BWW Exclusive: GOING DARK - Inside the COVID-19 Impact on the Performing Arts
Starting with Broadway, followed by regional, university, and high school theatres, response to the virus Pandemic has resulted in theatres all around the country closing their doors. Individual shows are on hold, whole seasons are canceled, and artists are left without work. Always wanting to support the arts, our goal at Broadway World is to continue to do so even when there are no shows to write about.
"Going Dark" is a special interview series. The initial response to the idea for this series was overwhelming. There are at least 20 interviews on the way, with the ever-growing response adding to that list daily. Artists, technicians, and performing arts students all around the regional theatre community are willing to talk. Each of them have an important story. Each of them are affected- financially, personally, emotionally, and artistically, by this pandemic. These interviews are emotional, raw, unfiltered, and real. They're talk therapy, conducted via email to respect all social distancing recommendations.
This is GOING DARK.
BWW: How are you holding up? This has been such an unpredictable time, both for a student, and an artist, and just as a human in general. Have you been able to maintain some peace during this tumultuous time?
SM: I'm holding up well!! I am healthy, my family is all healthy, and I have a comfortable house to be holed up in. I know that I am very lucky. I have stayed pretty calm because I know my age group is less susceptible to a severe case of the virus. I am trying to use the extra time in positive ways, such as working on my website or filling up my Rep book. I love to be productive, but often forget to rest, so I am also trying to let myself enjoy a little bit of unexpected down time.
BWW: Did you have any plans for performances or auditions that got put on hold?
SM: I was cast in 3 of UCO MT's Senior Directing shows: Evil Dead, The Secret Garden, and A New Brain. Those have been postponed until after we get back to school in April. Thankfully, Nine got to perform as scheduled in February. I have had four of my Summerstock auditions cancelled. Some are accepting videos, some are not. This has made audition season even more stressful than it usually is, because the opportunities to work this summer are getting fewer and fewer.
BWW: Is there any art form, other than live theatre, that you're turning to for comfort right now?
SM: I have been watching a lot of movies and reading books that I haven't had the time to read. This weekend I made a list of goals to achieve during all of this craziness, and one of them was to read a play a week. This week I read "Rotterdam" by Jon Brittain.
BWW: What is the general vibe in your Musical Theatre program right now? Are there any particular ways that the students are being there for each other?
SM: I'd say most of the students in our program are just kind of on edge. We postponed our other two productions, the Senior recitals, and directing scenes, but there is that possibility that they could get completely cancelled, should things get worse. Several universities have cancelled classes and events for the rest of the semester, so my greatest fear right now would be that. I feel like we are all taking turns in keeping each other sane. Many of the MT students have been sharing ideas on how to keep growing in our craft right now, or which theatres are accepting video submissions. UCO's Musical Theatre program really does feel like a family, so I think the hardest thing for many of us is just being away from our classmates for so long.
BWW: What were you working on when the virus related cancellations started to happen? What was that feeling like?
HH: When talk of the virus started coming up, I was working on the opera The Ballad Of Baby Doe through UCO, and I was getting ready to work on my first EMC production of A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder at the Civic Center.
BWW: How has the uncertainty of this event impacted your musical theatre program at UCO?
HH: Because of this virus, shows have been postponed, such as UCO Musical's Spring production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and the staged reading of Band Geeks. I'm personally really concerned with the future of the opera I'm taking part in. Before spring break, we had just finished staging Act I of this opera, and I did an hour coaching for Act II right before we left. The show was set to open on April 24th, and the school said they would cancel or postpone events through April 30th. If they decide to put the opera up in normal time, we would have less than two weeks to piece together Acts I and II, get costumes, finish choreographing, and be off book before we perform. It is very stressful to think about.
BWW: This is such a personal blow to artists. How have you been taking care of yourself during this time? Are there any particular art forms you're adhering to most? Music, tv, books?
HH: The best thing anyone can do during this time is try to stay positive, and things that bring us joy. I'm home with my family in Texas, and I got to spend some time with my family's three dogs, and watching movies and tv shows that bring me joy. (The Office has been a great anxiety reliever for me recently). I just really hope that we get through this. My favorite anxiety reliever is performing, and, gosh, I miss it. And I hope I get to do it again soon.
BWW: You recently went to New York for auditions. What was the atmosphere like there? Was the virus concern very present already or had it not started yet? Do you think the urgency of those auditions was made worse by the looming health concerns?
OC: The only time I saw any evident concern was in airports, occasionally you'd see someone with a mask. The atmosphere in NYC was pretty much the same as it had been any other time I'd visited. Everything felt normal. I do not believe that urgency was due to the pandemic.
BWW: What is it like being a performing arts student at a time when the performing arts are indefinitely on hold?
OC: These trying times are pretty difficult for us all. Being a student in performing arts specifically, I'm anxious to see how we will be able to continue training through an online curriculum. I'm a senior set to graduate in May so this obstacle has definitely put stress at an all-time high. This virus has also affected audition season tremendously, making it hard to secure potential work. Not only does this affect students, but artists everywhere. Although times are tough, I believe we as students have the duty of staying engaged in our craft no matter the circumstances. There's always an alternative to learn and grow even if it is from home. We can dwell in the loudness of negativity and social media, or we can roll out our yoga mats, sing until our neighbors get tired of us, read, play an instrument, write music, literally anything that keeps your creativity and passion alive and well! I have chosen this time as an opportunity to own my craft and remind myself of why I love what I do. All we can do is look forward with positivity and strive for the best.
BWW: Have you relied on your training to get through the uncertainty of these times during this pandemic, and if so, how has that helped you?
OC: I have relied on my passions and training during this time of uncertainty. Social distancing is hard when you're used to being pretty social/busy in your day to day life. Although it is hard, I know that its purpose is necessary to public health. On the bright side, I believe that every experience is a learning experience. I've chosen to see the positives in this time of crisis. With everything on hold, it has forced me to slow down. I have been able to completely immerse myself in my passions and self-care with less day to day distractions. Filming Audition Reels, Songwriting, playing instruments, Yoga, doing ballet in my living room, binge watching NPR Tiny Desk concerts, watching musicals, documentaries... all the things that are helping keep me busy and optimistic in this time of uncertainty. I want to use this time to appreciate and love my craft no matter the circumstance.