Katie Rose Clarke, Alison Luff, and More on Taking on Broadway and Motherhood

This Broadway season, Alison Luff took on two simultaneous leading roles. Not only is she starring as Mrs. Walker in The Who’s TOMMY at the Nederlander Theatre, she also booked the part of new mom.

Her son, Levi, is 3 months old. She has starred in TOMMY for two of them. “I had a lot of mixed feelings taking on the role so soon after giving birth and as a first-time mom,” Luff tells Broadway Direct. “However, with the encouragement of [my husband] Matthew, my family, and incomparable creative team, I took the leap. Now, being in the swing of eight shows a week, I am glad I did.”

The musical’s choreographer, Lorin Latarro, mom of 6-year-old Arden, often offered advice and a shoulder to lean on during Luff’s early days of rehearsal with a newborn in tow.

Alison Luff and her son, Levi.
Alison Luff and her son, Levi.

In its annual Mother’s Day tradition, Broadway Direct spoke with theater moms — in addition to Luff and Latarro, we chatted with Merrily We Roll Alongs Katie Rose Clarke (mom of Eleanor, 5, Jack, 3, and Mabel, 1); Chicagos Racher Schur Chase (mom of Aiden, 2, and Sawyer, 6 months); and Hell’s Kitchens Donna Vivino (mom of Hendrix, 8) all about their roles on and off the stage.

How do you balance a Broadway show with motherhood?

LORIN LATARRO: I always wanted to be a mom and wanted to work on Broadway, so though my day is busy, I’m very happy. When I am not working, I am fully engaged with my family. Surprise pickups and special mommy-and-daughter days are my favorite. Though tech and previews are a busy time, once a show opens, I like to have some downtime when I can focus solely on being a mom.

Lorin Latarro and her daughter, Arden.
Lorin Latarro and her daughter, Arden.

KATIE ROSE CLARKE: I pour all of myself into those two roles. Of course it can be exhausting both emotionally and physically, but it’s my two favorite things to do in the whole world. My husband, Chris, is the greatest dad and most incredible partner, and without him I couldn’t do it. It’s a lot of planning and scheduling to make sure we both have coverage for our upcoming workweeks, and handoffs covered. Then, once we have a week laid out, I’m able to take on what things could pop up along the way.

ALISON LUFF: I personally found balancing the rehearsal and tech process a lot more challenging than eight shows a week. I started rehearsals for TOMMY four weeks postpartum. I was fortunate to have previously done the show at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago while I was pregnant, and that certainly made the whole notion seem more achievable. The only way I was able to balance the grueling schedule was with the help and unwavering support of my incredible husband, Matthew Magnusson, and my parents, who took advantage of retirement to travel cross-country to help. My mom or Matthew would take turns bringing my son, Levi, to the rehearsal studios or the theatre so I could feed him or be with him when I wasn’t on stage. My dad or Matthew would cook me breakfast and my mom would cook me a healthy dinner every night.

DONNA VIVINO: Balancing eight shows a week with motherhood is absolutely a juggling act. I am a single mother, which makes it even more challenging. I have become insanely organized. I have endless lists, calendars, and have learned how to prioritize tasks. It’s also important to carve out quality time for your children amid a busy schedule — no matter what field you are in! Quality time doesn’t have to be extravagant; even simple activities, like reading together or cooking a meal, can strengthen the bond. I am also kind to myself. I often have to remind myself that nobody is perfect, and it’s OK to ask for help when I need it.

Donna Vivino and her son, Hendrix.
Donna Vivino and her son, Hendrix. Photo by Bruce Glikas.

RACHEL SCHUR CHASE: Naps, coffee, Advil, a lot of mindfulness, great babysitters, and snacks.

What is a typical day like for you with your kids?

RSC: The day starts around 6 a.m. I’m working on making it a tad later. We do bottles, breakfast, and lots of cuddling. My oldest will go to his little school program, my youngest will hopefully nap, and I’ll try to sneak in a workout or nap. I also am a social media manager and marketing director, so my day is full. I have to remember to eat, hydrate, and rest as much as possible before the show. As dinner time approaches, either an awesome babysitter shows up or my husband cooks something awesome, and I head to the theatre!

Rachel Schur Chase with her son.
Rachel Schur Chase with her son.

LL: We all wake up at 6:15 a.m. Arden is getting dressed all by herself now, and that’s a huge help! I take her to her bus stop by 7:15 a.m. Yes, often in my pajamas with a coffee mug in hand. I like to be home in time for dinner, bath, or bedtime. It’s always a special time. I love reading in bed with Arden and tucking her in to sleep. Then I head back to the show. I love working at night when I know she’s asleep!

AL: Levi usually wakes up about 6 a.m. for a feeding. Sometimes we both fall asleep on the job shortly after we start, but if we don’t we will just hang out and talk. If I have two shows or am extra sleepy, my husband will hang with him to give me an extra hour or two of sleep. Once Levi goes down for his first morning nap, I eat breakfast or shower. When he wakes, he usually needs to eat again, and then we try to get out of the house — my favorite excuse for going to the neighborhood bakery. When the weather is nice, we love going on epic walks and hanging with Daddy. When I get home from the show, Levi has already gone down for the night. I fix myself a snack, hang with my hubby, and then get ready for bed. Before bed, I give Levi a “dream feed” — a feeding without waking him up. I get him out of his crib with as little stimulation as possible and feed, burp him, kiss his little face a lot, and lay him back down. He usually only wakes up once in the middle of the night to eat.

Alison Luff with her son, Levi.
Alison Luff with her son, Levi.

DV: We don’t have shows on Mondays, so we always have Mommy Mondays and have fun routines that we both look forward to. We don’t do Taco Tuesday, but Mexican Mondays for our favorite cuisine. When my son is on a school schedule, I am always there to pick him up when I am able, have dinner ready for him, and then head to the theatre. Summers are the best because we can spend full mornings and afternoons together. Sometimes you get home from a show and will need an hour or two to decompress before getting to bed. Then you are up at 6 a.m. doing the morning school routine. But I have no problem waking up early to see my son. I love breakfast time and the morning routine because it is a ritual for us to have that precious time. If I need to nap later in the day, I have the opportunity to do that on some days if I don’t have a matinee or rehearsal, to catch up on sleep. Weekends are a bit different. On Saturdays he has piano lessons in the morning before the matinees. Sundays are usually just one show, and that is fantastic because I don’t leave for work until 1 p.m. or 1:30 p.m. and am home by 6 p.m. It’s a short workday.

KRC: I wake up around 6:15 a.m., when my husband leaves for work. My kids get up at 6:30 a.m. The first task is to get my oldest daughter off to school. After that morning dash, I let myself tuck into a cup of coffee and morning snuggle time with my younger two kids while we watch an episode or two of Bluey or Paw Patrol or Spider-Man or Daniel Tiger. With the later nights and early mornings, I’ve learned to allow myself that little bit of time in the morning to get going. Then, around 8:30-9 a.m., we head outside to play for as long as we can. My younger two kids still have nap/quiet time, which is when I get the house straightened up and can focus on whatever work I need to do — like this fun interview. My nanny usually comes in the afternoon. Around that time, I pick up my oldest daughter from school and get dinner ready. I have to leave for work right at their dinner time, so my nanny has dinner with the kids and gets them ready for bed. Chris can usually get home to tuck them in right at bedtime.

Katie Rose Clarke and her family.
Katie Rose Clarke and her family.

What is your good-night routine before evening shows?

AL: One thing I love about doing TOMMY is, for the most part, we have 7 p.m. curtains. I love this because it means I get home earlier, and it fares better with my baby’s schedule. Before I leave for the show I usually give Levi a bath and feed him. Sometimes I get to put him to sleep and sometimes he stays up and hangs with Daddy. When that’s the case, I usually FaceTime 15 minutes after I leave because I miss him already.

KRC: Our shows are at 7 p.m., so I leave around 6 p.m., which is when they’re having dinner with our nanny. So I only get to do the good-night routine a couple times a week. I do miss tucking them in at night, but we spend a ton of quality time together during the day. I also started setting aside Friday to be with my oldest daughter after school. I get the least amount of one-on-one time with her during the week, so we do something special on Friday after she gets out of school. It’s helpful to remember that it’s just for a season. Soon, the show will close, and I’ll be tucking them in again every night.

Katie Rose Clarke with her children.
Katie Rose Clarke with her children.

DV: Hell’s Kitchen mainly has 7 p.m. shows, so I am leaving earlier but home earlier as well. Thank God for FaceTime! We always say good night on FaceTime if I am at work. And on Fridays — also 7 p.m. shows — I sometimes let him stay up a tad later and get home in time for a tuck-in. Tuck-ins are wonderful!

RSC: We start dinner around 5:30 p.m., and I start getting my bag together and shower. We get the kiddos in the bath around 6:30 p.m. After bath, the youngest does a bottle either with me, sitter, or Dad, while the oldest does some independent play. I head to the theatre around 6:45–7 p.m. I like to be there with enough time to get a solid warm-up in. By 7:30 p.m., both boys are in bed and the stage manager is calling half hour!

Rachel Schur Chase
Rachel Schur Chase.

Do the kids ever see you working or come backstage to watch?

LL: Arden loves coming to rehearsal. She loves tech, but I recently realized it’s mostly because of all the candy jars on tech tables. Arden thinks she is the “real” pinball wizard and enjoyed playing with the child actors in TOMMY. She knows bits of choreography from all the shows, and the casts enjoy playing with her on breaks. It makes the room joyous!

RSC: Not yet. They are super young! Funnily enough, my oldest hates when I sing to him.

AL: Levi would occasionally come to the theatre during tech rehearsals for me to feed him or spend time with him. Now that we are in performances, he stays home and snoozes. He sometimes walks me to the theatre on matinee days.

Alison and Levi Luff with Adam Jacobs in rehearsal for <i>The Who's TOMMY.</i>
Alison and Levi Luff with Adam Jacobs in rehearsal for The Who’s TOMMY.

KRC: My oldest daughter is almost 6, and she watched the second act of the show when we were Off-Broadway. She loved it and is dying to see the whole thing, so we plan to get tickets for her to come with my husband before we close. Otherwise, they only really come to the theatre between shows on Saturdays when my husband can bring them. They love being at the theatre. We usually order hamburgers and play until I have to get ready for the second show of the day. And I believe it’s really great for them to see where Mommy goes every day. It’s a job that they can understand — playing pretend and singing on a stage.

DV: When we were doing Hell’s Kitchen at the Public Theater, my son saw me in the show and he also was here for the Broadway opening night. He has been to my dressing room before a show as well and knows what “Mommy’s office” looks like, complete with pictures of him, which I think helps him understand where I am and what I am doing.

What is one misconception about being a working mom in theater?

LL: I had this misconception that I had to separate my work and family life, but the truth is, being a mom makes my art more interesting. I don’t think I understood the world the way I do now. The danger, the joy, the sadness, and the beauty all are more vibrant as a mother.

AL: One misconception I had going into motherhood is that I would be tired all the time. And though I am tired and not sleeping nearly as much as I was before becoming a mother, I also have a lot more energy than I did before.

RSC: That it’s impossible! It’s actually awesome, because when the babies are young, you’re with them all day. Two-show days can be long, but it takes a little more effort to see each other. It’s possible. Tons of people do it!

Rachel Schur Chase.
Rachel Schur Chase.

DV: There is a misconception that pursuing a career in theater means sacrificing one’s role as a mother or that a working mom isn’t as committed to her career. This is very black-and-white thinking in my opinion and a bit misogynistic. When I was in Merrily We Roll Along in Los Angeles, directed by Michael Arden, I was breast-feeding during our rehearsals and tech. I was lucky to have such an incredible producing team and director who trusted me as a professional and also understood my needs as a nursing mother. I think within the industry, for many years, some may believe that working moms in theater have limited career opportunities due to the demands of parenting. As a single mother in theater, I am so grateful to be in Hell’s Kitchen because the show is about a teenage girl and her single mother who was an actress. I am so glad this story is being told. I truly believe things are changing and more of the industry has become understanding of the needs of all parents.

What is your best advice for other moms?

LL: You can do it all — just catch up on sleep once the show opens. It’s good for our children to see us work hard at something we love.

KRC: It’s OK to feel exhausted and sometimes drained. Feeling tired and overwhelmed does not mean you aren’t enjoying the present. It doesn’t mean you aren’t thankful for the present. It’s part of the present. It’s part of the season. You’re doing great.

Katie Rose Clarke with her son.
Katie Rose Clarke with her son.

DV: Take breath, ask for help when you need it, and don’t forgo naps!

AL: The only advice I would ever give to another mom is you probably need to drink more water. Oh, and you don’t have to ask permission to take a shower.