Diapers and greasepaint: A Broadway couple raise a baby

AP News
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Posted: Mar 19, 2015 9:08 AM
Diapers and greasepaint: A Broadway couple raise a baby

NEW YORK (AP) — Plenty of famous people show up backstage at the Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway. But only one is guaranteed to have everyone cooing over her.

That would be Lena Renee Kready, the 21-month-old daughter of dad Jeff Kready, starring in "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder" and mom Nikki Renee Daniels, starring in "The Book of Mormon" a block away.

The married actors juggle their eight-show-a-week schedules with being first-time parents, coordinating baby visits between matinees, rising early despite their late night jobs and having to handle missed naps, ear infections and sniffles.

"Whatever our grand design is for the day, she has different ideas," jokes Kready about Lena. "There are some days where coming to the theater to do this show almost feels like the easy part."

The family has adjusted to the rhythms of Broadway: Five nights a week, a babysitter puts Lena to bed just as her parents hit the stage. Mondays are when the whole family can be together because their shows are dark. Saturdays are rough — both parents have two shows each.

"Parents have been doing this — raising children and going to stressful work environments — for millennia," said Kready. "So the days when we take ourselves too seriously, we take a step back and realize this is just what parenthood is and you have to deal with it."

Lena seems to be coping well. She babbles contentedly on a toy-filled sofa in her father's dressing room at the Walter Kerr, where the Topeka, Kansas-raised actor has taken over the role of Monty Navarro.

The little girl is clearly adored by the cast and crew, with many people popping in just to play with her. She has run the theater's sound board, pushed buttons to make the scenery move and been onstage, where she happily sang.

"If I have to get ready and warm up and stretch or whatever, I can hand her off. Growing up in Kansas, that is how we did things. You pass off your kids to your neighbor and your friends," he said.

"We don't do that in New York because we don't trust anybody. But in my theater, I trust and love everyone. We are one family in this building."

Kready and Daniels met — naturally — on Broadway. They were in the cast of the 2006 revival of "Les Miserables." Daniels, an Atlanta native, had already amassed a long list of Broadway credits — including "Aida" and "Nine" — but "Les Miz" was Kready's debut and the reason he moved to New York.

A mutual friend asked Daniels to look out for Kready and show him the ropes. When they met, she told him, "I'm just here to be your big sister." They still laugh about that.

The couple bonded over backstage rounds of poker and started dating after Daniels left the show. They were married in 2009 and Lena arrived in June 2013.

On the day they brought her home from the hospital, neither had a steady gig. The next day, Kready got a final callback for "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder."

"Since we've had her, I feel like more opportunities have come our way. We just had to roll with it," said Daniels, who started playing Nabulungi in "The Book of Mormon" last summer. "I thought having a baby, things would slow down."

Lena has, of course, changed their lifestyle. They used to stay up still buzzing after shows until 3 a.m. or go on tour without another thought. Now they are on diaper duty and must keep an eye out for good play spaces. But having her has also made them feel more responsible.

"It really is different now," said Kready. "I feel like before, 'You know what, if we were unemployed, it didn't matter. We're actors. That's what we do. We'll survive.' But now there's this different kind of pressure to do well at auditions because you want to do well for her."

Lena's parents' Broadway theaters are connected by an alley and most nights her show is finished five minutes before his. They meet up, commute home together on the subway and try to squeeze in one episode of "House of Cards" in before sleep.

After all, their pint-sized alarm clock is up by 8 or so.

"We had our fun being a married couple. We got to travel and do whatever we wanted. But now the real fun begins," said Kready as a crew member came to play with his adorable daughter.

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Online:

http://www.agentlemansguidebroadway.com

http://www.bookofmormonbroadway.com

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits