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The show must go on: Spotlighting mental health in the Musical Theatre industry

Updated: Feb 28


Man running theatre workshop with two performers

If you’ve been in any kind of theatre show, rehearsal room, or performance environment, whether professional or amateur, you will probably agree that performers can come across as the happiest people in existence. 


From pirouetting to stepping into a new character and escaping into a different world for a while, you would ask yourself how a performer could feel anything else but happiness.


However, this is often not the reality.


Behind the smile, you can often find a whirlwind of anxiety, fear, self-doubt & the constant comparing oneself to others. 


“I’m not good enough” is quite often the phrase I have heard time and time again, be it in the professional world, or even among those who are participating in Musical Theatre as a hobby, which is designed to bring joy and an outlet for creative passion. 


Too often the theme of mental health is left out completely, and in an industry that requires giving more of your inner-self than any other out there, I can’t highlight enough the importance of personal development being brought into the spotlight. 

 

Here’s a little drop of reality for anyone out there looking to pursue a career in performing: The work can be amazing but the industry is TOUGH. You need to be prepared, and being prepared with the right mindset is what will help you navigate your way through. Without this, performers can be left to dwell in the negative emotions that come with always putting themselves under the watchful eye. Here are some truths that I have personally experienced along with many others I know in the industry, and some solutions to the challenge at hand:


  • You will face rejection A LOT. It’s part of the game: Rejection can send people into a spiral of thinking they are not good enough. However, the trick is to treat it like a game - you might do 10 auditions, 50 auditions or even 100 before you hit the jackpot. Normalise it! It is not in any way a reflection of your self worth, it’s all about being the right fit for the right role - just like in any industry. The right role or job WILL come - be persistent and have confidence!


  • Unfortunately, there are some people and companies in the industry who will say inappropriate things about your image: I attended an audition many years ago where they told me I did an excellent audition and I was in the final to be chosen. However, despite their positive commentary about my talent both during and after the audition, I was told that the only reason I wasn’t chosen for the part was because I was “too big for the style of costumes in the show” (word.for.word). Being fresh out of drama school, this could have sent me running miles from the industry, having thoughts like “I’ll never look right to get a job as a musical theatre performer”, despite being a size 8 and in my best shape. Had this been said to someone who had not been into personal development and mindset, and possibly suffering from an eating disorder, it could have triggered something very deep and potentially led to dangerous circumstances. Instead, I turned it into creative energy for motivation, and I kept going! Dancers in particular are STILL lined up in auditions from time to time and judged solely on their appearance, and not their talent. This is why personal development and mindset work should be a CRUCIAL part of drama school training in order to have a solid foundation of SELF-LOVE, SELF-BELIEF & resilience.


  • Comparing yourself to others: This is another destructive pattern that lowers self-esteem more than anything. Everyone is unique, we are all individuals on our own journeys and no two people have had the same experiences. Therefore, acknowledge your uniqueness. Don’t compare yourself in a negative way or see talent as a threat. Instead, embrace it and see what you can learn from those whose talent you admire. A wise director once told me: "give yourself grace” and now I really can’t say that enough.


  • The ‘I’m not good enough” to perform as a hobby mindset - Honestly I’ve heard it far too often lately where people are criticising themselves and saying they are not good enough to perform for fun. STOP ITTTTTT! You deserve to have a creative outlet and enjoy yourself doing things you love. Don’t expect to be able to sing or dance like a pro at the same level as someone on tour with Phantom of the Opera at Dubai Opera. Give yourself grace! Lower your expectations and tell yourself that you deserve it and are good enough, then work hard and enjoy it when you do get to be a part. Don’t overthink! 



So what can we do!?


It might seem deep, but the reality is that simple changes can go a long way in theatre land. 


  • As performers, it is so important to support others instead of focusing only on competition in a negative way. There really is space for many in the performing world, but you first have to believe it, and kick out that negative belief that success is limited. Instead, bring support, kindness and cheer others on to be successful. 


  1. Focus on maintaining a positive mindset and start your day out with a routine of personal development and self-love.

  2. Stop judging yourself negatively. Just STOP IT! 🎥😂 

  3. Realise that you need to detach rejection from your self worth. 

  4. And most of all, we must encourage mindset and personal development as part of theatre education  - this is key to creating happier performers with a strong sense of self-worth.



Inspirational quote about beauty






Written for MTDXB by Aimee Khalifa



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