Behind the Curtain: Meet Director/Choreographer Devon Sinclair

How the Theater Shutdown is Impacting the People Who Run the Show Behind the Scenes

By: Jul. 25, 2020
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Behind the Curtain: Meet Director/Choreographer Devon Sinclair

Due to the global health emergency, Broadway theaters have found their bright lights dimmed and their houses dark for the first time in history. As the world works together to stop the spread of COVID-19, the theater industry has been put on hold indefinitely - theaters around the world have closed their doors in compliance with social distancing rules, and Broadway has been shut down in full since March 13. The shutdown has impacted the lives of all who work in theater industry, who are now facing uncertain and unprecedented circumstances.

In our Behind the Curtain interview series, we are speaking with theater musicians, stage managers, ushers, choreographers and more, talking about how they are handling the current circumstances, and discussing the impact that the shutdown has had on the theater community.

Today, our Behind the Curtain interview is with Devon Sinclair, director, choreographer and actor in the Philadelphia area, and teaching artist for the Walnut Street Theatre.

What is your job title? Tell me about what you do within the theater industry and how long you've been doing it for.

Like most creatives, I have many job titles! I'm a Director/Choreographer, Actor, and Teaching Artist. I discovered these passions at a pretty young age (thanks to a lot of artistic exploration at Upper Darby Summer Stage), but was launched into the industry after graduating Penn State in 2015.

What were you working on when the shutdown was put in place?

I was just about to leave for Florida to perform in a co-production of Bodyguard the Musical with the Riverside Theatre and Walnut Street Theatre. I was also mounting three high school productions. One was fortunate enough to open and close in one night, but these others were stunted a week before opening.

What has communication been like since the shutdown with the people you were working with?

Communication is such a tricky thing. For whatever reason, it's the simplest ideal, but also the hardest thing to execute. I stayed in contact with many other artists, but a lot of institutions took the role of "waiting it out". This is understandable, but so many artists couldn't get concrete answers for so long, because admins couldn't vocalize their own struggles. I get it though! There's no handbook on the theatrical constraints of a global pandemic.

How do you feel that people in the theater community have come together during this time?

ARTISTS ARE RESILIENT! We are hurting, but we are also sustaining. I think people have been creating more than ever with this "time off". So many companies have either adapted or been created to maintain artistry through virtual readings, staged "zoom plays", virtual variety shows, etc. Education is everything in the entertainment industry, and so many classes have become accessible virtually that everyone can take the time to grow and invest in themselves.

This time has also allowed a lot of artists to reflect. There are several movements occuring in the Philly theater scene to expose a lot of unjust practices, problematic "leadership", and more. The time for accountability is now! Creatives are also doing what they can to amplify the voices and share the shine of many BIPOC artists. All of these things are long overdue, but it's beautiful nonetheless.

What ways have you found to best deal with the current circumstances?

I was teaching weekly dance classes for the Walnut Street Theatre when the shutdown hit, and I immediately moved them online! The way we were/are able to continue a sense of community and growth through distance is truly beautiful! It's therapeutic in a way. I also find joy in creation! The death of Ahmaud Arbery hit me really hard. It launched me into a creative spiral because that's how I best express myself. I started making playlists and spending my free time designing dance showcases, cabarets, random TikToks, etc. If anyone is looking to express themselves through movement and wants to join me for class, just contact me via any social media platforms (@CHOREATOR)!

How do you think this will change the world of theater going forward?

It's so hard to speak about the future when new information is constantly arising. I try not to dive into the unknown (cue Else belting at 3am), but I can imagine theaters will adapt their house sizes, possibly institute a mask mandate, etc. I do know that we as artists will always rise to the occasion. Safety should be everyone's first priority so it's very likely that we'll live in a "digital age" for some time.

Do you have anything else you would like to share?

I tend to have a workaholic nature, so this quarantine was pretty jarring to say the least. A fabulous artist named Kristyn Pope (@kris10.pope) shared her personal mantra with me a few months ago, and I'd like to share it now. "Allow yourself space and grace to feel and heal." It has served me very well during this quarantine, and I hope it may serve you as well.

Additional credits, media, and more can be found by visiting | #FiveSixDevonEight

Behind the Curtain: Meet Director/Choreographer Devon Sinclair

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