How Has the Arts Affected Your Mental Health?

Part one of a four part series

This is a very important piece to me personally.

We all share a love of the arts. After all, we’re all at the school of the arts. Everything we do here, we do it with a passion. We have a drive to produce something beautiful. Something great.

Needless to say, it’s affected our health in some way. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. So this week, I’m starting a series of interviews. We’re going to analyze the arts and mental health in every discipline over a period of time.

Starting with my own discipline, the theatre arts discipline, I’ve taken it upon myself to create individual questions. For the first part of our interview series, I had a virtual interview with my fellow company member, Zayne Vance. Zayne Vance is a writer for RISE, is a theatre senior, and resides in Ripley, Mississippi.

Zayne was extremely thorough and vivid in his answers. He spoke truthfully and honestly.

Abigail Troth: Sometimes putting on a “mask,” or becoming a new character can have a negative effect on your health. What are some ways you’ve gotten past that, if you’ve ever experienced it? 

Zayne Vance: 1.) As an actor, possible the most important job is to become the character on the stage; via rehearsal and performances. This can often lead to many actors feeling very depressed and overwhelmed for a myriad of reason; whether it be because the actor cannot personally relate to the character, the character reflects a darker side to themselves or humanity at large, or you relate to the character in a negative way. The problem for many actors come with the fact that they have to spend a long time fully fleshing out/understand a character and it can take a toll on their mental health. The thing that actors have to realize is that they are not the character in real life, only on the stage. You should never let the character consume you no matter what. Even though you are an actor portraying a wide variety of characters, you are still your own person at the end of the day. This is a big reason for why performing has never left me feeling depressed/hurt my mental health. I have to keep in mind no matter how much I relate to the characters or do not, no matter how likable or dis-likable they are, and no matter how much I agree/disagree with their actions, I know that I am not these characters. I am portraying these characters on stage with the hopes of moving the audience and showing the character in my/the director’s vision. Sounds complex? Well, acting is complex. However, it is still important to put your mental health first when performing and I feel that this is the best way for actors to avoid hurting their mental health when performing.

Abigail Troth: How long have you been acting? When was the moment you fell in love with it?

Zayne Vance: For me, I believe that the first time I started acting was at the church I attended to at the time where I decided on a whim to perform a character for a Christmas play they were putting on. Being a huge fan of movies, I thought it would be fun. I had such a fun time that I soon joined my local community theatre. This is the point where I believe I slowly fell in love with acting. Growing up in the south, I was not interested in hunting, fishing, sports, or most things that people in my town did. This led to me doing as many productions as possible and soon the only thing I knew I wanted to do with my life was act. It became my passion and I wanted to perfect my craft to the best of my abilities. If I had to pick a moment where I truly fell in love with acting, I would say it happened when I performed as Scar in our production of The Lion King. I just remembered taking the role very seriously and would give it my all no matter what. Looking back now, it was probably not that good; However, it was the thing that made me fall in love with acting, so I will always have a fond memory of that performance.

Abigail Troth: What advice do you have for future actors on how to keep their mental health stable in their art? 

Zayne Vance: By far the biggest advice I have to give to up and coming actors for their mental health is to do it because you love acting. It does not matter how good you are or how poor you are when you start acting, if you do not really love acting then it will make your mental health a lot worse. I would also say that another big thing is to not let your work consume you. Acting is truly an amazing art form, but please do not let it rule over you. If you make any work your life, then it will not help your mental health at all. Remember to take time for yourself. You deserve a break too and deserve to be happy doing the thing that you love. This obviously does not mean to be lazy and only focus on yourself, but it means to not let you work rule over you. The final piece of advice I would give to up and coming actors is to remember that you are not perfect. You are not always going to give an Oscar worthy performance on every performance you give, and that is okay. As an actor, you should always have room to grow. I know it is hard to understand, but you can never start at the top. Always remember that you are doing the best you can and if you put in the work you will grow into an amazing actor of your own. This is crucial to your mental health because it helps you not set the bar too high. You should always have confidence in yourself, but just remember that if you set the bar so high that you can never reach it, then it will only make you more depressed and feel hopeless as an actor, and that is a true tragedy (pun intended).

Thank you, Zayne, for your honesty, advice, and for being such a wonderful interviewee.

Take care,


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