Since actually participating in theatre turned out to be overwhelming in terms of time and energy required, I decided to take a different approach to participating in student life by … observing it. Which doesn’t necessarily sound like a form of participation, but it is. Hear me out.
I discovered that by signing up to review student productions, I could get free tickets to various theatre things. This is a win-win scenario: I get to enjoy an evening out without having to pay any money, and I also get the experience that comes from writing reviews for a student newspaper, namely meeting deadlines and writing to spec. The hardest part is keeping my reviews below 450 words, to be honest…
Okay, so I’m making it sound like I’m slightly more established at this than I am. I’ve only written one review so far, for The Cambridge Student, which was about an improv show. But it’s a start. It’s the second article I’ve written for TCS, the first being about ‘guilty term-time pleasures’ when it comes to TV. Netflix and I are far too well acquainted, so I didn’t find that one too hard to write. (That’s unfortunately not on the website, so I can’t link to it.)
After writing these two articles it occurred to me that this could be a thing I do. I’ve been blogging since 2009 — how different is it, really, to write for a paper? The readership’s not the same, and I can’t see people’s reactions in the same way, but it’s essentially the same sort of medium. Writing book reviews, even if they’ve been sparse lately due to a total lack of time for reading fiction, gives me the experience I need to review theatre, and being involved in a few shows in the past means I have some idea what I’m looking for…
Maybe it isn’t so much the stereotypical student experience where you throw yourself in, heart and soul. Maybe my Facebook page won’t be filled with pictures of me in costume with the cast and crew of a dozen shows, looking delighted and exhausted to be on stage. But I’m not sure that’s really the life for me anyway. Writing reviews is at least a chance to contribute something to the student community, and get to watch shows for free as a bonus.
I say this, but tomorrow I’m auditioning for the Cambridge Ballet Club’s production of Romeo and Juliet, which I’m way too excited about — gender blind casting means this could end up being a super interesting production, and I’m also thrilled at the idea of ballet with swords. Dancing and swords are two of my favourite things: combining them is even better.
Still, I’m supposed to do ballet because my physio says it’s good for me, so its not quite the same.
The Cambridge Student isn’t exactly a prestigious newspaper, but I’m still excited every time I see my name in print there. (Yes, with my surname… I debated asking them to credit me as Miriam Joy but figured it didn’t matter, in the long run.) I’ve taken to cutting out the articles I write and sticking them in my journal as a reminder that I might not be making a living as a writer yet, contrary to my thirteen-year-old self’s plans, but at least I’m working on it.
Every review I write is another little bit of experience I’ve got under my belt. I met a late-night deadline! I wrote an article on a topic chosen by somebody else! I kept my wordcount to a certain level! Maybe one day, that’ll be the experience I take to a publisher and say, “Hey, look, you should totally sign me. I’m committed to this and I know what I’m doing.”
In the meantime, though, I’ve got another deadline to meet. Monday, 2pm: Assess the impact of Church reform in Ireland and Scotland in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. I’m not sure it’s going to happen, with the ballet auditions tomorrow, my mum visiting on Sunday, and a physio appointment on Monday morning, but we’ll see how much I can do while waiting for my supervisor to get back to me about moving the deadline.
If you are or have been a student, how do you get involved in student life without getting totally overwhelmed or struggling to complete your work? Do you have any advice for me on trying to balance health issues, a heavy workload, and the social side of things that are supposed to make these three years so great?