How To Train in Musical Theatre and Work from Home During Lockdown
Updated: Apr 28, 2020
With most people learning how to navigate working from their home space after the lockdown measures put in place by the government, I thought I'd write this blog to encourage you to continue your artistic work at home and to also hopefully provide you with some inspiration in how to keep working and improving your craft during this unbelievable time.
Whether you are a student, recent graduate, working professional, or teacher, productivity at home and during this time, in particular, can be extremely challenging. I've put together my list of what I believe to be useful ways of working from home based on research, interviews, and my own experience in the past with working from home. While performing in London's West End over the last several years, I have developed curriculums, launched a business, been a motivational speaker, and completed an MA from home. I have not always done it well, and with the most grace and sense of balance, but I offer you some description of my own experience. Hopefully, you will find it helpful.
Firstly, I understand that most of us may be experiencing anxiety and confusion during this time. We can move forward by taking care of ourselves and by accepting our own emotions. Reach out to others through text, messages, FaceTime, or phone calls if necessary. Research shows that social exclusion can leave one feeling without purpose or that life is losing meaning. Look at the positives, and then take action. We can confront the anxiety that we are feeling and move past our pervading sense of loss
To improve productivity at home, create a morning routine.
When you wake up, drink a tall glass of water to hydrate yourself. Drink water at every break throughout your day to maintain levels of energy.
Deep breathing exercises, and light movement or stretching to wake up the body will help with your energy and has effects with keeping you focused for the rest of the day. I suggest downloading the Wim Hoff app for some cool breathing exercises, physical actions to reset the nervous system. Try the cold shower challenge. Cold showers have many physiological benefits.
In my morning routine, I set up my mindset for the day by journaling the answers to the following questions with a nice cup of coffee.
1. What is something I can get excited about today?
Finding something to get excited about sets your brain toward future positives rather than the automatic habit of our negativity bias or considering all the things that are wrong with a situation.
2. How do I want to show up today?
What are the feelings that I want to have today? Do I want to be at peace? Do I want to feel joy, excitement, or committed to some particular task? By asking this question, we become deliberate about setting our emotional intention, and we start to bend our will toward an intentional mindset.
3. What are the top 3 goals/tasks that I need to do today?
Becoming clear about how you want to spend your day and what you need or want to achieve gives us a sense of purpose and this sense of purpose helps us to take action.
4. What are the possible obstacles or hurdles that I need to be aware of today, and how can I handle or overcome these challenges?
By acknowledging potential challenges, we are not thrown off so much emotionally if/ and when they happen. We are better prepared to meet these challenges and continue completion of tasks for the day instead of becoming distracted and losing momentum and motivation.
Read about someone or something that inspires you or gets you excited about your work for the day. By doing this, you are setting your focus toward the positive and establishing a mental framework. The beauty of reading is the learning we gain from any master that you like. Imagine Uta Hagen, Merryl Streep, Bill Gates, Stanislavski, Meisner, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandella, or any other great teacher coming into your home and sitting with you for a morning chat before your workday. This is the power of reading. Make it a habit and continue to do it throughout your professional career. I make sure to read for at least 20 minutes or more.
A positive about during lockdown is that I can read for much longer if I like it because I have a little more time. A morning routine will help you toward daily progress in the work that you do by establishing a routine that sets you up for good working habits.
"Let us choose the strenuous life, taking pride and finding honour in our struggles and our contributions. We will not fear the exhaustion and anxieties that magnificent dreams and unceasing hard work can bring. We will keep a joyous heart even as we toil, for our toils bring us toward that which we find meaningful. Let us make ours a higher cause than comfort, a greater call than mediocrity. We have duties to complete, initiatives to begin, battles to fight, real victories to celebrate. And so forward we go with strength and fire."
- Brendon Burchard, Motivation Manifesto
I used to do work for a reward. Everything that I did for anyone related to work was about seeking approval, recognition, or praise for it. This worked well for me as a young student, because my passion for hard work meant that I was able to excel and achieve in academia and in pretty much any activity I put my mind to do. However, as I began a profession in musical theatre, an industry so rife with rejection and competition, I realised that I would never receive enough recognition and approval to make me happy. Even when the support comes, the satisfaction from it is fleeting. Emotions are temporary, and the feeling of excitement from compliments and the approval of others will never be enough to inject you with the kind of grit and determination that it takes to succeed in the musical theatre industry.
Real breakthrough happens when we can get involved in the work for the enjoyment of it. When you begin to grow the skills that are necessary for your primary field of interest, and you commit to the work for the sheer engagement involved in that task, you will begin to develop the quality of work that is necessary to become a master and a high performer in your area of interest. Anytime that you start your work session, or even think about your work, you need to have clarity around what it is you want to achieve. You can do this by setting the intentions and goals of the work that you do. For example, "At the end of this work session, I will know the lyrics to this song, or I will remember the melody to this song. I will feel clear about my actions and objectives in this particular scene….etc.
As you go about the rest of your work during the day, make sure to focus on the task and commit fully to the process of whatever it is you are doing. I suggest using the Pomodoro technique of alternating 45-minute intense intervals, and then taking a break and coming back to the material at another time or after a small 10 break.
Turn off your phone, and get rid of all distractions. Sometimes I've had to hire out a dance studio or a practice room for this, but since this is not possible, it may be necessary for you to have conversations with your family members, housemates or whomever it is that you live with so that you can avoid interruptions. When you do take a break, repeat deep breathing exercises, do some light movement or stretching and then go back into another intense 45-minute session. Make sure to release the negativity, stress, and whatever emotions associated with the work session by turning on light music or concentrating on your breath.
You may simply want to repeat the mantra 'release'. I used to turn on an interlude song of India Arie's that states in the lyrics "I release all disappointment from my mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional bodies. 'cause I know that spirit guides me, and love lives inside of me. That's why I take each day as it comes."
It doesn't matter what you do, really to release as long as it clears your head and you feel set up to begin sessions again when once your break is complete.
As a musical theatre performer right now, we have the benefit of all kinds of free dance classes, online modules, training sessions, and discussions as performers, teachers, and creators take to Instagram to provide value, stay relevant, and influence the industry.
You can take advantage of this time by setting up a work plan for yourself and even a training regimen so that you feel ready and equipped once the strict measures for lockdown are lessened. Why not set up a daily routine of dance, singing, and acting exercises from all of the free offerings and content available on the different social media platforms? Or perhaps you may simply want to take action on a creative project that you've been putting off. Whatever it is is you are working on, full engagement in the task at hand requires skill and focus. But with practice, you can learn to have intense, productive sessions in the comfort of your own home.
Do the work in any situation that engenders fear and continue the work with present moment awareness and great care.
This is how we bring quality to what we do. Bringing present moment awareness to our work sessions gives our work the quality that brings value and excellence to what we are offering. The art that we provide has the potential to heal. The quality of our work reverberates out into the Universe in ways our minds don't fully comprehend.