Cambridge’s ADC Theatre publishes new guidance to discourage ‘a culture of overcommitment’

The UK’s oldest university theatre “can no longer ignore these increasingly adverse effects”


The ADC Theatre has published new guidance for students to prevent “undue amounts of stress and high burnout rates.” It will dissuade students from taking on roles in multiple shows in the same week or “significant production roles across shows in consecutive weeks.”

“Significant production roles” include the following: producers, directors, musical directors, choreographers, lighting designers, technical directors, sound designers, and stage managers.

Actors “fall into something of a grey area,” given the difficulty of distinguishing between the variety of acting roles in productions. As such, they have been requested to keep in mind the theatre’s suggestions and “apply the same ethos when considering which shows they can commit to.”

An anonymous actor told the Tab that the guidance was “sensible in terms of not committing to too many shows” but argued that “it lacks some nuance.” They added that it was “unfair in terms of what they have chosen to define as a significant role – it seems that this will affect technical and production roles more than actors.”

When asked whether the changes would affect a large number of people, the actor responded, “I think it will encourage a change in mindset which will affect a lot of people but I think realistically that a lot of people will be unaffected.” For instance, their Michaelmas 2021 schedule under the new recommendations would stay almost unchanged, with just one less show.

However, they maintained that individuals in significant production roles (as defined by ADC) would experience considerable change.

When contacted by The Tab, a spokesperson for The ADC Theatre noted that “actors should follow the spirit of these recommendations when deciding which shows to commit to – we have not provided the same categorisation of ‘significant roles’ for actors, since there can be a much larger variety in commitment depending on the role, which makes distinguishing between them very difficult.”

ADC Management will formalise a rule preventing those involved in either the Michaelmas Term Pantomime or the Lent Term Musical from taking on additional roles after Week 4 of the same term. Both shows have double the runtime of other shows and “are a significant step up in terms of commitment.”

These recommendations were attributed to a desire to “reduce stress” placed on students and “the people they work with due to overcommitment.” The theatre added that by doing fewer shows, students may be able to perform “in a way which closely resembles the industry standard– for example, where Stage Managers and tech team are present at rehearsals from an early stage.”

The ADC spokesperson also remarked that “a reduction in the number of experienced production team members and technicians following the numerous lockdowns over the last two years had put increasing pressure on those with more experience to fill the wide range of roles we have available across our shows.” The new recommendations should enable “[the ADC Theatre] to continue training the next generation of Cambridge theatre-makers.”

“The fact that ADC management has introduced these rules to help limit [overcommitment] and also to allow more opportunities for more students to partake in theatre is something that we should greatly appreciate.”
– Declan Boyd, an undergraduate student regularly involved in tech at the ADC Theatre

The spokesperson hinted that the recommendations would “prevent people from committing themselves to too many productions out of concern that these roles will otherwise go unfilled.”

Declan echoed this sentiment, mentioning that he “found it difficult not to overcommit last term after people dropped out of productions.” He added, “I also have some friends who experienced the same thing. I, therefore, think that these regulations will be good mitigation against pressure like this.”

Declan also described the new ADC rules as “a positive step in the direction of looking after the mental health of students who take part in a lot of theatre.”

The ADC Theatre expressed its commitment “to work with the student community to revise and improve these guidelines over time, ensuring they remain relevant and reasonable across all roles.” It also encouraged individuals who have “any questions or thoughts in relation to them” to contact the ADC Production Manager, Lucia, at [email protected].

For more information on the new guidelines released by the ADC Theatre, click here.

Feature image credits: N Chadwick on Geograph, via this Creative Commons License