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Student Blog: Letters from a Nobody in New York #5: Snapshots of The Week of the Shutdown

I spoke with a few people about their memories of the last week before the shutdown in 2020...

Student Blog: Letters from a Nobody in New York #5: Snapshots of The Week of the Shutdown I was a part of the last running show in New York before the Great Lockdown of 2020. I know, Dave Malloy could never. Some of my readers reached out to me over Instagram and asked about the days leading up to the lockdown. What did New York City sound like? Where were you when Broadway announced its closing? What were you doing? Were you eating dumplings with too much soy sauce? Were you crying into your Chipotle? I was doing all of that and more. Actually, I was sitting in a dressing room. I was finishing the run of a musical called "Good News" at Marymount Manhattan College. Here are a few snapshots of "normalcy".

Liam's Snapchat: Days leading up to the lockdown, you could feel something was coming. Not in a cute "West Side Story'' kinda way. Sunday of that week, we had been dry teaching our show. We were doing "cue-to-cue" and the company was really tired. We were all juggling a full class load and putting up a show but we were determined to finish the process strong. Headline after headline, we were attached to our phones and getting more information about how bad the COVID cases were getting in Upstate New York. By that Tuesday, we were called to the stage. Our fierce Director, Bethany Christine Elkin gathered us together and said this: "we are a company. Be proud of the work you've done. We hope to continue with our show but if this is our last night tonight- find the joy. Find the love." Every performance we did that week, even if it was for 30 people. We had the best time. Thursday was our opening night but it was also the closing night of Broadway. At the beginning, Off Broadway houses were still allowed to continue performances at 25% capacity. Every performance we did that weekend was a little miracle of joy.

I remember audiences coming to see the show and not knowing that they needed it. "Good News" is a little golden age musical, lost to time and it's nothing but a good time. Audiences needed to breathe and I think our show gave them some air. We closed that Sunday and we were one of the last shows running before everything was securely locked down.

I have collected a series of stories from different students and teachers at Marymount, here are some of their snapshots:

"I went to Central Park with one of my roommates and I remember we were sitting there just talking about how crazy it is that we're in this big city during this thing called the coronavirus. We both agreed that the virus would get really bad but it's interesting to see how a city is reacting to it.. We questioned whether or not schools were gonna be shut down. And then the next day, MMC sent out an email saying that it was the last day of in person classes. I remember my roommate that night she had a night class and she came home early because nobody in the class could really focus and like everybody was just talking about the coronavirus and they didn't know what to do. I was just scared. I know I was supposed to work like the Saturday after we shut down and I'm gonna text my work like I don't feel comfortable coming in. I remember Wednesday (Last day of in person classes)we were asking our teacher, "how long do you think we're gonna be gone for?" He responded with "no it shouldn't be longer than a month, we'll have it under control" and boy, was he wrong"

"Well I remember during tech there were whispers of being shut down. And I didn't take it seriously until major colleges started closing And then I would check the news every 10 minutes. And then parents in our show were cancelling flights and that was very stressful. But I tried to focus on the task at hand until we got pulled by what else can you do. I also went on an audition the morning of production photos and ended having to run to the train, run to my apartment, grab my stuff for pics and run back to my callback. And then run to school to get ready. And opening night was really somber and weird. And then every day if I got an email from Marymount my heart would stop. And then we closed and they said this school year is cancelled and I cried for a while..."

  • Merdien Terrell, she/her

"When I think of the last week before lockdown images of our production of GOOD NEWS! at MMC fills my memory. With the lockdown of Broadway days before, we weren't sure we would even open our show. But we did. Beautifully and triumphantly! I remember tears of joy and sadness as our closing show also marked the lockdown of NYC. For the senior students in the show, it was their last moment shared together at MMC. I will always be grateful for the beautiful humans that made GOOD NEWS! the spectacular love letter to collegiate life that will remain like "hearts & flowers" as our collective gift to each other."

  • Bethany Christine Elkin, MMC Professor, she/her

"It's hard to think about that week without my current knowledge completely overtaking my memories. At first I was told that school would be going on a break until the end of Spring Break. It seemed like a lucky vacation and most of us were planning how we'd spend the free time: going to summer stock auditions we would otherwise be in class during, getting rush tickets to shows, maybe seeing some tourist sites we never had time for. As details unfolded, it became clear that this would be less of the fun time off I'd hoped for. I remember going to Target with a friend to grab food, soap, and hand sanitizer. Mostly I remember my final night in the city. I had finally given in to my mom's request for me to come home for a bit but wanted to see my friends in the school show first. We ended up at our usual post-show spot to celebrate. In many ways there was nothing particularly different about that night. We'd followed the same post-show routine for many years. Hyping up friends, celebrating their success, and eating overpriced food. Now it has been over a year since I've seen some of those people in person and I wish I'd savored that moment more because even when I do see them again, none of us will be the same people we were."

  • Caitlin Elizabeth Mallory (@caitlinemallory) she/her

"Okay so honestly it's not one single memory, but I remember the feeling of not knowing when I'll get to be on stage again. I was doing every show like it was the last one, because it very well could've been. It was a stark reminder not to take what I do for granted, because very few people can say what they do ignites a fire in them (as cheesy as that sounds)."

  • Ethan Grant Wong (@ethan.grant.wong) he/him

Concluding Note:

As we slowly but surely come back to some resemblance of normal, let us remember that we aren't the same people we were a year ago, nor should we be. Our Black, Brown and Asian friends have been hurting for a long time. I've been ignoring them and you have too. Whether it's ostracizing in the classroom or gaslighting your friends, us as white people are a part of American's homegrown habit of destroying the lives of people of color. The collegiate system has failed Artists of color at every turn and we as a White Society need to do better for racial equality in this Country. It's our turn. Let's invite more people to the table.

Liam Joshua Munn (he/him) is a New York Actor who has been seen on the stages of Williamstown Theatre Festival, Barrington Stage, Walt Disney World & Lincoln Center. His voice can be heard singing some spooky Bass harmonies on Ryan Scott Oliver's new album, Future Demons. Liam made his 54 Below debut last year with his solo cabaret show "Sailing" and is taking it around the country. Season 2 of his theatre podcast "on the callboard" has just premiered on your local podcast provider app- feating guests from Broadway and beyond.

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