BWW Blog: Community That Surpasses the Distance
Frustrated, restless, anxious. Do these feelings sound familiar? The times that I should be up in front of the class performing or directing children in a TYA scene, I am now spending staring at my computer screen. I want to be doing things, not simply discussing doing things. I find myself grieving: Grieving the missed opportunities, grieving my lack of control, grieving the loss of my immediate and intimate community at Samford University.
I miss my friends. I miss my mentors. I miss being surrounded by artists.
In college, we are spoiled by the artistic community that surrounds us. I have a fellow thespian for a roommate. I hang in our green room that is filled to the brim with creative people. I eat almost all my meals with my close friends, who happen to be theatre makers. Now, back at home, I find myself just longing to be in the presence of other artists.
It's easy to feel alone, but we must remember that our community is still there.
This is a difficult time for everyone-but especially for those of us who are artists. Our community is unique-we who are bonded through late night rehearsals and even later night trips to grab fast food. Right now, it can be so easy to feel isolated, alone, and distant because we are spread all over the country and sequestered in our homes. The thing is, even though we feel alone, we really aren't. The community that I so deeply miss still exists, even when we are far apart. So what can we do to feel our communities?
First, we can reach out to our far away friends.
The easiest way to feel connected to our community is by connecting. Technology is a wonderful tool, and there are so many ways to reach out to others. Find the method that makes you feel most in tune with your friends. At the beginning of this separation, I was only keeping up with friends through social media and messages, but I still felt lonely. What really helped break me out of my funk was FaceTiming my friends, so that I could see and hear them. Also, don't wait for your people to contact you, pick up the phone and start calling them now.
Second, we can check in with our professors.
Your professors want to hear from you. Here's the thing, everyone is currently in the same boat. We are all stressed, confused, and missing school. A call or an email from a student would be welcomed by your professors. Every time one of my professors checks in on me, it absolutely brightens my day. One of them coordinated a mental health checkup video conference; another sent a picture of her cat and requested pictures of students' pets. Even if your professors haven't done the same, I'm sure that they want to know how you are doing.
Third, we can find creative ways to connect with our departments on a larger level.
My theatre department has a Facebook Group where things are communicated with the whole department. Don't be afraid to reach out. Some friends in my department participated in a forty-eight hour playwriting competition after a professor tagged them all in the comments. Just because everyone is far apart doesn't mean you can't do creative things together! Think of other fun challenges that people in your department can participate in together.
Fourth, we can send art out into our world.
Right now, there are lots of great outlets to share your art with the world. On instagram, hashtags to share postponed or cancelled creative works are trending like #sunshinesongs and #heyjenlookatme. Upload something to them! If the entire world is too scary, think about sharing a creative project with just your department. Continue to show your people what you are working on even when you are miles apart. Who knows, maybe you will inspire someone else to do the same.
Fifth, we can reach out and see the greater artistic community and support them.
Through this epidemic, we are forced to realize the larger community at work. Every day, more and more national and International Artists are releasing their art into the world to produce a little light. Take comfort that these are our people at work, and actually support them. Today, I supported the Alliance Theatre, my local theatre, by streaming their production of Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed. It was as delightful as the title suggests. Also, reconnect with alumni from your school and see how you can support their work. Some Samford alumni are producing a cabaret titled "Songs from Separation," and you bet I'll be supporting them by livestreaming the event through facebook.
I'll leave you with a few final words of encouragement.
Remember that this isn't the first time or the last time that you will be separated from your artistic community. There are going to be breaks, but these breaks just make us more excited to return. So, as my friend, proof-reader extraordinaire, and fellow artist Ansley Burnette said, "Be patient and know that the community isn't broken." Now go get connected with your community!