BWW Interview: GOING DARK, Part 22 - Shaun Taylor-Corbett
Though the world is starting to reopen, theatres are still dark. Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma, the leading professional theatre in Oklahoma City, just diminished their fulltime staff by over half. Shaun Taylor-Corbett contributes to Part 22 of the GOING DARK series, an exclusive interview series that highlights the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the performing arts. Taylor-Corbett was slated to perform a new musical he co-wrote with his mother, renowned choreographer and director Lynne Taylor-Corbett. The production has since been moved to the 20/21 season, and Lyric Theatre plans to re-open in time for the Christmas season. The closures happened quickly, pressing pause on active shows, and shows that were in rehearsals. Taylor-Corbett's Native American musical Distant Thunder was rehearsing at Lyric's Plaza Theatre when the virus, and the shut-down, came to Oklahoma City. These are the real, unfiltered stories behind COVID-19, told by artists in their own words. This is GOING DARK.
BWW: What were you working on when the COVID-19 cancellations started to happen? What was the course of action?
STC: My mom, Lynne Taylor-Corbett, and I were in the middle of rehearsals for our production of Distant Thunder, a musical centered around the Blackfeet community in Browning, MT. We had 15 cast members representing many Native nations from all over the country preparing with Lyric Theatre when COVID-19 hit. We were able to do one dress run before Artistic Director Michael Baron decided we had to postpone until a later date. After much thought, they determined that March/April 2021 would be a much safer opening date for us. We are so grateful for Michael and the leadership of Lyric Theatre Company and grateful we even have a chance at our production. So many shows were cancelled outright.
BWW: Do you plan to still do this show? What are you most looking forward to once we finally get the all clear to perform again?
STC: We definitely will be back to perform! Being one of the first Native-pop musicals in the Broadway style, we are all determined to see this production happen and continue on to other theatres regionally and then to NY. I most look forward to gathering our beautiful company back together again because we really are a family. Many of us have been performing together for years, and we are all dedicated to giving voice to Native people in the arts! We have a lot of fun telling this story but also just love exploring Oklahoma City together and the unique blend of cultures and histories in Oklahoma. It is so special we get to have our first production in an area filled with so many Native Nations.
BWW: What are you doing to stay safe, healthy, and SANE, during this unprecedented time?
STC: Well, it varies, but one of the constants is doing Crossfit! With all of the extra time I have been able to really stay focused in my training, which has helped keep me motivated in other areas as well. I've been able to record audio books from home, and learn how to take care of the house and yard a lot better. I think we are all noticing more things in our immediate environment now that we don't have to run around quite as much. It's a fine line between self-improvement and going stir crazy, but allowing for a few days a week to just stop and "be" is ok. We all have to be gentle with ourselves and each other and just do the best we can.
BWW: What are your hopes for the performing arts once this pandemic is over?
STC: I hope that we can find a way to share a live theatrical experience again together without fear. To continue our investment in the arts and recognition of how powerful theatre is for a community's health and economic prosperity and growth. I think it will take a very generous community outreach to help our theatres recover. I think there are a lot of new stories that will come out of this Pandemic, but also messages on how we can survive moving forward. We aren't going back to what we had, and we have to learn how to forge ahead with a new reality. So much of what we have to do philosophically and existentially, we also have to do politically. There is an element in our society that wants to live in the ignorance of the 1950s, and we must help bring everyone into the present reality and new normal of acceptance, equity, diversity and inclusion.
For more information on Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma, visit their website: lyrictheatreokc.com.