In the theatre world, we take on so much - from one production to another, juggling schedules and plans and calendars, troubleshooting issues that arise, managing other people. And for those of us involved with community theatre, we likely also have full-time, unrelated day jobs. Add in other obligations, hobbies, families, and it feels non-stop. Emails and calls build up, unanswered; invites and events unattended; forgetting to follow up with a request; and so it goes in our ever-busy lives. I feel this pressure all the time! It seems like we are busier than ever. In my various theatre endeavors and talking to so many people, it's the thing that comes up the most: I'd love to, but I can't...I'm sorry, but I've just been swamped....I'm completely overwhelmed right now, there's no way I can do that. And other variations of 'I'm just SO busy.' How did we get here, is there relief in sight, and is this working for everyone?
Here's a little of what I learned in an online survey on this topic:
I attended the AACT (American Association of Community Theatre) Winter Meetings mid-February. This is one of two times per year committee and board members of the organization like myself get together and meet in person. I love it for many reasons, one of which is the chance to hear from other community theatre do-er's from all over the country. As we discuss the activities going on in each of our states, I am inspired to hear about theatre conferences, festivals, gatherings and annual galas/awards. When asked about any kind of declining interest or participation in these kinds of activities, there's not a lot of bad news to report Some theatres and states, of course, do face lack of participation due to economic and money factors, but I didn't hear very specifically that theatre organizations are too busy to be part of larger theatre activities. In fact, many of these events are popping up for the first time. How are these already-busy theatre companies finding the time to produce their own work AND take on/attend theatre events that require extra time and even travel? I wonder if the problem with 'busyness' is an issue closer to home rather than close to community theatre at large.
I'm not sure. I'm in the Southern California area, where there are traffic and geographic challenges that discourage so many people from venturing too far beyond their bubble, though many do! Some of the folks I know don't participate in theatre activities like festivals, conferences and workshops because of the financial pressure, and some are just too busy. The unknown also keeps them at bay. But if they had more time, would they get to know people and activities outside their area or theatre? I'm very interested in exploring the 'burnout factor', too: are people dropping projects and theatre all together so that the folks who are left behind are the ones taking on their own tasks and the tasks of others? I speak to community theatre board presidents (with full-time jobs outside the theatre!) who are directing plays, picking seasons, attending board meetings, likely making the major decisions for the theatre, and perhaps even cultivating new donors, patrons and board members. I know artistic directors with the same full plate of tasks, added with the huge undertaking of overseeing the quality of every show, making sure there are butts in seats, managing staff members, etc. No wonder there is no time for much beyond getting through the day! Is this what it takes for an organization to keep going - leaving it in the very busy hands of a few, rather than let it diminish all together?
I'd love to know more about this. I know so many of you are busy with your own theaters, shows, and communities, but feel free to send me a line about what keeps you busy. Maybe just taking a moment to consider this very question can help free you from feeling so overwhelmed. Or maybe you don't feel this pressure; I hope that's true! If so, what's your secret? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or post a comment on Facebook. I'll always have time to respond.
This post was originally posted on the CA Community Theatre Website on March 8, 2016. To see the original post, click here.