject, as well as experience of climate-change related work, both in the field and in theatre. We have been overwhelmed by both the quantity as well as the quality of the applicants and have been deeply touched by the personal stories shared with us for this. We received 80 applications and will audition 25 of these next week. Due to the very narrow specifications of the casting call, it was incredibly hard to make choices, as everyone applying had a good and valuable reason for why they should be in the room. I am very excited to meet the 25 applicants who will be offered an audition in Soho, London as well as on Zoom for those further afield next week.

Knowing that there is so much interest is a huge boost at this stage of the project, and we are confident we will be able to put together an excellent cast for the week which will take place at Greenwich Theatre 26-30 June with two sharings on the Friday.

Every step we take towards this, also brings the long-term goal of a production closer, and it’s very exciting to see this take shape.

Next week will also be the first meeting with our environmental consultant Danielle Pipe from Julie’s Bicycle, and I can’t wait to learn about how to make our production as green and sustainable as possible.

In preparation for this, I have looked through The Green Book, and what I took away from this was that having a common declared purpose as a group gives you so much more momentum in your actions being as green as possible. It’s hard to sustain environmentally friendly living in a vacuum, as an individual. I go through phases, where I am really good, and then I lapse again. I have to remind myself to make green choices, to live as lightly as possible. Having a manifesto and a goal makes this easier to sustain, or at least that’s what I hope. It’s also socially unacceptable to tell others to be greener and to hold them to your own standard (lacking as that might be in other areas, we all have blind spots) – having an outside set of rules to follow takes away this awkwardness, and that’s what excites me about it.

I will report more on the environmental aspects and what we’ve learned both from our sessions with Danielle as well as putting these principles into practice during the R&D week in my next blog.

See you on the other side!


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