I was a theatre tragic through university. It took almost 3 years for me to get on the stage at uni, and once I started I could not stop. There was Street theatre, musicals, Greek Tragedy, Comedies, Jacobean Plays, new plays, old plays…. I acted. I produced. I directed. I did more theatre than study some years…. And after I finished uni, I didn’t give it up. We kept going, did a Melbourne Fringe show, did some Theatre in Education gigs and dreamed of taking over the world….

Back in 2002 I starred alongside The Mamanator, it was where we got to know each other many years before we started a romantic relationship. In fact, we got married on the stage of The Guild Theatre at Melbourne University where we’d been in a play a year from 2004 to 2008.

Then our group dissolved, as happens. People left for greener pastures overseas. There were weddings and baby showers, and suddenly life was full of other priorities. Nights were long, sleep was lacking and attention was demanded. And there was so much love, so much joy and so much happiness but so little time…

Earlier this year an opportunity glimmered in the deep as I swam my way through a clumsy metaphor. The Mamanator glimpsed a Facebook post and tagged me in. Castlemaine Theatre Company were looking for a 6th and final cast member to their upcoming show The Peach Season, and I fit the criteria.

Could it work? I mulled the idea. Could I actually be involved in my first post-dadhood theatre production? My head span with thoughts of stage lights, working with actors and rehearsing. My head simultaneously filled with thoughts of missed bedtime kisses, missed dinners, missed stories and weekends lost to tech runs, dress rehearsals and more.

We discussed it, The Mamanator thought I should do it, and so did I. I responded to the post.

A few days later I walked into Castlemaine Public Library  to talk to the director of Castlemaine Theatre Company’s The Peach Season. And suddenly I was in the theatre world again. Rehearsals were two nights a week, with Sunday rehearsals starting as we got closer to opening night. There were 9 shows, tech rehearsals, dress runs and all that malarkey.

It wasn’t long before the world “rehearsal” was embedded in my children’s vocabulary. And it was often met with dread. I tried my absolute hardest to have the kids asleep before I left the house to go workshop/rehearse/play in the local scout hall, and as the days got shorter it generally worked. But still there were nights when The Lad was not asleep by the time I left. When he bawled and demanded “DADDY”, howling “I WANT DADDY!” as I slunk around the house trying to gather my materials so I could leave.

There were nights where this little ritual (which did not happen all that often) made me practise a “resignation speech” in the car on the drive down to the scout hall in Castlemaine. The speech was forgotten after about 5 minutes of rehearsing as I flexed my actor-muscles and the days worries kind of faded away. The speech was remembered later as I drove home, the guilt set back in and I wondered how I could de-prioritise my children so quickly.

But, honestly, I’ve loved doing this. I’ve loved taking some time to do something for me. I’ve loved connecting with people and making friends outside of work and parent-y groups. I’ve loved re-finding an outlet for my artistic side (it has meant I’ve written a lot less recently…. as I’m sure you’ve all noticed). I’ve loved getting back to something I did before being dad and re-finding the joy in it. In a not-at-all guilt assuaging way, I think that when we take a bit of time to make ourselves happy it rubs off on all aspects of our lives, including parenting.

And yet… I’m not actually sure I was ready. This wasn’t an intentional jaunt back into the realm of drama, more of a quirky and fatalistic collapse onto the stage. Like tripping on a gate and landing in a field (in-joke). I think it may be a bit more time before I find myself on stage again… Although if I know myself I probably can’t stay away for too long….

Besides I made an agreement with The Mamantor. She gets to go in the next show. She should. She’s quite good.

And the kids? They survived. Sure they hated it at times, but they seem to have forgiven me. I still feel a slight sting when The Lad comes into our room at night and goes round to The Mamanator’s side instead of mine, but there’s time for us to have plenty more cuddles before he outgrows them.

Who knows, maybe one day I’ll do a show that the kids can actually come see.