Starting bright and early this morning, the production departments begin a marathon strike to take down the three mainstage shows of Q3. Technically, I began strike at 10 pm tonight for ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore at the Wimberly Theatre, right as the show ends. I was in at 9 am in the morning to lead a full lighting crew in the official strike. At 5pm, at the Boston University Theatre there will be simultaneous strikes of the opera and the 210 show that will continue as needed into tomorrow. 3 shows, 48 hours, hundreds of lights that have to go. But I will not be joining my department in this marathon strike due to my health. When the Wimberly was restored to neutral at 1pm today, I was done. I am sitting at home writing this blog post as my department is hard at work. There’s nothing I can do about it, so why do I feel so guilty?
Why is it so difficult in life, but it seems especially in theatre, to prioritize self-care? In high school, I remember hearing stories about the number of people who leave the theatre industry because of burnout. That’s one of the reasons I came to school, to learn how to balance the hours, work, and life so I could work in theatre for the rest of my life. Th understanding I’ve developed, and am continuing to develop, is that the choices one makes in this industry are rarely between a good thing and a bad thing, they are between two great things. Going to see a a friend’s show, or reading a new play. Updating that entrance/exit plot for wardrobe, or responding to the 10 emails that just appeared in my inbox. Food, sleep, a social life, homework, your craft, please pick two.
I want to dedicate every spare ounce of my time and energy to every production I work on because I believe in the form, I believe the learning process is best when active, and because I want to support the amazing people in each production who are also putting their time and effort. But I also need to realize that in neglecting myself, I am also neglecting the process. I’m not an asset to my team if I’m physically present but only functioning at 25%, I’m a drain. As guilty as I feel for “getting out of work”, I’m not physically capable of half of the labor and I would be spending all of my energy in one day that I am now able to give throughout the week to my education and my next production. It’s a balance best learned through trial and error. I’m grateful to be in an education setting to learn early in my career so I can create for the foreseeable future.