The Philadelphia Women's Theatre Festival is coming Aug. 2-5. The theme: Motherhood in Theatre. And organizers want to make it easy and comfortable for mothers to come and enjoy.

So at this festival of readings of plays about motherhood, there will be on-site child care, for theatergoers and theater-workers alike. Music Theatre Philly is the venue for the festival, now in its fourth year, and the downstairs is being turned into a babysitting studio and theater.

While adults enjoy a reading of a grown-up show up in the main performance room (suggested admission $10), the kids can be watching — and taking part in — their own play, the interactive The King Who Wanted to Clean the Moon, by Ashley Kerns.

Volunteers will supervise the children, says Polly Edelstein, cofounder and director of the festival. "We're working with educators to design some activities. There will be crafts and games, and the show itself is interactive."

She says the play is suitable for children ages 5-12. A child ticket to The King Who Wanted to Clean the Moon is $10; a child ticket to The King plus child care is $15; and an adult ticket to The King is $10. Children under 5 are free but must be accompanied by an adult.

Playwright Ashley Kerns based her play “The King Who Wanted to Clean the Moon” on a project she did in third grade. She still has it.
Courtesy of the Philadelphia Women's Theatre Festival
Playwright Ashley Kerns based her play “The King Who Wanted to Clean the Moon” on a project she did in third grade. She still has it.

Edelstein says it's part of a national trend, as  theaters try to make themselves parent- and child-friendly. "All our events this year will be open to any of our patrons with children," she says. "If you have small children, or if you're breastfeeding, it's all good. We're trying to make it easier for any of our patrons to bring in kids – mothers and dads alike – and trying to make the theater a more welcoming place."

This effort is for the artists, too. "So many theatrical artists, so many artists, are also parents," Edelstein says, "and so many of them say their work takes on new depth and richness thanks to their experience as parents. So we don't want to lose them, or their work, during this important time in their lives. We want to support them in both their art and their lives as parents."

A reading at the 2017 Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival.
Philadelphia Women's Theatre Festival
A reading at the 2017 Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival.

In this effort, the festival is partnering with the Parent Artist Advocacy League for the Performing Arts. The league held a forum here in June titled Motherhood in Theatre: Breaking the Silence, on the lack of discussion about the issue of parenthood among actors and other theater professionals. And the league and the festival are calling Aug. 2, when the festival starts, International Mother Artist Day.

"We're just trying to normalize parenthood in the arts," Edelstein says.

This year's plays are Water in My Hands by Emma Gibson (6:30 p.m., Aug. 2), Brown-Eyed Rapunzel by Monica Flory (6:30 p.m., Aug. 3), Zen and the Art of Mourning a Mother by Emma Goldman-Sherman (3 p.m., Aug. 4), and Refrigerator Mother by Alessandra Most (3 p.m., Aug. 5).

Theater

The Philadelphia Women's Theatre Festival

    • Aug. 2-5, Music Theatre Philly, 262 S. 12th Street. Tickets: Pay what you can; suggested donation $10. Information: phillywomenstheatrefest.org.