Post-Show Depression: What It Is and How To Deal With It

rebecca spelman post show depression

Post-show depression, also known as the “post-show blues”, often hits people like performers, directors, and anyone else who works in theatre. It makes sense- you put a lot of time and effort into a project, you experience a high during the show’s run, and then… It’s all over. In the course of one day, you go from working incessantly and receiving applause to watching Netflix for five hours because you’re not sure how else to pass the time.

Let’s talk about the causes of post-show depression, how you can work through it, and the importance of avoiding burn-out.

Why do I have post-show depression?

  • You’re not used to having free time.

Being involved in a show takes up a lot of time. You’ve spent weeks (or maybe even months!) in the rehearsal room, learning your lines and perfecting your blocking. You used to run from place to place, spending every spare moment in rehearsal. You created a schedule that allowed you to devote ten hours a week to a show- now you just have a lot of free time.

  • Your creative outlet is gone.

Whether you’re acting, dancing, directing, or working backstage, theatre allows you to dedicate time and energy to your creative work. It feels good when you work on it, and even better when you receive a round of applause for what you’ve achieved. Most people need a creative outlet, and to go from a huge project to nothing at all can be really frustrating.

  • You miss your friends.

Over the course of rehearsals, tech, and the run of a show, you spend a huge amount of time with your fellow cast and crew members. Inside jokes become more obscure, post-rehearsal drinks go longer, and you run lines together so often that everyone chimes in when you pause onstage. Working on a show together creates an intense bond, and once the show is over, it feels strange to not be together all the time.

How to get over post-show depression

  • Rest.

This is the most important step. You might feel restless and full of energy because you’ve become used to a busy schedule, but your body (and mind) will crash if you don’t take a break. Make sure you get enough sleep, allow yourself some time to just relax, and try things like meditation or mindfulness exercises to unwind after weeks of pushing yourself.

  • Keep in touch.

Working on a production is an amazing way to build friendships, but the show ending doesn’t mean your bonds have to end too! Call your former cast-mates and ask to hang out- almost everyone misses their theatre friends after a show, so they probably want to spend time together just as much as you do. This is also a great time to reconnect with your other friends, but make sure you’re not just treating them as a backup when you’re in between shows.

  • Catch up on other parts of your life.

You know that growing pile of laundry you’ve ignored for the last two weeks? This is the time to sort that out. Same goes for cleaning the house, responding to emails, calling your parents, and doing the grocery shopping. Our routines tend to become a bit of a mess when preparing for a show, so take this opportunity to get everything back on track. It’s also a great way to keep yourself busy as you re-adjust to a rehearsal-free schedule.

  • Have a creative outlet.

You need to take a break and recuperate before jumping into another demanding show, but having a creative outlet will really help you to stay fulfilled. It’ll also help with your fear of missing out, because you’re still spending time doing something you enjoy. Take this time to brush up on a skill you haven’t practiced in a while, or branch out into a different area like music or arts and crafts.

  • Plan your next project.

A great way to tackle post-show depression is to remind yourself that there’ll always be another show, if you want it. Look out for upcoming auditions or workshops, come up with a rough outline for your next script, or perfect your monologue so you’re ready to land your next dream part.

Avoiding a burn-out cycle

When you’re working on a show, it’s hard to not throw yourself in headfirst and give everything you have to the project. You want to do the best job you can, so it makes sense that you do everything you can to make that happen. Just remember that your work method needs to be sustainable. The most important thing is your health and if you work yourself too hard, you won’t be able to enjoy the process. Besides, working too hard now could mean that you’re too burnt-out to work on the next show. Remember that this isn’t just about one show, it’s about you being able to enjoy what you love for as long as you want.

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4 thoughts on “Post-Show Depression: What It Is and How To Deal With It

  1. Just finished playing Mabel, or Marbel, as my costar likes to call me, in a production of the Pirates of Penzance! Next year, I’ll be in the Yeomen of the Guard with mostly the same people, but during the four months in between, I’ll miss those beautiful, beautiful idiots.

  2. I just finished playing Luke in Strictly Ballroom the Musical and I’ve got to say, Post show depression is REAL. This was my first ever Musical that I’ve been in and I’m really in my feelings since it was such an amazing experience and the cast were truly some of the most amazing people I’ve met in my entire life, and I’m sad I won’t see them for like a really long time. I’ll miss all the little dance parties in the wings during songs and goofing around while singing backup off-stage with everyone. I’ll miss all of the hospitality and genuine kindness of everyone there and looking out for each other. I’ll miss the afterparty we had and the scream singing that made me go sick and go on vocal rest. And now I’m back to my boring life with crummy schoolmates, and friends who aren’t really my friends.

  3. Yes, yes and yes. Just finished a show that took seven years to produce with Covid delays etc. it was a dream of mine for more than 20 years, and finally came to fruition after thousands of hours of fundraising, rehearsal, and tens of thousands of dollars. It was a huge success. Everyone loved it, and the cast was so much fun. We had jokes and parties just like you say in the article. Now they have all gone home to Spain and my husband and I are alone with our mundane chores and jobs. Yes on to the next one. Luckily this show has spurred on a new level for my career. But I has not alway been that way. I have night mare productions that made me want to give up my dance company completely. Hang in there everyone !!! XOXOX

  4. Yesterday I finished my last show of a very short run, but a production I’ve been rehearsing for 6 months. It’s even worse because it was a revue with a storyline and dialogue so our characters were written for our personalities as the show was still being written in the first few weeks of rehearsal. The past 3 weeks I’ve had long rehearsals almost every day and literally all day on weekends. All my best friends were in it but they live extremely far away and now I won’t see them regularly. We’re doing another show starting in July but it still is literally painful. I spent about two hours after and during my cast party hugging my best friends and all of us sobbing. They’re my family and I can barely handle that we’re not seeing each other regularly anymore. I have depression and anxiety so this is going to hit me extremely hard. I can hardly survive without my 7 best friends. I miss them so much already. I have school friends but they’re not the same. I want my chosen family. I want my cast back, even the ones I don’t know as well, I’ll never forget this show.

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