BWW Interview: GOING DARK, Part 18 - Melissa Campbell
By now, nobody is a stranger to COVID-19 or its impact on our daily lives. The performing arts is indefinitely on-hold. Dependent upon a live audience, theatre was one of the first artforms to take a direct hit as theatres all around the country shut their doors indefinitely. Budgets are ravaged, tickets are being refunded, and performers everywhere are out of work.
An additional hardship faced for performing artists during this uncertain time is that of graduating university-level performers. Music and dance programs require in-person rehearsal and performance time, and simply can't be replicated online. Students prepare their entire college careers for showcases, recitals, and productions that now won't ever come to fruition.
GOING DARK, now in its 18th installment, is an exclusive interview series with professional and university level theatre arts performers and technicians. It seeks to give those displaced artists and students an outlet to voice their experience during this unprecedented pandemic. Part 18 features soon-to-be Oklahoma City University graduate Melissa Campbell.
This is GOING DARK.
BWW: What has your experience been like with graduating during a pandemic? Did you have a lot of things get canceled that you'd been working on for a long time?
MC: Graduating during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a very strange and humbling experience. When you go to college, you have a lot of expectations for what it will look like, especially within your last semester. I always looked forward to my final semester at college being a celebration of all of my accomplishments and a time to really appreciate the connections I made over the four years. Unfortunately, a lot of my expectations aren't possible under these circumstances. A few of the biggest things I'm missing out on are a senior recital, a New York City showcase, and a graduation ceremony on the day I graduate. These are some of the big things, but the little moments might even make more of a difference for me. Simple things like being able to go out with friends, celebrate my last weeks in my sorority, and have my last voice lesson aren't the same. Although Zoom makes these things accessible, it is no replacement for the real thing. I really appreciate everything that Oklahoma City University has done so far to make the most of our senior year, but it certainly is hard to celebrate when the class of 2020 is scattered across the country.
BWW: How have your post-graduation plans changed? Have you had to reassess your future career goals?
MC: Before the virus, my plan was to return to Kings Island amusement park for the summer, perform with a theatre company in New Hampshire in August, and move to New York City in the fall. As of now, all Kings Island shows have been cancelled for the summer, my job in August is up in the air, and there is no knowing if it will be safe or smart to move to NYC come fall. As much as I want to take control of my future, it currently feels impossible. However, although timing has become questionable, I have the same career goals. I still plan to move to New York, I still plan to perform professionally, and I still plan to tell stories through any available source, because the world needs art. A lot of patience is required right now, but once the world returns to normal, I hope to get back on track, with even more drive than I had before.
BWW: Have you been doing anything to stay sharp in your craft during the downtime?
MC: Luckily for me, school is not over yet, and I have amazing teachers that are holding me accountable for my skills and training. Nonetheless, practicing at home is hard. Staying fit at home is hard. I miss having places to go that are my designated spots to get work done. Every day, I'm doing my best to sing, watch something new, do something active, and find new pieces to work on. I'm learning how to make a good self-tape, and I'm getting used to dancing within a confined space. This has been an excellent opportunity to learn about myself, explore hobbies, listen to new music, and grow culturally, which every actor could use a little more time to do. The amount of projects I've been tasked with for finals hasn't decreased since the COVID-19 pandemic set in. In fact, some days I feel more stressed and busy than I did when we could meet physically, so the boredom hasn't necessarily set in for me. Once school is out, I'm looking forward to that extra time to really engage in the things that interest me, read new plays, watch new movies, and just keep learning.
BWW: What do you miss most about live performance and theatre?
MC: I deeply miss the human connection. It is magical when an entire audience reacts to a moment on stage, and you just don't get that feeling from filming a self-tape in your living room. I miss connecting with audiences and my fellow actors. The energy in a rehearsal room or theatre is palpable, and although Zoom allows you to see and hear your peers, you can't fabricate that energy.
BWW: How do you think the theatre community will be able to rebuild after this? What do you think the Post-COVID-19 performing arts look like?
MC: I think the theatre community will come back stronger and more energized than ever. Everyone in the performing arts misses it, and every performer (including myself) will be chomping at the bit to tell a story. I think this is a wonderful time for everyone to rest and rebuild, to create new work, to explore ideas they have been pondering for a while but haven't had a chance to dive into, and when this time is over, the creativity is just going to explode. I cannot wait to see all of the new art to come after this pandemic is over, and I can only hope to be a part of it.
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