BWW Interview: GOING DARK, Part 11 - Emily Pace and Taylor Ratliff
As the COVID-19 pandemic began to wreak havoc on the U.S., in an unprecedented and drastic move, theatres everywhere began shutting their doors indefinitely. In the crossfire from those unfortunate but necessary decisions were plays and musicals that were canceled or postponed. Also falling victim were working jobs for performing artists. GOING DARK explores the realities of a community on hold. This exclusive interview series highlights out-of-work artists, writers, directors, and performers who are biding their time, keeping up with their skills, and living life- a life that is drastically different now. A life without theatre, for an untold amount of time.
This is GOING DARK.
BWW: What were you working on that was put on hold because of the pandemic? Was it canceled or just postponed?EP: I was working at Casa Manana in Ft. Worth, Texas on a production of Matilda. It is postponed until July!BWW: Do you plan on going back to work on the same projects once the pandemic passes? EP: I am hoping I get to come back and continue to work for Casa. But with the current situation, everything is very much up in the air so I am taking it one day at a time.
BWW: Have you been able to find some peace and normalcy during this difficult time? What have you been turning to for comfort?EP: There have definitely been moments of stress and anxiety because, like many others, I am now unemployed at the moment. But I find so much comfort in just being grateful for the things I do have. Gratitude and love over fear is a motto I try to stick to in my day to day, but it has helped SO MUCH during these uncertain times. I find comfort in meditation/ a few breathing techniques. Other than that, I am trying to work on projects, continuing to learn/ grow in my craft, following my creative curiosities, also catching up on good TV/movies. Baskets is a favorite right now. Louie Anderson is a triumph!
Follow Emily on Instagram: @EmilyJPace
BWW: What were you working on that was canceled or postponed due to the pandemic? Do you have plans to continue once the quarantine is lifted?
TR: I actually wasn't working on anything other than my typical classwork at OU when we were notified that school would be moved online for the rest of the semester. A majority of my friends and colleagues at school, however, had just finished staging rehearsals for Legally Blonde: The Musical and were planning to head into tech right after spring break. The show had 11 seniors, including performers playing Elle, Emmett, Paulette, Callahan, Warner, Vivian and Pilar... so they're naturally devastated. Now, after analyzing all areas of this epidemic, OU has rescheduled Legally Blonde for the first slot in the fall semester with a completely new cast of remaining students. We've had to adapt in all sorts of experimental and heartbreaking ways, like everyone else, but at least the show remains. It's also my understanding that the seniors involved in the show plan to keep Legally on their resumes with special indication that their process was cut short due to COVID-19 interference, which I believe is perfectly appropriate for EVERYONE that was cast in a show cut short by this situation.
BWW: How has this pandemic affected you, not only as a performing artist but also as a student?
TR: The whole experience is full of ups and downs. Transitioning to online learning is peculiar, but not impossible or even terrible! Sure, taking my voice lessons in my kitchen while my dad is on a conference call and my mom is trying to cook is a bit... wild. BUT I really think that this transition has been helpful for my mental health in a variety of ways, so I'm counting my blessings (another fun quarantine activity!) between Zoom meetings and coachings.
I'd also say that performance classes are a bit more challenging since the only people you're performing for are on a screen, although I juxtapose that thought with the benefits of added relaxation and concentration when I'm by myself in a room with my computer instead of standing in front of my professors and peers; it sometimes feels like I get to be graded on my practice room exercises instead of having to "turn it on" and "sing out Louise" every time I'm in class!
BWW: What are some ways you're staying sharp in your craft? What are some self-care techniques that are keeping you sane?
TR: I'm still taking all my classes (even ballet) via Zoom, so I'm thankful that I don't have to sacrifice any credit hours in all of this. If anything, I can relax knowing that at the end of the day I get to sit down with my family and eat dinner and either work on homework or binge watch another Jane Austen movie with my mom. I suppose you could say that my most prevalent self-care routine right now is abolishing my normal routine. I'm enjoying catching up on my favorite TV shows and movies, and then discovering pieces that I've wanted to see forever but never had the time to (Joe Wright's Anna Karenina, y'all). I'm getting good sleep, I'm eating and cooking (and drinking) lots of things that are more comforting than fueling, I'm staying as active as I can be without the gym or the studio, and I'm focusing on exactly what I need: a mental health retreat.
School has been harder than ever on my emotional and mental health this semester, so I've appreciated the opportunity to reset and remember what being a normal person feels like. I think it's crucial that the workaholics, like myself, take this time to self-evaluate what areas of their life need attention and treat this like a hiatus from the craziness of the arts and theatre. I've found it reparative and relaxing, and as a result my love for performing is slowing reaching its full vibrancy again.
Follow Taylor on Instagram: @Tayloratty