BWW Blog: In Defense of Rest
Hello BroadwayWorld. I am going to be honest, writing this right now feels a little odd. With so much going on in the world, and so many other stories to be told and amplified, my perspective on theatre school feels...a little bit small. However, I also know that perhaps this message is one some people may need to hear at this moment, and so I will share.
Resting. A rather controversial topic in the arts world, and especially in the arts education world. We as theatre students live a fast-paced and busy life. For example, I take anywhere from 18-24 credit hours a semester (or more), I work multiple on campus jobs, and I am regularly in shows on and off campus. Often, on the advice of professors and faculty, students are widely encouraged to work very hard, practice every day for multiple hours a day if possible (and as I'm sure we all know, this is not always a realistic goal). We also are expected to maintain a certain physical image, so working out and going to the gym are often a priority for us, not simply a luxury, and to top it all of maintaining a well-rounded social circle / mental and social health is something to be worked on. After all, isn't that what college is all about?
And to a degree, it is. College is about forming habits, working hard, and getting a degree. However, especially for theatre students, college is the beginning of a very long marathon that artists run for the duration of their career. How to pace oneself, and taking calculated steps to set ourselves up well for the future. One thing that is not often discussed is how to build in responsible rest to your routine. Taking a break is often encouraged in my program, but the how and when of it all are such personal questions that it is hard to address, so it often is not. This tends to create a stigma around the idea of taking a break or resting, which is very unfortunate indeed.
Also, big, long breaks just...are not a thing in today's society. For most working professionals this is true, but usually theatre students are expected to quite literally take their work home with them, take it everywhere with them, since work is our body and our art. Also, we are encouraged (expected) to work over the summer in regional theatres, or at theme parks, or just actively be involved in the arts year-round. Building these habits and these relationships with other working professionals is essential to the industry. However, so is resting.
Resting is radical, especially in the modern #grind society, where constant work and exhaustion are praised and taking mindful rest is considered "lazy". Singular days of rest are important. Sometimes, even longer than that can be more beneficial to our artistry than practicing for four hours every single day is. For instance, last summer, I didn't work in a theatre. I didn't sing or dance or act or do anything for 10 whole weeks. I put my energy and my focus somewhere else, and I came out the other side knowing why I was an artist. I rediscovered my passion and my need to be a storyteller, and the world's need for storytellers and for stories. But I only was able to gain that through an extended break from my artistry.
Sometimes, the most radical thing we can do is rest. Especially right now, since we all have so much extra "free time", the expectation is for us to be pumping out creative endeavors. I had many master classes before leaving school where I was encouraged to be "filming every day" and "not letting this time go to waste". This is not bad advice, per say, but each day is a new day to evaluate what is healthy and responsible for oneself and one's art. I find it is helpful to start the day by asking yourself: "What do I need today?". And if the answer is "rest", then give yourself some rest during your day. If the answer is "rest" multiple days in a row, that is acceptable. That is not shameful. Make art if you're called to make art right now. Rest when you are called to rest. Work when you are called to work. You can do both, and resting when you actually need it will help to create a balance. Either way, our art will always still be there in the morning.