Overcoming Setbacks: Resilience in Musical Theater Rehearsals

Overcoming Setbacks: Resilience in Musical Theater Rehearsals

Embracing the Rollercoaster Ride of Live Performance

Ah, the thrill of live performance – that exhilarating feeling as the curtain rises and the spotlight hits your face. For those of us in the musical theater world, it’s an addiction we can’t shake. But with that high comes the inevitable nerves, the self-doubt, the unexpected challenges that can make even the bravest of performers quiver in their metaphorical (or literal) tap shoes.

As a writer, performer, and all-around theatrical maven, I’ve experienced my fair share of setbacks and obstacles. From financial hurdles to critical reviews that left me in tears, the path to success in this industry is never a straight line. But you know what they say – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And in the world of musical theater, resilience is the name of the game.

Facing the Nerves Head-On

Serena Steinhauer, the writer and star of the solo show “The Undone,” knows this all too well. “Live performance truly wouldn’t be what it is without the nerves,” she shares. “They help propel you into the rehearsal process with focus and determination.”

And she’s right – those fluttering butterflies in your stomach can actually be your secret weapon. The key is learning to channel that nervous energy into something productive. As Serena puts it, “Truthfully it is daunting. Performing a solo work means a lot of responsibility because there is only you onstage. But I am incredibly fortunate enough to be under the direction of Alan Swerdlow, who has created the safest environment possible.”

Having a supportive creative team in your corner can make all the difference. Whether it’s a director who encourages you to take risks, a vocal coach who helps you conquer your fears, or a stage manager who keeps you grounded, surrounding yourself with the right people can transform those pre-show jitters into pure adrenaline.

Striking a Healthy Balance

Of course, navigating the demands of rehearsals and preparations is no easy feat. As Serena explains, “The process involves wearing many hats. How one manages that boils down to one word: Coffee. Lots of it.”

Jokes aside, the secret to Serena’s success lies in her unwavering commitment to routine and self-care. “I believe in the power of routine,” she says. “Especially during a period of rehearsals, if one sticks to daily goals – as in completing the same tasks at the same time – pockets of time begin to emerge. That is where I fill in the gaps and tend to other preparatory items on the list.”

But it’s not just about ticking items off her to-do list. Serena recognizes the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance, prioritizing her mental well-being alongside her professional obligations. “Preparation also comes in the form of looking after my mental health. So in those pockets of time, I prioritize exercising, seeing a friend for a catch-up, or doing something fun.”

The Pursuit of the Perfect Role

For many of us in the performing arts, the quest for the “dream role” can feel like a never-ending search. But as Eileen Sherman, a multi-talented writer and educator, suggests, the key is to stay open-minded and adaptable.

“There is a time and a place for every character,” Eileen muses. “In some, you find intensity, symbolism, and challenge. In others, you find light-heartedness, humor, and uncomplicated entertainment. I adore them all across the spectrum.”

The true “golden trifecta,” as Eileen calls it, is finding a role that not only aligns with your skills and passions but also offers the opportunity to make a meaningful impact. “I have always been drawn to characters with a deep social consciousness,” she explains. “Blending history and theater is also the calling card of that decision.”

Whether it’s portraying the powerful Evita PerĂ³n or the formidable Florence in “Chess,” Eileen seeks out roles that allow her to explore the human experience in all its complexity. And for her, the journey is just as rewarding as the destination.

Embracing the Unexpected

Of course, even the most seasoned performers can’t always predict the curveballs life will throw their way. Julia Kwamya, a rising star in the indie rock scene, knows this all too well.

After amassing enough songs for her debut EP, Julia was struck by a taxi, forcing her to start over from scratch. “Following my accident, Kwamya had to rediscover the basics – walking and even holding a fork became monumental challenges,” the article shares. “Although it was devastating, the experience offered her a new perspective. It intensified my burning desire to pursue my aspirations, she expresses. I was determined to continue creating.”

And continue creating she did. Julia’s single “Say Yes” is a powerful testament to her resilience, a cathartic exploration of the emotional upheaval she experienced. “I have stopped drowning in thoughts and asking why this happened to me,” she explains. “I have accepted my fate and I am doing everything I can to move on with my life.”

Finding Strength in Vulnerability

For Julia, the key to overcoming adversity lies in her willingness to be vulnerable and honest in her songwriting. “When I write, I am searching for an answer,” she shares. “It seems as though the people closest to me aren’t necessarily able to help me find an answer to a myriad of my problems, so I need to find a solution on my own.”

This openness and authenticity have become hallmarks of Julia’s music, creating a deep connection with her audience. “I allow myself to be vulnerable in tracks like ‘Say Yes’ and in other tracks, muse on possible solutions or sing about how my solutions didn’t work. I believe that the throughline of my narrative is resilience.”

It’s a sentiment that resonates with so many of us in the performing arts, where vulnerability is both a strength and a necessity. By embracing our challenges and using them as fuel for our creativity, we can not only overcome setbacks but also inspire others in the process.

Embracing the Journey

At the end of the day, the road to success in musical theater is rarely a smooth one. But as the artists and creatives I’ve highlighted have shown, it’s all about how you navigate the twists and turns.

Whether it’s channeling your nerves into laser-sharp focus, striking a healthy work-life balance, or finding the perfect role to showcase your talents, the key is to approach each challenge with resilience, adaptability, and a healthy dose of self-care.

And who knows – maybe your next setback could be the catalyst for your greatest triumph. After all, as the Musical Theater Center knows, it’s not about the destination, but the journey.

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