Restarting Rehearsals with Emotional Resilience.
For theatres, the amount of space and time away from physical rehearsal rooms has been huge. During the uncertainty practitioners have been creative and found ways to connect, from socially distance rehearsals outside or a move to rehearse online. As an Artist Wellbeing Practioner I have noticed an increase in enquires about supporting wellbeing during lockdown. As we return to the physical rehearsal space, how do we return in a way that continues to support the wellbeing of cast and crew?
As I write, thousands of theatres are beginning to action their covid risk assessments, ensuring that the physical space is following government guidelines. Here are a few pointers to action and support an emotional risk assessment:
1/ Language: Ensure that your guidelines are clear and understandable, with a variety of languages and signs to meet all communication needs. Remember that all rules are up for interpretation.
2/ Speak up: Consider, if you have the capacity, to allocate a paid for ‘Freedom to Speak’ colleague on the team who is not in a senior position where people are able to take any concerns. I recommend the non-senior position to ensure that there is not a sense of self-silencing due to the need for work post pandemic.
3/ Consent: Make space for each member of the team to have space to think about what they are comfortable with? Never presume consent. Allowing space to think about whether they are ok with sharing, physical touch, masks, and the amount of physical distance they feel comfortable with. If their job requires some of this ensure they are made aware (never presume).
4/ Negotiation: Be prepared to have open conversations if two people’s views on Covid safety do not align and be prepared to creatively solve these as they come up.
5/ Energy: Be aware that many of the team (despite keeping up with physical health) might not be ‘work fit’, which may lead to exhaustion. Space and time away from a work environment can increase social anxiety or decrease the ability to focus on tasks requiring physical and mental labour. Being in groups can be a shock to the system.
6/ Personal Check ins: Allow each person in the room time and space to check in with themselves at the start and end of the day. Short activities like ‘the morning papers’ (freewriting exercise), gentle movement/yoga or quiet time. Ensure after this time they have time to raise any concerns.
7/ Group Check ins: Within the rehearsal room make time at the start of the day to check in and end of the day to check out. Allowing the time for these can increase work productivity in the room and allow everyone to get a sense of how each person is doing and the general energy levels.
8/ End Early: Try to avoid being sucked into time pressures and be prepared to end rehearsals early for the day. We all did a wonderful job of knowing that a zoom rehearsal could not be as long as a physical rehearsal day, let’s continue to be creative as we return and honour the emotional and physical labour in the room. #restisforrebels
9/ To Pub or not to Pub: Are there other things that could be done when post rehearsal drinks are not an option for the whole cast and crew? Supporting places for ‘out of work’ connections and relaxations are a great way to end the day but remember the pub might not be for everyone.
10/ Laughter: Enjoy the return to the rehearsal room and remember, even through a mask, laughter is a great release of tension and allows us all to connect.
Remember starting back after a long break can be emotionally exhausting. Each person (cast, crew, marketing, FOH) needs to take responsibility of their own energy levels and be kind to themselves, giving themselves permission to radically rest each day post work.
Nikki Disney works as a creative therapist and wellbeing practitioner in the arts. Having been in various roles in the industry she knows only too well what the pressure of work in the arts can impact on wellbeing and is an advocate of support for artists and companies to support wellbeing in the arts.