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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Bringing up baby on the Fringe: theatre artists take their newborn daughter on the road

Theatre artists Stephanie Morin-Robert and Alistair Knowles embark on an 18 month adventure with baby Olive in tow

The story of a theatre artists going on the road is usually nothing of note. The story of married theatre artists going on the road with a newborn is another matter.

Such is the case for new mom, Stephanie Morin-Robert. Having given birth to daughter Olive just two months ago, Morin-Robert is about to embark on a tour with her husband and fellow artist, Alistair Knowles, that will take them across Canada and into the United States, with baby Olive in tow.

Kicking off the tour in Vancouver, Morin-Robert will perform Blindside in April. The true story of losing her left eye to retinoblastoma at the age of two, the one-woman show picks up at age seven as she moves to a new town.

“It’s at that point when I have to change schools and make new friends that I realize that I have something different about myself,” she explains. “So, it’s about me coming to terms with that and then wielding that into not a disadvantage, but a superpower. It’s a comedy about that transition in my life.”

The first time Morin-Robert will present Blindside in Vancouver since moving here a few years ago from Montreal, it felt like the right show to kick-off the tour. It also has an even bigger personal meaning for daughter Olive.

“Once I was pregnant, my partner Alistair and I met a genetic counselor to see what the chances were of me carrying the gene and whether I would pass it on to Olive,” she says. “So, we did that blood work and the results were great, and so I don’t carry the gene to pass onto Olive.”

While the couple will need to continue to have Olive’s eyes checked regularly, it was with much relief the blood tests revealed things are looking good for their daughter.

Following her Vancouver shows, Morin-Robert takes to the road with her newborn, along with her partner (and fellow performer), Alastair Knowles. The trio will visit places like Powell River, Nelson and Cranbrook in British Columbia, as well as Fringe festivals in Orlando, Winnipeg, Toronto and Edmonton.

“There’s about a month in June that we’ll be coming back home for a little break, but I would say we will be pretty much on tour for the next year and a half,” she says.

Not that Morin-Robert isn’t prepared for a grueling 18 months on tour, as she was performing right up to her third trimester, although in hindsight it isn’t something she would necessarily recommend.

“I ended up finding it quite challenging because I was doing two shows a day, doing a pretty extensive Fringe tour with four different shows,” she says.

But being pregnant and having a new born are two different things, and with the help of her husband, family and friends while on the road she is prepared.

“Because both Alistair and I are performers, we’re able to accommodate our touring schedules so that we’re able to support each other and tour together as a family,” she says. “Which to me is quite exciting as I don’t want my personal family life to be separate from my work life, because they’re very related.”

The family/work relationship comes from the fact that, in addition to her own one-woman shows, Morin-Robert also performs with her husband in Bushel and Peck.

There are also the practicalities of being a new mom, which includes her commitment to continue breast feeding, which is ironically one of her fears about performing over the coming months.

“Yeah, I’m worried that my breasts might leak through my costume, that I’ll be tired, that there’ll be a bit of a lack of sleep because how much sleep I get is kind of quite unpredictable these days,” she says.

But while there are uncertainties in going on the road with a new born, Morin-Robert is also excited about the possibilities.

“I think we’re going to roll with the punches,” she says with a laugh. “We’re as old as parents as she is old in life, so we’re all going to learn together as we navigate through this pretty epic journey.”

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