When we think of the term fitness in connection with the performing arts, we instantly visualize the demanding workouts of dancers and acrobats training to present peak performances on stage. Often, we leave out of consideration that being in good physical shape is important not only for them, but also for everyone else behind the scenes.
Department related strains
Working in any stage production – whether it be a theatre, a convention hall, a cruise ship or an arts festival – always requires a high focus to deal with the challenges we come across. On top of that, working backstage is physically demanding for all involved. Every department has its particular movements that put a strain on our bodies: Some might be rolling flight cases or taping down cables, others carry costumes or heavy props. A director might walk several miles during rehearsals, while a light designer might sit in one rigid position for multiple hours at once. These stresses and strains are often connected to little or bad food, lack of sleep, and maybe even previous traveling on buses and airplanes.
a narrowed horizon
These conditions challenge not only our bodies but also our professional presence as a whole. Physical fatigue takes away valuable energy we need to remain the best at our craft. Exhaustion reduces our focus, and we become more blinkered simply for avoiding additional strains. Instead of being open to what surrounds us, we start to channel our energy to minimal tasks only. Interdepartmental communication as well as creative exchanges drop.
Losing the most valuable tool
By reducing our attention to a particular assignment only, we lose the most essential tools we possess behind the curtain: teamwork and cooperation. When we are busy looking after ourselves, the quality of the total production declines.
It turns out that being resistant to physical, work-related stress is a fundamental requirement for all jobs in the performing arts – from the technicians to the make-up department, from the prop master to the stage manager, and from the director to the wardrobe assistant. Everyone needs to acquire their own way of being in good physical shape. It is not about a firm sixpack or doing yoga every morning. It means keeping a fresh mind by being resistant to external impacts our work has on our bodies.
My favorite Tips and Tricks on how this can be achieved are presented in chapter 4 of my book “Collaborating Backstage”! Let me know as well which techniques you came up with over the years to stay positive and focused!