10 Ways to Cope With Theatre Withdrawal

Anthony J. Piccione

We’ve all been there before.

It may be for different reasons for different people. For some, finding the right role or gig might just be too hard, leaving us with a large gap of time in-between our creative projects. For others, work or family life may be taking up too much time. If you’re like me, it might be because you’re still in the middle of a major transition phase in your life that’s left you too busy to take up any huge new projects, at this point in time.

But at one point or another, I’m sure we’ve all known – to varying lengths or degrees – the unpleasant experience that is theatre withdrawal.

Other than actually being in a show again, there isn’t really much to do about the depression that may come with theatre withdrawal. However, there are a few things – whether you’re an actor, director, technician, stage manager, etc. – that you can do to help you get a small theatre fix while you’re still looking for your next big production that you’ll be involved in.

Here are just a few of those things, which I hope will help…

•    Go see a show that’s being done by your local theatre group – Let’s start with the obvious: If you love theatre, the best way to get your fix other than being involved in a show is going to see a show. Many theatre groups could very well be relying on your support in order to stay afloat, and perhaps some of your friends are currently involved in shows that are coming up. So if, for whatever reason, you aren’t already planning on going to see any upcoming shows in your area, I strongly encourage you to do so.

•    Watch clips of your favorite plays/musicals on YouTube – I’ve said many, many times in past columns that NOTHING can replace live theatre, and that video doesn’t even come close to the real thing. Having said that, I do understand that sometimes – for a variety of reasons – it’s not exactly easy to go out and see shows. So if you’re one of those people, try looking for some of your favorite shows on YouTube or other similar websites, as it could arguably be the next best thing.

•    Listen to your favorite Broadway soundtracks on Spotify/Pandora/etc. – If you don’t already do this on a regular basis, please tell me why not? I can’t name very many lovers of musical theatre who don’t do this, and I would think this would go without saying. But just in case, I thought I’d put it here, anyway.

•    Take a theatre class – As people always say: You’re never too old to learn something new. There are plenty of theaters out there – depending on where you live – that offer classes or workshops for adults who are looking to brush up on their skills in a particular area in theatre. So if you are looking to learn about an aspect of theatre that you were less familiar with – whether you’re an actor wanting to learn more about tech theatre, a technician wanting to learn about directing, etc. – then I’d highly recommend using this period of time where you can’t seem to find work in theatre to give it a shot. Who knows? It might change your thinking, in terms of what you want to be doing in theatre for the next couple of years.

•    Try ushering a show – I’ve personally had the pleasure of ushering for community theatre many times in the past. I even have a close friend who wrote a column for this website about how ushers are underrated. You get to meet great people, support great theaters, and – at least at the places I’ve ushered for – you get to see the shows for free! I highly recommend looking into it, especially if you are looking to get involved in a new theatre group or want to see shows without having to pay the cost of admission.

•    Reach out to old theatre friends – Personally, I have many people I’ve met over the years in theatre who I’ve lost touch with, and I can’t help but wonder from time to time about how they’re doing. I suspect that I’m not alone when I say that. Social media has made it so much easier to contact these people whenever you want, if you are in the mood. So if theatre withdrawal has ever gotten you feeling nostalgic for times when you WERE doing shows with certain great people, use this as a time to reach out to them and see how they are doing. Don’t be afraid. They could very well be very eager to hear from you again, after a potentially long period of time.

•    Organize a play reading with your friends – As a playwright, I can personally say that play readings just for the sake of fun is one of my favorite things to do, when I’m not writing or am not involved in a full production. I know many others who enjoy it, and may be eager to do it with you, should you all have free time on any given night. So get in touch with some of your available theatre friends, pick out a few scripts, bring food and drinks, and you’ll see how much this can be!

•    Or just belt out show tunes randomly (whether you’re alone or with friends) – I feel like it’s another thing that should go without saying. Music always helps people through the most depressing periods of time, so if the mood strikes you at any given moment – whether it be in the shower or in the car or pretty much anywhere else, except for MAYBE the workplace – don’t be afraid to sing loud and proud at the top of your lungs!

•    Try writing your own play – The way in which I first started taking writing seriously as more than just a hobby was after going through a dull period in life where I wasn’t doing anything else that was theatre-related, and decided to take a playwriting class in college that showed me that even when I’m not doing theatre with others, there’s nothing that can stop me from creating theatre for others, whenever I’m inspired to do so. So if you’ve never tried writing a play before, I STRONGLY encourage you to think about giving it a try.

•    Or write ABOUT theatre – At the risk of sounding like a job recruiter for this website, let me try saying it this way: Other than writing plays or acting in plays, writing ABOUT theatre – and the specific aspects of this art form that I’m most passionate about – has become one of the most rewarding things I’ve done with my career so far, and I didn’t realize it would be this way until I first thought about doing it, after having seen a post calling for writers on the On Stage Facebook page. So…y’know, just something to think about.

What do you think? Have any of these ever helped you in the past? Any extra things that you’d like to add to this list? Be sure to let us know in the comments section!
    This column was written by Anthony J. Piccione: Playwright, producer, screenwriter, actor, poet and essayist currently based in Connecticut. To learn more about Mr. Piccione and his work, please visit his personal blog at www.anthonyjpiccione.tumblr.com. Also, be sure to like him on Facebook (www.facebook.com/AnthonyJPiccione.OfficialPage), follow him on Twitter (@A_J_Piccione) and view his work on the New Play Exchange (www.newplayexchange.org/users/903/anthony-j-piccione).