How Not to be a Polymath. By Rose Lewenstein

I have enormous admiration for polymaths who make it work, because I have to admit that juggling art forms has caused me nothing but trouble.

As a child, my parents were always supportive and I never felt pressured into pursuing a Real Job* – in fact, my mother always said I should be a writer.  But when I was six, I decided I was going to be an actress.  10 years later, I started training in Musical Theatre, confident I’d be a West End star by the time I turned 20.  When in one of my tutorials I was asked whether I had a Plan B, I answered quite confidently that yes, I did have a Plan B.  If things didn’t work out, I would to move to Paris and become a jazz singer.  (Later that year I received a Rough Guides book as a birthday present from my father.  I told you my parents were supportive).

Somewhere between my diploma in Musical Theatre and my degree in Performance Arts, I decided that what I really wanted to be was a theatre director.  So I set up a theatre company with a friend and we put on a couple of plays and it was great fun and I learnt a lot and I think the main thing I learnt was that I didn’t really want to be a theatre director.

And so, having crossed West End Star and Theatre Director off my list, I was accepted by the (now Royal) Central School of Speech & Drama.  Over the three years we studied Acting, Voice, Movement, Directing, Dramaturgy, Writing, Text Analysis, Creative Producing, Contemporary Theatre Making, Interdisciplinary Theatre Practice and of course Performance Art (I briefly thought it might be the path for me when my friend Julia and I attempted to conduct a civil partnership in front of the class – our backdrop a porn film and our soundtrack Rachmaninoff – to illustrate, um, something about stereotypes and attitudes towards same sex marriage) – so pretty much most things that relate to most jobs in theatre. Continue reading

Jack of all trades syndrome

Nearly all the multi-tasking ‘polymaths’ I speak to have moments of feeling overwhelmed……occasionally worried that they risk spreading themselves too thinly and being labelled a ‘Jack of all Trades, master of None’.

I have watched a polymath friend of mine become visibly more stressed over the past few weeks, as she struggles to juggle an acting career with the demands of simultaneously producing several theatre shows at once, as well as trying to make sure she keeps a roof over her head by temping. It’s a common problem, especially for those of us who are not blessed with the financial resources to dedicate ourselves full-time to creative pursuits. What I’ve learnt from meeting and researching many creatives who opt for a polymathic approach, is that we each have our ‘breaking point’ and we must learn to recognise what it is for us. Continue reading