Playing a new role

. December 20, 2012.


It’s understood that actors play a wide variety of roles. In the past thirteen years Carla Milarch has acted in more than fifteen plays at Ann Arbor’s Performance Network, but she has also worn many other hats there. She’s directed plays, has served as sound designer, dramaturg, development director, executive director, and is currently the Network’s associate artistic director. And, four years ago she took on a brand new (and perhaps her most challenging) role to date. She became a mother.

After her son William was born four years ago, Milarch tried to continue juggling the multiple tasks of her life and found there was not enough time for them all. So she stopped acting. “I was executive director then, running the theater — that’s a 24 hour job. And I had this Mommy job that is a 24 hour job, and I had a job that I missed terribly, which is acting,” Milarch says. “I finally had to figure out what I wanted. I decided that I wanted to bring acting back into my life — I didn’t feel that I could go much longer without it — and that I wanted to give more time to my family.” 

With support from the people at the Network, and from her husband, actor Phil Powers, she made some changes. “I would never be able to do what I’ve done without him at home. He’s been primary caregiver. We’ve never had William in daycare. A lot of how we are able to do everything we do as a family is because Phil is there with William at home.”

This fall Milarch resumed acting, playing Amanda in a five-week run of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie. And recently, she even added playwright to her list of accomplishments when she wrote Wolverine Will, a musical about Michigan history. It’s one of four plays for children that the Network will present as part of its 2012-2013 season Saturday Series for Kids, and will feature her husband Phil in the title role when it’s performed on February 23. Milarch loves introducing children to theater. “Their bodies relax. They go into a state that I believe has been around ever since storytellers began telling stories,” Milarch says. “It’s a vital state of relaxed engagement and it’s one that we need more and more in this sensory-overloaded world.” 

It’s not just Milarch’s schedule and priorities that have changed; she’s noticed a big difference in her acting, too. “Loving a child is such a full and complete and unconditional kind of love that I think it opens up a new part of you,” she says. “As an artist, anytime you open up a new part of yourself, that’s a part that you can bring to your work. I have this very solid line between when I was not a mother and acting, and when I am a mother and acting. I’m so much more emotional and things are flowing out of me that I would have to really work to find before.”

The Saturday Series for Kids next performance, of Jamie and Jordan, will be Wednesday, January 26 at 1pm. $7 children, $10 adults. Appropriate for children up to grade 5. For a complete schedule of children’s and adult theater at Performance Network, and to reserve tickets, please visit