BWW Interview: GOING DARK, Part 21 - Andrew Lewis
As the world waits for a safe return to normal life, performing artists and technicians remain hopeful yet still. Theatres are still dark, and the process of re-opening is neither quick nor simple. The planning stages have only just begun, and the months continue to tick by without live theatre in our lives.
GOING DARK is an exclusive interview series that highlights the impact of COVID-19 on the performing arts and those talented individuals who make it their careers. A wide response was received when Broadway World embarked on this series, and as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc, this interview series has continued to show the emotional toll of an unprecedented real-world crisis.
The performing arts will return, hopefully sooner than later. Until then, we wait with those artists, crossing our fingers, wishing on falling stars, and counting our lucky pennies until the arts we know and miss can finally return.
Part 21 features Oklahoma City University student Andrew Lewis.
This is GOING DARK.
BWW: What were you working on when the quarantine started? Are any of your projects still happening?
AL: On the day that Broadway officially went dark, Thursday, March 12th, I was prepping for Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park's production of As You Like It, originally scheduled to begin rehearsals that following Monday. The show was set to have performances throughout the month of April. Tyler Woods, the Managing Director of Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park, and Director of As You Like It, reached out almost instantaneously to the cast about our next steps. The production is currently being postponed until it is safe to perform.
Beginning in May, I was also contracted to begin rehearsals in Montana with Bigfork Summer Playhouse for their summer season of Something Rotten!, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Newsies, and Sister Act. At this point, our start date has been pushed back 2 weeks, but we are still scheduled to begin performances in late June.
I'm optimistic to continue on with both of these projects, but only when it is truly safe to do so.
BWW: What has your experience been like as a performing arts student during this unprecedented time?
AL: I think the word that best describes this experience for me is: uncomfortable. I took for granted the luxuries of having practice rooms, dance studios, and most of all a community of artists around me at all times. It's a lot easier to practice your craft when you have others around you who are driven to do the same. My twin sister is slightly less forgiving than my college roommate of my constant singing and has come running to my rescue twice now as I've been filming my Stage Combat final.
OCU has been incredibly resilient by embracing this new style of learning and finding online opportunities that wouldn't have been available otherwise. Thanks to Dean Mark Parker, we have had the unique opportunity of holding weekly masterclasses with our current Artist in Residence, Kristin Chenoweth, over Zoom. Professors have reached out to old colleagues to provide us with similar opportunities to discuss a variety of different topics with working professionals on an even broader scale. The school has also been creative in finding ways to honor and commemorate those that are missing out on ceremonies, celebrations, and graduations until we are able to do so face-to-face.
I'm extremely grateful that everyone at OCU has been putting our education and well-being at the forefront during this trying time.
BWW: When do you graduate? How have your post-graduation plans changed because of the pandemic?
AL: I'm currently set to graduate in December of this year. Of course, there's no real way of knowing, but what I see happening in 2021 is there being a lack of available summer work due to the number of current seasons being postponed. What this would provide me with is an ideal opportunity to save up money at home before attempting to make the big move to New York City in August 2021.
BWW: What do you think the rebuilding process will be like for theatre? Do you foresee a future for working artists?
AL: Of course, I foresee a future for working artists. We've witnessed first-hand the resilience of small businesses and fast food chains that have fought to safely keep their stores open through increased sanitation procedures and social distancing. Theatres will do the same when it's safe to do so.
My hope is that the industry returns better and stronger than ever before. I hope that we return to our stages and rehearsal rooms appreciative of the gift that is to be able to experience real human connection in our storytelling. I hope that we come back with new stories to tell, and that we learn to appreciate how special it is to sit in a crowded theatre and experience the exact same emotions as the complete stranger sitting just inches from you. I'm optimistic that we will come back with opened eyes and a new appreciation for what we've had all along. I can't wait for that day. It's coming. It's only intermission.
Follow Andrew on Instagram @andrewdtlewis.