Three Truths Theatre Taught Me About Planning with Peace
Audition. Rehearse. Open the show. Close the show. Rinse. Repeat.
If only it were that easy. Theatre life poses some unique challenges. You can only think so far ahead. You always have to be audition ready. You have to keep your ear to the ground, go to all the shows (because that’s how you network and support your community), and do all the regular stuff of life like birthdays and family vacations and school recitals and so on.
When my theatre kid is in the thick of tech week, the last thing I want to do is think about doing another show. Of course the opposite is true as well. As soon as the show opens and we get a decent night's sleep, I stat wondering what the next venture will be (if it's not already lined up!).
The rhythms of theatre life are not always as clearly defined as the planner in me would like them to be but over the years I have learned a few certainties that help me navigate the uncertainty with peace.
1. Make your plans in pencil.
I spent the better part of last week mapping out our curriculum for the next homeschool year. I worked very hard hammering out a beautifully coordinated schedule incorporating all of the time we need for school, commitments, and work schedules for the whole fall season.
Then I looked at October and realized the whole thing is moot because one show is closing and another starts rehearsals. Rehearsals are, by nature, less predictable than the performances, and thus, more difficult to plan around.
Contracts for the next show come out sometime between October and November. Then we need to think ahead through the next season and figure out if we need or want any time off. The flip side to that coin is maybe we won't get a contract, and then it's time to find work. Hi diddle dee dee. Such is the actor's life.
“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit. Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring — what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15
Acting is contract work. We are fortunate to work for a company that offers long contracts. But living with a level of uncertainty from season to season is simply a reality. So we make our plans and hold them loosely. We look ahead, hopeful for the next project, but humbly remembering that tomorrow is not promised.
2. Sometimes you have to turn down a good job.
You’ve heard it said we are a society of instant gratification. If I want a pumpkin spice latte in May, then by golly someone needs to make a pumplin spice latte in May! But we also know in our souls that we are meant to live seasonally. There is a time for pumpkin spice and a time for spring veggies. A time for Christmas carols to be played on the radio and a time to listen to other songs. A time for rest and a time for hard work. A time to audition. A time to rehearse. A time to take classes. A time to play the lead. A time to watch your friends shine and cheer from the front row.
"There is an occasion for everything, and time for every activity under heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:1
There are always many wonderful things to be involved in. So many great shows, great companies, and great people putting on great work. I want my husband to be working in all the theatres, but I also need him home investing in our kids. I want my daughter doing the things she loves, but she also needs time to recharge and be with her siblings and do her school work. I would like to do more writing, directing, teaching, and even acting, but there are limits on our time and abilities.
Instead of fretting over all the things we can’t do, I try to remember that this is a specific season and no season lasts forever. Saying no to a job does not mean opportunity will never come around again, though it can feel like it. Its hard to remember the warmth of spring in the midst of a winter chill, but for as long as I’ve been alive, March is always followed by April.
3. Rehearsals Are the Time to Try, to See What Works
At All the World a Stage we say that life is a rehearsal which means every morning is a new opportunity. A chance to try again. To adjust when things are not working.
“Because of the LORD’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!” Lamentations 3:22-23
Some seasons are dark and difficult. The big picture isn’t clear. We don’t know what’s around the river bend until we’re on our way around it. Saying no to something good because it’s not the right season is one kind of pain. Rejection for something you think you’re right for is even worse, especially when we have nothing to “fall back” on.
But we push through the hard times because God is trustworthy and faithful. He works with us, allowing every season, every moment to be purposeful in turning you into the person you are meant to be.
An Actor's Life is an Exercise in Trust
I do not know what this next season holds for you. I do not know if you will get the part you want or if the rehearsal process will be smooth or crazy. We make our plans and hold them loosely trusting that God knows the future and He is good at His job. The season you are in, whether painful or fruitful or quiet, is necessary, and God is faithful. Like a good director , He will use everything you give Him in this rehearsal process to build a brilliant, beautiful show.