BWW Blog: Is There a Pressure to Create?
Being in the theater community right now has been a lifeline for many students. Creators have banded together to produce some incredible works within the confines of a shelter-in-place, providing a sense of normalcy for many theater students. We may not be able to go to the theater or attend our normal classes, but there is plenty going on in the theater community for collegiate theater students to engage with and learn from. For many, it's what is keeping them sane.
However, I know I can't be the only one who looks at my social media every day and feels absolutely inundated with the amount of art people are producing at this time. My Facebook friend wrote a play. The Twitter account I follow shared a link to an innovative digital performance. A masterclass was canceled in-person and is now a live webinar. I'm so happy for the people who are using this time to put together some amazing work, but I can't help but scroll and feel like somehow, I as an artist am using this time in quarantine wrong.
Am I supposed to be creating? Am I just a leech if I am consuming media that everyone else is producing without contributing anything? Am I less of an artist because I can't think of anything overwhelming than creating any art at this time?
It evokes the same feeling of discovering you've missed a class assignment and showing up the next day completely lost in the class discussion. I understand pieces of what people are experiencing through the art they are currently making, but I have no way of understanding it for myself. For me, creating does not feel like a relief so much as a burden right now.
And yet I feel this inexplicable pressure that I should be doing it.
I think as college students, the desire to learn is ever-present in those who are truly passionate about their major. On the arts campus, that seems to reign true. I should want to use theater as an artistic outlet in these difficult times; after all, I am passionate about it.
The question I ask next is this: Is there an unspoken pressure for student artists to create in a time that we are being instructed by our professors to take care of ourselves?
I think the answer lies in the fact that for many drama students, theater is self-care. I know when I'm upset, I turn to theater to make me smile. It's something that never fails to bring me pure happiness in time that I need it most. I take a step back, watch a performance that takes me out of the circumstances of my current situation, and at the end of the day, I know everything is going to be okay.
Nowadays, I process my stress differently. I'm watching a billion recorded performances for a grade in many of my classes, and somehow, it's taken the self-care aspect out (at least temporarily).
Now I'm seeing the entire theater community engaging in the creation of wonderful, inspiring new works, but I don't want to create. I want to find new self-care methods, adjust to online classes, and keep my head on straight.
To anyone feeling that same sort of pressure, you are no less valid as an artist because you are coping in a different way than the majority at this time. You are not "behind" in learning if you chose to take an easy semester because you anticipated this difficult transition. You do not have to pour yourself into a creative project to feel productive during quarantine. You are allowed to cope with this as you wish, and as an artist, that does not mean you have to produce anything.
Create if it helps you. I see so many beautiful new works out there that happened as a result of this shutdown, and I understand that for many, this may be a connection to fellow artists in a world that feels so disjointed now. Create if it makes these uncertain times less worrisome. Whatever you choose to do, make sure to take care of yourself.