Living with Theatre vs. Living FOR Theatre

Photo: Scott Rylander

Photo: Scott Rylander

  • Emma Stimpson

I hit my 12th anniversary in theatre this year. During that time, theatre went from a way to meet people, to an after-school activity, to a career path. After graduating with my BFA this past spring and beginning work on my first professional contract, theatre evolved yet again into something different than what it had been in college. Sure, it was my major, and everyone knew it, but majors can be changed. After I actually got the degree, it became The Way for me to put food on the table. Theatre changed from my major to my career, and with that change came the need for an 'extracurricular' outlet outside of my chosen field.

For many people, theatre IS their outlet- a way to escape from the average, everyday, 9-5 grind. However, when your 9-5 grind consists of singing "9 to 5" and dancing full out to all the other numbers in that show (while in 3" heels), it may not be the most relaxing thing to leave your paid rehearsal and go to an unpaid rehearsal for a show you're doing 'just for fun'. The whole point of a hobby is to have something that you enjoy doing solely for the fact that it's fun. Therefore, I present you with my argument as to why you need to expand your pastime horizons to things outside of the theatre world if you are aiming for a career in theatre.

1. The arts can be all-consuming. As a hardcore Musical Theatre Kid who lived and breathed the stuff for years, I am just now realizing that there is a whole different world of people who have never stepped into a theatre and have no desire to. Supply Chain Managers, Linguists, and Botanists all exist and are just as passionate about what they do. They just like different things. Different perspectives change the way the world looks, and having more than one perspective can allow us to see things in a different light. If you need ideas, pick a college and see what majors they offer that you know nothing about. I can tell you that it is a learning experience.

2. As storytellers, we must be citizens of the world. We are obligated to know about others to do our jobs correctly. If we only know theatre, we will only make theatre for theatrical people. As an artist, I love works that are for people who do not do theatre. They're here to hear a story they can relate to, laugh at, or get lost in. Instead of seeing a movie or reading a book, they chose to come spend the evening with me. You've got to know about the story you're telling and tell it as authentically as possible to reach the people who need it, and that requires you to know about the world they're living in.

3. Finally, learning about other things is cool and relatively easy to do, especially in this day and age. For example, if you decide to take up a second language as an outside hobby, that knowledge will come with a better cultural understanding of the people who speak that language. If you decide to take up a craft as a hobby, your artistic tendencies will be used to create something of physical value, which is different than a performance that is here and gone in a moment. If you begin to volunteer or teach as a hobby, can you imagine the different stories you would hear? Literally, anything outside of theatre will not only help your peace of mind, but it will also help you grow as a person, which helps you grow as an artist.

Y'all, burnout is real. Don't do it to yourself. Becca Magson wrote a great article on OnStage Blog about it. Find something completely separate from theatre that you enjoy and give yourself a break. That way, when you do come to work/class/rehearsal, you can give your whole heart to the process instead of wishing you were anywhere else but there.