This leads many to wonder...is all the time and energy worth it? While an athlete might put hours and hours into practice, they're at least given the chance to play often through an entire season. The Pittsburgh Pirates train in the winter and spend a month at spring training...and then get to perform as many as 162 times during the Spring and Summer. Even the Steelers, after months of prep, gets sixteen full games to show their stuff. A play though...unless it's professional company, often only gets a handful of performances, which sometimes cover multiple weekends but mostly cover just a few days. Even though the actors' input (tired, energy, emotional drainage) may be similar to the athletes, the output is considerably muted. So the question again...is it worth it?
As someone who used to be frequently involved in the high school theater world, I can say that the answer is a resounding "yes"...but perhaps not for the reason you think. It's not that the final show is so amazing that it justifies the months of work. It's that the months of work are the show. The final performance, the one the audience sees, is, in a way, just a formality. It's still exciting to finally share the finished work with others, but often the real sense of accomplishment has already happened weeks earlier. It could be a line is finally said perfectly, when a singer hits a note for the first time, when the costumes are brought out and the actors finally feel like its ready for an audience...but regardless, the real "show" has often occurred long before the audience passes through the box office. It's a similar circumstance to my marathon training; while the "big event" in Philadelphia isn't until next weekend, I already feel I've completed the most challenging part by overcoming an injury and completing multiple twenty-mile runs. The race will just be a victory lap, no matter what the clock and medals say. In much the same way, tonight's performance will be a grand finale for us the audience...but perhaps not the pinnacle of the experience for the actors.
Of course, when you think about it, this tweak in looking at things can be applied to most of life. You can either choose to see the weekend as the goal...or the week as the experience. You can count down the days until Christmas, or you can enjoy the season leading up to it. You can eagerly await the end of the school year, or you can attend every event you can while the year is in session. Everyone loves the end...but the middle is what makes it worth doing.