Sundays are a day to recharge and reset by hanging with friends, turning off your phone, bathing for hours on end, or doing whatever else works for you. In this column (in conjunction with our Instagram Self-Care Sunday series), we ask editors, experts, influencers, writers, and more what a perfect self-care Sunday means to them, from tending to their mental and physical health to connecting with their community to indulging in personal joys. We want to know why Sundays are important and how people enjoy them, from morning to night.
While the world came to a halt due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, so did Broadway actress Jeanna de Waal's career. Just a week before she was supposed to debut as Princess Diana in the Broadway production Diana, Broadway went dark. "There was no negotiation of work. Acting work just stopped," the 32-year-old tells HelloGiggles. But even though the stage lights have been turned off in New York City, de Waal has been busy working on another theater project called Broadway Weekends, which describes itself as "musical theater camp for all."
"As an entrepreneur, I was able to pivot and devote myself to exploring a completely new way in which the company could deliver on its mission," says de Waal. Since its launch, the company has hosted 80+ theater workshops a month, helped theater students learn and interact with the artists in the industry, and soon plans on hosting an upcoming event for high schoolers called The Prom Online. "I believe that theater is a space for everyone. That is what I hope to achieve with my company," co-founder de Waal says.
In addition to her work with Broadway Weekends, the actress has also had the opportunity to head back on stage to finally play Diana—just not exactly like she'd imagined. "Last month, the cast filmed the production for Netflix, and it will premiere sometime this winter as the first Broadway production to debut onscreen prior to its official Broadway opening night," de Waal explains. She recalls her excitement to get back in the studio and prep for the role. "Having now worked on the Diana project for nearly four years, my goal for each period of rehearsal and my process shifted many times. The nature of how we enjoy theater is about to be explored," she says.
For this week’s Self-Care Sunday, we spoke to de Waal to learn more about her acting career, her relationship with mental health, and her go-to self-care rituals.
HelloGiggles (HG): How has your acting career impacted your mental health over the years?
Jeanna de Waal (JW): Acting has been my escape since I was a young teenager. Singing, too. It was how I learned self-discipline, and work ethic, and failure—and I made great friends in the process. When I started pursuing the performing arts as a career, it definitely complicated my relationship with the art form (i.e. the business, paying your rent aspect of it all). As a theater artist, there are often long periods of zero structure or guidance, and stretches of time with no regular income. In the past, these periods have made me feel insecure, and self-started projects have been immensely valuable in giving me focus and self-worth.
HG: What are some theater-related practices or regimens you suggest others do to help with their mental health?
JW: Try a dance class! Get your body moving. What about learning a number from your favorite Broadway show? And then go from there. Maybe explore a little singing technique, which is so deeply personal and requires incredible patience. Build your way up to a solo monologue coaching session—performing by yourself in front of dozens of eyes from across the world is certain to get the adrenaline pumping! There’s a lot—so many theater classes with so many different mental health benefits.
HG: What physical activities have you been doing lately to help you connect with your craft?
JW: Singing. Hours and hours in the studio, especially in the few weeks prior to filming.
HG: What do you suggest up-and-coming actors do now when they may not be able to physically be onstage or audition for roles?
JW: Firstly, figure out a way to survive. Both mentally and financially. Personally, I disagree that developing a B plan gets in the way of your A plan. B plans to develop personality, make you more interesting to talk to, give you something to do while you're waiting for the phone to ring, and hopefully, are also a source of income. Then, find ways to keep stretching your abilities as an artist. Deepen your existing expertise or develop new areas of interest.
HG: How have you been staying connected with loved ones during this time?
JW: I have actually lived with loved ones this entire pandemic. I have lived in various pods, sometimes with family members and sometimes with friends. I actually don’t have an address currently. There’s just nowhere in the world I need to be.
HG: As the co-founder of Broadway Weekends, how have you been trying to support the company's community during this time?
JW: Everything we do is to support the Broadway Weekends community. Our community has great input in how we develop our schedule, the teachers we hire, and the decisions we make.
HG: What self-care rituals or products have you been gravitating toward as of late?
JW: I love to be up before the sun comes up. I love to spend an hour in the morning, drinking my coffee, and doing something completely redundant like scrolling Instagram or watching dumb YouTube videos.
HG: How do you connect with your joy during this time?
JW: I’m a pretty happy person, in general. I love to be outside. I love to eat food, especially at restaurants. I’ve newly discovered King Crab legs because of Cardi B’s Instagram, and I’m obsessed. Also, I really like to have a workout buddy.
HG: What is your advice for people who want to enter the acting world, but don’t know where to begin because of the pandemic?
JW: If you want to try out some online theater classes, check out Broadway Weekends. We even have a free community class each week on our online platform, Broadway Weekends at Home. If you are planning to join the business, honestly, none of us know how the industry is going to evolve over the next couple of years, so just keep your ear to the ground and keep trying to find out when open calls are starting up, which agents and casting directors are taking video submissions, and what activities can join to meet fellow industry professionals. I would also say, start developing your own content. Even if you are not ready to start sharing it, developing skills like writing might lead to collaborations and opportunities when the timing is right for you.