I've also been thinking back to the days of being in college, when yes, a production schedule meant insanity, but in retrospect, it was an insanity with some very particular conveniences built in. For one thing, the performing arts building was less than a ten minute walk from my dorm. If I had even a couple hours break between class and rehearsal, I could head back to my room and take a much needed nap. Now if I have a rehearsal after work, depending on where it is in the city, I may have an hour or two before rehearsal, but that's not always enough time to stop at my apartment first. This awkward extra time sometimes means grabbing dinner on the go and killing some time at a Starbucks before you need to head to rehearsal. Back in college during production, I was able to have pretty much round the clock access to fast, cheap meals (ok so they weren't exactly health food), so at the very least I didn't have to think much about needing to cook a meal or cleaning up the kitchen afterward said meal. Oh yeah, and a dorm room is small. So unless you live in a studio apartment of comparable size, you are now responsible for an entire apartment or house, and that goes with it. In college, I was single during many of the shows I acted in, so going a few days without seeing my roommates felt very different than when I go a few days without seeing my husband. And can we just take a moment to appreciate that after a late tech rehearsal that runs until midnight, your "early" class the next morning wasn't until 9 AM? There's a HUGE difference between needing to leave your dorm at 8:50 AM and needing to leave at 6:50 AM for a day job.
Ok, so I've been pretty generous with complaints about production and tech schedules. I recognize that these thoughts have been triggered by my recent realization that I have nearly three weeks ahead of me of nightly rehearsals plus tech week itself, and then two weekends of performances. With only enough time after my day job to stop home for about twenty minutes (give or take a few) before heading out for rehearsal, I have noticed that I'm most definitely not in college rehearsal mode any more. This is a different beast. It's time to try to play by some new and improved rules.
Here's the suggestions I've come up with this time around:
1. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Automate your basic needs as much as possible. Plan your outfits on Sunday night for the whole week, so that when you stumble out of bed the morning after a late night rehearsal, you don't have to waste time hemming and hawing over what to wear to your day job. Prepare a week's worth of salad's for lunch so that you can just grab one before work every morning. Cook a big pot of soup on the weekend so that you have something homemade to heat up before rehearsal. I once heard author Elizabeth Gilbert say that it's a pain to prepare for something in advance, but when the moment comes when you realize you have saved yourself some valuable time, you are going to thank your past self for the preparation. Sometimes when I'm in the midst of chopping ingredients for salads on a Sunday evening, muttering to myself that I would rather be sitting on the couch with a book and the cat, I have to remind myself that I will be grateful later that week when I have a healthy lunch. And yes, sometimes I even say aloud, "You're welcome, future Melissa!"
2. From the start, decide what's most important to you. What are your nonnegotiables? For me, I'd rather be eating enough healthy stuff during tech week and getting less than 8 hours sleep than the other way around. Ideally I'd have both, but tech week doesn't work that way. You can't have it all, which leads me to my next suggestion...
3. Accept that it's going to be temporarily crazy. Once you decide what the nonnegotiable things are for you, you have to realize that something's going to go a bit by the wayside. I once read that human beings can deal with intense bursts of stress and life feeling too busy if they know that eventually life will go back to a slower pace. Remind yourself of this when you feel like go might go a little nuts. Production and tech week may feel like a marathon, but once you acknowledge that it's going to be hard for a few weeks and you will get a break after that, it really does help.
4. If at all possible, leave five minutes at the end of your day job day to just sit and breathe. I've found that it's much better to leave this little buffer between commitments than to feel like you are constantly working, rushing from one thing to another, with zero downtime in between. It's something small, but I've tried doing it a few times this past week, and it makes a big difference in how I feel when I do start off to a rehearsal.
5. Use a vacation day in the middle of tech week or production week--you will thank yourself! Don't use this time to "cram" for the production either. Use the extra time to catch up on sleep, spend the day in your pajamas watching Netflix, or to take a couple of hours and do something fun that relaxes you. I must admit that I've never done this in the past, but I have just requested a day off from my current job during the upcoming tech week, and I am so excited to know that in the midst of that week, I have built in some extra time. ("You're welcome, future Melissa!")
6. Enjoy it! Throughout the rehearsal schedule so far, even when I've felt pressed for time or like I wished I could get home earlier to spend the evening with my husband, whom I miss so much during these busy weeks, I have to remind myself that I am doing something that I love. I happen to believe that telling a story onstage (as either an actor or a playwright) is what I was put here to do, and I am working to not let the temporary stress of these busy weeks blind me to that.
Please, please, please let me know what your tips and tricks for production and tech week are! I still feel so new to this balancing act and would welcome any hints that might keep me happy AND healthy during rehearsals (I happen to be typing this post right now with a pretty wicked head cold, so clearly I have yet to master this process).
I leave you with an adorable cat compilation video to celebrate the weekend with. Please forgive the cheesy commentator and let your worries melt away by the off the charts cuteness here: