BWW Interview: The GOING DARK Series - The Stories behind the COVID-19 Impact on the Performing Arts
The Going Dark interview series continues, highlighting the impact of the virus pandemic on the performance arts. Part 4 of Going Dark features three university level theatre students from UCO. In their own words, they explain their experiences with cancellations, postponements and the uncertainty of the future for theatre in the wake of the pandemic in Oklahoma. These are the real human stories behind the pandemic.
This is GOING DARK.
BWW: From a musical theatre student's perspective, what has this pandemic response been like? How have you been dealing with it in your own way?
HM: I was not pleased about class cancellations or moving classes online. I know it is the best option to "flatten the curve," but as a performance major I could not foresee much success with an online education. I have taken the past 5 days to let myself feel all the frustration, anger and downheartedness that descended on the entertainment industry this week, but there is no changing the situation. I am ready to start looking at things with a silver lining perspective, and I am interested to see what we all learn from this.
BWW: Do you feel like once the quarantine is lifted, we will all go back to enjoying theatre and live events like normal, or do you expect a rebuilding period?
HM: The majority of the population seems to be ready to socialize whenever we get the green light. Actors will be ready and rearing to get back to doing what they love, and audiences will be excited to have a human connection while looking at a stage instead of staring at figures on a screen. We will all be more grateful for group events and live entertainment when the virus is controlled.
BWW: Was there a specific project that you were working on that has been postponed or canceled?
HM: I was in the opera, Ballad of Baby Doe, at the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) which we're told will be postponed. I had also recently been cast in the student directing scenes at UCO, and I assume those might be pushed back as well. The faculty are still fighting and trying their best to give us more details on upcoming events. On a personal note, I was supposed to take my first international trip this summer, but it has been cancelled.
BWW: How have you been filling your extra free time, and has having some downtime helped you during this chaotic time?
HM: To be honest, the past few days I've been sulking around. As I said previously, I am finally at a place where I feel ready to dive in and use this time for good. I'm going to establish a solid sleep schedule; do dance strengthening and workout every other day and I am going to spend lots of time with God in this troubling time. I had to leave one of my jobs, so I have so much down time it is not even funny. I hope to discover new inspirations and creativity that I didn't realize I had. Maybe I'll write a show; I've always wanted to!
BWW: How are you holding up during the response and aftermath of the pandemic? Have you been able to find pockets of peace during this tumultuous time?
SH: When first hearing about this pandemic and what was to come, I felt a little anxious knowing that my routine would be rearranged entirely. Quickly, I lost both my hosting job and my box office job and of course, will have to take my music theatre courses online until further notice. Even with all of that, I feel so fortunate to have the support system that I do. So, to answer your question, right now I feel fine. I have been able to find joy and peace within the hope that comes from having a relationship with God. I've seen Him bring people through far more difficult times than what I am currently experiencing due to this virus.
BWW: Have you been participating in any creative alternatives to keep up with your skills during the downtime?
SH: Some of my friends today were telling me of free online dance classes that different studios were livestreaming, and I just think that that is so wonderful! I am definitely going to partake in some of those to keep my dancing sharp throughout the next month. I also have been feeling really inspired to get back into songwriting.
BWW: How do you normally handle stress? Has leaning on friends and family been particularly helpful?
SH: Two years ago, I couldn't handle stress very well. Throughout my years in college, though, by growing spiritually and learning more about who I am and what I believe to be true, it is funny...even something as "big" as a viral outbreak won't stress me out enough to affect my well-being. I think a lot of it has to do with my reliance on God, and then of course, emotional and physical support from friends and family. If anything, I am more concerned with the safety of the elderly and already ill population. I think we all owe it to each other to offer all the positive thoughts and prayers, whatever you believe, and love each other from afar!!!
BWW: Have you noticed a sense of anxiety within the theatre community during the virus outbreak? Are all the cancellations causing stress, confusion, more uncertainty?
JR: For sure, I have definitely seen and felt a rise in anxiety and confusion due to all of this. It's hard to see your friends who have been working so hard at current projects, wonder if they will get to perform, and seeing things being canceled left and right. My current summer job, that I've been really excited about, is at risk of being cancelled at the current moment. So I'm a little more anxious than I have been. I'm hoping with some time that those who aren't guaranteed a job due to closings get a positive response and that things kind of calm down. It's been difficult to stay one hundred percent positive and ignore the rising worry but, I am so thankful just being with my family right now who constantly reminds me to see the good in every situation.
BWW: Were any of your projects, shows or auditions canceled or postponed? Do you plan on continuing to work on them once the pandemic passes?
JR: I was involved with Songs For A New World (a senior directing scene). A few auditions were canceled, and I was working in the costume shop on pieces for the upcoming shows at our university. I am hopeful that we will eventually get to come back and preform these Wonderful Productions. Our director for Songs for a New World had an amazing concept planned for the show and all of the people involved were all so talented! I know that if we do get to perform this show, it will be a really great production!
BWW: What are you doing to maintain peace and self-care during this time? Have you continued working on your craft or are you taking a break to rest?
JR: This has been a great opportunity for me to take a step back and work on staying both positive and productive during this break! I finished some business stuff that I hadn't necessarily had time to finish! Like making my website, organizing my book, and I wrote some music. And on the other hand, I've had time to relax with my family, enjoy some homecooked food, watch some movies, paint, etc. It's been nice to have some time to connect and enjoy this extra time. I found some great playlists and podcasts that I can put on and just create art while I'm stuck indoors all day. I keep reading social media posts about people who have made huge contributions to human life due to unexpected breaks so, I'm hoping to make this time a rewarding one!