Burnout, stress and deadlines: That’s showbiz!

How Mt. A’s drama students are juggling their extracurricular projects and productions along with their studies

Drama students at Mt.A routinely have to manage coursework and rehearsals for months at a time. the result can be stressful, but according to them, it can also be a rewarding experience. Emma Biberdorf/Argosy

For performers, there is nothing like the feeling of opening-night jitters, or the rush of adrenaline you get when skimming a cast list to find your name; or for directors, the feeling you get watching your creative vision come to life right before your own eyes. The final product may look effortless, but what the audience doesn’t see is the devotion of time and energy that goes into bringing a show to the stage.

Some Mount Allison drama courses require students to dedicate hours outside of class to fulfill course requirements. On top of this, many Mt. A drama students spend extra out-of-class time applying the teachings of their craft to passion projects or faculty-run productions. But how are drama students managing to stay afloat with so much to do in so little time?

Mark Turner, a fourth-year English major and drama minor, has been rehearsing since the start of the semester for Eco, directed by Sierra Belong. Turner’s trick to staying on top of course work is scheduling. “I put a checklist in my calendar app outlining what I need to complete each day in order to stay on top of my classes, in consideration of my rehearsal schedule,” he said.

Students may be apprehensive to get involved with theatre due to the level of commitment that is expected. On this topic, Turner said, “If the thought of doing theatre is ‘work’ rather than ‘play’ you will likely have a hard time with the process.”

Next, I sat down with Marissa Trott, a third-year drama major, who is busy preparing to make her directorial debut this November, when she will bring The End of I written by Diana Amsterdam to the stage. “Burnout is definitely going to affect you,” Trott said. “Especially if you’re going from a full day of classes to rehearsals, you’re going to not feel as present.… But you just have to drink a coffee or something.”

The process can be stressful, but Trott sees the payoff as rewarding.“You get to be a part of a community, and a whole artistic vision come to life and it is all worth it in the end,” she said.

Carol Schumaker, a third-year drama major, copes with the demands of theatre by leaning on others for support. “Rehearsals may seem like a chore, but they are also a great stress reliever and you make friends who are willing to help you through it because they understand the struggle as well,” Schumaker said.

Schumaker also sees how the skills she is learning in her degree will help her when she enters the workforce. “I get practical experience for working in the theatre which I find a lot of majors don’t really offer,” she said. “It’s useful to have.”

When expressing your creativity comes with deadlines, grueling hours and dwindling free time, it can be difficult to see the value of the artistic process. But for Mt. A’s drama students, the finished product is invaluable.

Make sure to check out Eco, which will be performed from Oct. 18 to 20 outside of the PCCA, and The End of I from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1.

Jane Rempel
Jane Rempel is a fourth-year English major and drama minor from the Vancouver, BC area. She has three friends and one cat.