Penn students in performing arts groups report struggles balancing rehearsals with school during midterm season.
Students said that, often, the performance dates for their fall shows overlap with midterm exams. Performing arts groups at Penn often have rehearsal schedules throughout the semester that range from 6 to 20 hours a week, according to College junior Kayli Mann's estimate, and these hours lengthen in the week immediately leading up to performances. This time is referred to as "tech week" — the first time the performers rehearse with microphones, set pieces, costumes, and full music.
Mann, who is the vice chair of Penn Players is involved in multiple Theater Arts Council productions per semester, and said that she typically acts in one and serves on the tech crew for others. She is also a flute player for the Penn Band.
Balancing rehearsal schedules can be difficult, Mann said. For example, she pointed out that rehearsals for her upcoming production of "Cabaret" can take up about 10 hours of the week, while Penn Band occupies another two to eight hours — depending on if there is a football game on the weekend.
Several students said that developing the necessary time management skills to juggle various commitments can take time.
“Freshman year, I had no concept of how to do time management,” Mann said. “Because we were filming [at home during the COVID-19 pandemic], we were doing a lot more, but now it makes a lot more sense. I try to dedicate my evenings to theater and block it off, knowing I’m not going to have study time.”
Engineering senior and Pennchants President Evan Bean echoed this sentiment, adding that his leadership role means he must help to balance others' schedules as well as his own.
“It requires a lot of awareness of your schedule,” said Bean. “There’s very little separation; it can be very tricky. Some members in our group have midterms during [tech] week, so, as a leader of the group, it requires a significant amount of preparation and trying to minimize the workload on one individual week and trying to disperse it across the entire semester.”
Bean added that he wants to ensure that his group’s members can both succeed academically and fulfill their a cappella responsibilities.
College senior and chair of Penn Players Tommy Christaldi said that keeping consistent communication with professors is important and helps him to prioritize his academic life.
“As much as I love being involved in theater, I am someone who believes my academics come first,” said Christaldi. “From the start of the semester, make sure your professor knows [the performing arts are] something you’re involved in [and] that means a lot to you. Forming those relationships with your professors really early on increases the likelihood of flexibility on their end and having them give you grace.”
Although they said the balance is difficult, students expressed that it's possible to develop strategies to decrease stress levels while still managing various commitments.
“One of the most important things is getting enough sleep,” said Bean. “That sounds really counterintuitive during a time when you have a lot of school obligations and a lot of performance obligations, but if you’re prioritizing sleep and you have your framework as sleep first, academics second, and performance last, that’s the best advice I could give.”
Mann added that it is important to “know your limits.” Christaldi recommended that students should figure out which time of day is best for them when it comes to productivity.
“We all do this stuff because we love it,” said Christaldi. “I've retired from acting like four times now, but it always keeps pulling me back in. As soon as it’s not a part of my life anymore, I’m going to really wish that it was.”