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Student Blog: Being a 'Theatre Person' in the Midst of a Pandemic

How do we continue doing what we love when it's no longer possible? How do we cope in this digital world as theatre artists?

Student Blog: Being a 'Theatre Person' in the Midst of a Pandemic

Ever since I first got into my school theatre club in 4th grade, theatre has always been a constant in my life. I've always been a part of a drama community wherever I go, and no matter what happened in my life, I knew that theatre was going to be there. Sometimes I was a performer, sometimes a part of the audience, but I have always been a participant in the world of theatre. I was a "theatre person", which was the only thing I was certain about in life. Of course, this came to an end the last March with the start of quarantine. I still am a theatre person, but suddenly everything around me that felt comfortable was taken away. How could I be a theatre person when there is no theatre?

Before the start of the pandemic, I just started working in a production of Carrie; we were having our first rehearsals when we learned that Broadway League had suspended all productions. Since my school adopted an online schedule and our rehearsals were canceled, I had no choice but to leave New York City and return to my hometown Izmir, Turkey.

During the first weeks of quarantine, I was busy with school, I was adjusting to living 8 hours ahead of my daily schedule, and watching stage productions I could find online seemed enough. But with the end of the semester in early May, I felt the sudden change I should have felt in March. I didn't know what to do. As an artist, I am used to living in uncertainty, but for the first time ever, I couldn't see theatre as a part of my life, at least in the near future.

My school adopted a hybrid program for the fall semester, but I opted for classes I could take online since it still wasn't very safe for travel. In the fall semester, I took a Theatre History class which reminded me why I loved theatre in the first place. It gave me a sense of belonging, creating something relatable, and connecting with people through shared emotion. Not only that, I missed the little pre-show jitters and how everyone came after the shows with the proud sense of creating something together.

I didn't think these little moments could be convertible to an online setting with the transformation of live theatre to Zoom productions, but I saw that I was wrong. My high school's Turkish Theatre Club, the Club I have been a part of for 5-years, adapted a radio-play format instead of zoom-plays. We have a little tradition in that Club, where our director gives every cast member a little evil-eye-bead before the opening night, as a good luck charm. With the radio plays, they did a similar thing through Whatsapp where everyone sent each other evil-eye emojis, and although it wasn't the same thing, it gave alumni like me to be a part of that tradition once again.

The Other Theatre club in my high school, the ISTA (International Schools Theatre Association) Club, followed a different path and chose to film their production of Almost Maine and offer it to an online audience for a soirée and a matinée. The significant part about that production was the director gave the alumni (including myself) a chance to direct a scene. Although, at first, I was skeptical about it, I noticed how I waited for our rehearsal time every week. This gave me a chance to direct, a thing I never thought I would enjoy as much as I did, and I didn't think I would do it if it wasn't for this circumstance.

This pandemic proved that no matter what happens, theatre finds a way to adapt and survive. Having said that, as much as I enjoyed being a part of an online production, I can't wait to return to NYC, to some normalcy, and fully dive into the world of live theatre.

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From This Author - Student Blogger: Melis Tavmergen

From the sunny city of Izmir, which is located on the West Coast of Turkey, Melis Tavmergen is an actress and a theatre enthusiast living her best life in NYC. She is currently studying Communications... (read more about this author)

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