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The student news site of Kingwood Park High School

KP TIMES

The student news site of Kingwood Park High School

KP TIMES

Townsend’s tension in theater brings burnout

Junior+Shelby+Townsend+was+featured+in+a+number+of+plays+in+middle+school+and+high+school.+She+never+expected+to+get+burnt+out+of+performing+while+actin+in+her+final+play+of+her+sophomore+year.
Kaitlyn Sitton
Junior Shelby Townsend was featured in a number of plays in middle school and high school. She never expected to get burnt out of performing while actin in her final play of her sophomore year.

I stood in the wings, waiting for the lights to dim as the director welcomed the crowd. The energy in the air was electric, and I looked around at all my castmates buzzing with excitement, and something felt off. The rush of adrenaline that used to course through me on show days was lacking. It was replaced by another emotion: spite. 

Feeling anger and hate for something I loved more than anything hurt. I was always naturally drawn toward theater. The stage, the people, the dramatics. I did every play my schools offered for five years until the environment I thought of as a second home turned into a place too toxic to handle.

I hit my peak during the varsity show “Peter and the Starcatcher” last fall. I got the part I wanted. The crowd loved me. And even though conditions behind the scene were less than ideal, I didn’t care. I loved performing, and I was doing it with some of my best friends. I was on fire.

As a sophomore, Shelby Townsend performs as Thing One in “Seussical the Musical.” It was during that show Townsend struggled to perform with the same joy she had during the previous few years. (Madlynn Morris)

But what happens to all fires, no matter how bright? They burn out. Oh, and did this fire come cascading down.

I’ve never experienced a burnout like this before. One of the hardest times in my life was spent in a blue wig and red overalls, playing Thing One in last year’s production of “Seussical the Musical.” Several factors contributed to my burnout, but a big one was the demands. 

The rehearsal schedule was extremely unpredictable, with practices being randomly extended or canceled with no notice. The amount of breaks we got were minimal, and you couldn’t have homework, snacks or phones backstage, even if you weren’t in a scene for an extended period of time. 

All of this made the experience hard, but I can pinpoint the exact moment I hit my breaking point and the fall into my burnout. We had rehearsal in the cafeteria, and it was the actors first time rehearsing with the band. This practice showed us that we were way behind schedule, and our former director sat us down and explained that even though school and homework are important, this play takes priority. The kicker was that I had failed yet another math test a few hours earlier. I honestly couldn’t believe what I was hearing – I needed to put more effort into “Seussical,” which I was already giving at least 10 hours weekly? I started to feel tears welling up in my eyes, and I was able to hold them back until I got into the car with my mom and broke down. I explained to her how much was being asked of us – not only in theater but in school too. 

The following month things continued to go downhill. I wasn’t eating or sleeping enough, and I had trouble turning assignments in on time. I became a version of myself I didn’t like, constantly lashing out at others. I went into autopilot at some point, running through the motions, ignoring the building mental distress. 

Sooner or later, it was closing night. The director welcomed the crowd. The energy in the air was electric and I looked around at all my castmates buzzing with excitement, and the show began. We took our final bows and left for the cast dinner. As I left the school, the adrenaline that coursed through on show days was replaced by another emotion: relief.

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