This post features my friend and colleague, Basil Harris. Basil and I have known each other for quite a few years now. We have only worked together a few times - once in Locally Grown, and most recently, in the The Tea Cozies' video, Cosmic Osmo. Basil has been a good resource to me over the past few years as I have moved from being primarily a stage actor, to being a bonafide double threat, as now I make my way in front of the camera as often as possible.
I am, therefore, very excited to share a recent conversation Mr. Harris had with an actor, Chris, in hopes that it will touch a few of my readers, too!
Here is the question from Chris:
"Did you ever have a period in your 20's where getting shows, doing plays, was almost like intensive therapy and when you weren't in one you battled depression? I know I know, coming out left field!!! I know thats a totally normal feeling for us to have all the time, but I guess what I mean is, how did you cope? If that was the case for you."
And, here, the response, from Mr. Harris:
"Ah yes, the ride is so much fun you feel like you're suddenly wearing concrete shoes if you're off it! I do remember, and it's a thrill... in some ways.
If you are actually battling actual depression when you're alone and feeling idle, GET HELP. Seriously, find a professional to talk to. Theatre is not therapy (so many people I know who still don't realize that). If you're really in trouble, really get help. The worst that could happen is that the therapist tells you that you just need more iron in your diet and she isn't worried about you. But if it is something serious, better to be safe early on. No pursuit, artistic or otherwise, is worth actually jeopardizing your mental health. Unless it's Angry Birds, because that shit is OFF THE FUCKING CHAIN.
Okay, so maybe you're being a liiiittle dramatic and it's not a chemical imbalance or anything, you just get antsy and want to keep working. Well, that never goes away. Trust me. It's a nice little fake monkey to have on your back after a while. However, I would strongly recommend finding a non-theatre-related activity to get excited about in the quiet times. A good friend of mine used to play in a lacrosse league when she wasn't acting. She was able (somehow) to balance work, theatre and a pretty burly practice/game schedule back in the day. It made me a little jealous because she actually was able to find a community outside her theatre friends that offered her a different outlet and was based in fun and physical activity. It took her mind off theatre enough that she was really able to to enjoy switching gears into something new every day. Whether it's hiking or stamp collecting or yoga or whatever (wine tasting or home brewing does NOT count), basically find another thing you like to do and do it. For me, it was playing music in a band, then ultimately having a family (which is so crazy-making sometimes it makes theatre seem downright pedestrian).Really, you just need to find a way to get out of "theatre head" sometimes. This is a business made up almost entirely of rejection, inconsistency and uncertainty. And while "that's life", in a way, you should also find ways to set and meet other emotionally constructive goals on a regular basis. That's why sports and games are such attractive hobbies to a lot of people: clear structure, clear goal, finite outcome.
Does that help at all? Thanks for asking and I do hope you're able to find what works for you."
More information about Basil Harris can be found here. Here is a link to his IMDB page.