My hot and cold relationship with the Theatre

By Rena Bryson

There are only two things I am certain of in this life, that red is my colour and I love theatre. Sometimes my relationship with the theatre, can be one of love and hate. Filled with ups and downs, putting more into it than I’m getting back, feeling rejected, undervalued and even wondering if we’re just not meant to be. At the heart of all good relationships however is love and even if at times that love feels unrequited, it is a love that is very real, but what does that mean? To me it means I respect, appreciate and value everything the arts has provided for me, from my personal and career development to the relationships I’ve formed because of it.  Mostly I feel my love of the theatre stems from the simple goal of telling a story. Bringing a script, concept or word scribbled on a piece of paper to life and creating a performance is to me the single most magical feeling in the world.

To me time spent in the rehearsal room is the most exciting part of the relationship with any piece of theatre. Living completely in a text, empathising with the characters within it and sharing that experience with your fellow theatre makers can be far more exhilarating than the adrenaline rush of live performance. This is the honeymoon phase where everything is firey and changeable in the best way. Like any relationship what is portrayed on the big day, opening night in this case is a planned presentation of what was freely and creatively loved in the rehearsal room. It is no longer evolving and growing but if the relationship is good, the show will be deconstructed by the team after the big day and there is still room for compromise and evolution.

Sometimes my relationship with the theatre can feel like a Romeo and Juliet type of romance, fueled by passion, not logic, and I worry I may not come out the other end better off. Luckily I am seeing a shift away from pride in suffering for ones art towards a more holistic work practice. Even so it would be false to state that artists lead a nine to five life and can accommodate proper self care. So often those working in the arts can be seen as an artist first and a person second, a concept that would seem ridiculous in many other professions. Each year many wide eyed students leave their performing arts programmes envisioning the rom com relationship they will have with the arts and are disappointed when they realise the first five, ten or fifteen years may feel a lot more like ‘Misery’ then ‘Love Actually’.

Photo Credit – Catriona Bonner Photography

Often I end up defending my relationship and feeling as though I am an unaware victim, as friends, family and once or twice a stranger has questioned why we’re still together. At times the relationship can feel completely one sided, as I express a lifelong devotion I get the impression the theatre can view me as merely a booty call. Despite this I have, I’ll admit, changed myself for the theatre, becoming anything it wants me to be. Unlike a relationship with another human being, this want to mold and change myself has been beneficial, encouraging me to try new things. I started out as an actor but have learnt how to be a director, playwright, stage manager, PR Manager,  lighting operator and teacher due to my need to be near the theatre, no matter what the role. Of course this has a down side, I have in the last month worked in several of these roles all at once while working a day job, which can lead to exhaustion. Although I love what I do, the theatre can sometimes seem like a selfish lover who drains my time and resources, without offering any promise of commitment.

However even during times of stress, often induced by my work, the reward is too great to just throw in the towel. All relationships take work and no compromise has been too much to over shadow the joy of bringing a great script to life. Even with the chaotic nature of the arts, a different type of security is always present. A security that comes with doing what you love, staying true to your beliefs and feeling at home in your work. I have given so much to the theatre but it has offered so much more in return.

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