The Yale Drama Coalition has decided to take a stance against theater community members sacrificing health, sleep and schoolwork for their productions.
The YDC board launched a photo campaign on Tuesday that targets unhealthy behavior during the week before a production’s opening night — often referred to as “tech week” — which typically sees extended rehearsal schedules. YDC special events coordinator Eliza Robertson ’17, who conceived the idea for the campaign, said she thinks that “martyrdom” was an appropriate label for the theater community culture that encourages making excessive sacrifices for the sake of producing the best possible show.
While the theater community is welcoming, its members do not take enough care of themselves because a number of them “tend to sacrifice their own health and well-being for the sake of [working on their productions],” Robertson said.
Yale Drama Coalition president Nikki Teran ’15 recalls working 16-hour days during the tech week of last year’s Yale Dramatic Association fall mainstage show, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” in which she served as assistant lighting director. She said she felt the need to arrive at rehearsal early in the morning before call time and stay late at night to review lighting cues, noting that she did not feel comfortable asking for a break or cutting back her hours. She said she thought the show needed her to devote all the time she could.
According to Teran, the campaign will release a daily photo of theater community members holding up signs with pledges to promote safe and healthy habits during tech weeks for undergraduate productions. Teran said she hopes the campaign will reinforce the positive tech week practices that students in the photos share in their pledges, as well as inspire those that have not taken the best care of themselves to remember to do so in the future.
“If you do your work intelligently, there’s no reason you can’t take a break,” Teran said.
For example, Teran noted, students working on theater productions in the past have skipped meals and classes, slept fewer hours and missed academic assignments to focus exclusively on a production during tech week.
Lucy Fleming ’16, a managing editor of the Yale Daily News Magazine who was a cast member in a recent curricular production of “The Tempest,” echoed Teran’s statement. She explained that she thinks it is just as important for actors to maintain their well-being as it is to rehearse because actors must be able to communicate with others in the production as well as maintain a healthy voice during performances.
“At a certain point, your neglect of your body is going to have an impact on the way you’re able to think, create and interact with others,” Fleming said.
Fleming added that she thought such harmful habits were not unique to the Yale theater community, but rather indicative of an overarching culture in which students believe that they will be more successful in their commitments simply by investing more time in them.
Teran also added that while the Office of Undergraduate Production has instituted policies that include requiring rehearsals to not continue past 1 a.m., there are still members of the theater community who overextend themselves. She said she thinks the use of Facebook to display the campaign photos, which were largely inspired by the “It’s On Us” campaign, will result in a cultural shift in the Yale theater community. Teran noted that she plans to contact dance groups to take similarly themed photos during their tech weeks as well.
As of last night, the YDC had two campaign photos on its Facebook page.