In these difficult times of self-isolation and lack of a creative outlet, a lot of us are suffering from the ‘you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone’ syndrome – often referred to as the ‘Joni Mitchell effect’. I never realised how thoroughly my work in theatre, and my love of it, had permeated my day-to-day life. Until my abilities to express them vanished.
But now, having been forced to slow down and collect my thoughts, I’ve realised just how pervasive a love theatre can be. When I step into the shower in the morning, I reach for my Spotify and select a playlist. ‘Recently played’, ‘Jump back in’ and ‘Made for Katie’ are all nearly exclusively musical theatre soundtracks (with maybe just a peppering of Patti Smith or Siouxsie and the Banshees to keep it fresh). And yes, I very much sing along while I shampoo.
When I go to tell an anecdote, it is wrapped in the context of what I was working on at the time. “I was working on [insert show name] when…” or “We were in Cambridge with the tour of [insert show name] when…” When I look at the photos hanging on my wall, they are from shows I have worked on. When I reach for something to read it’s a play text. You have to have a lot of passion to do what we do. Passion begets passion of course, a kind of self-creating, self-preserving momentum.
The hardest part of all this, for a lot of people, is the feeling that just when all their hard work had started paying off, just when the momentum had been built and the wheels were really starting to turn, we all had to perform an emergency stop, step out of the car and walk away from it.
If a career is a marathon, this period of time is like a training 10K
But just because the car isn’t being driven, it doesn’t mean you can’t walk to your destination. Yes, it will take longer on foot, but does that stop it from being worth doing?
If a career is a marathon, this period of time is like a training 10K. There will be moments when giving up and lying down on the tarmac is almost irresistible. But soon enough, we’ll be past this stage and ready to run the real thing again. When that day rolls round, it’s important that we have stretched, warmed up and kept ourselves fit and ready to go.
So, in the meantime, though there may be times it is painful to do so, plan. Plan for future projects. Read plays you want to direct, perform in, design or stage manage. Network, learn new audition songs, stay healthy and keep dancing. Keep singing along to the show tunes in the shower and keep celebrating past accomplishments. Practise your standing ovation every Thursday at 8pm.
And when the time comes, step on to the starting blocks, remember why you wanted to run this race and be ready when the pistol fires.