BWW Interview: GOING DARK, Part 9 - Tyler Treat and Ellie Valdez
As the virus pandemic continues to worsen, America remains in a state of shutdown. Whole cities are now going on lock down, hospitals are inundated, and the Internet is overwhelmed. Those deemed "non-essential" are either working from home, on leave, or not working at all. This is our America now. We don't know how much longer it will be before "normal" returns. Before schools, restaurants and theatres are filled with life again. Before the lights go back up and we share a space, tell stories, and live. Together. Now we are separated. Isolated. In quarantine. Now we wait.
GOING DARK is an exclusive interview series for just that- The Wait. The infinite, uncertain, endless wait. Performing artists around the country, and world, are waiting for their chance to have their voices heard again, to share their craft, their art, their talent, their passion. This interview series reaches across the social distance barrier to hear from them. The out-of-work talent who can do nothing now but wait, hope, and pray.
This is GOING DARK.
BWW: What has your experience been like with the pandemic and response? How has it been challenging as a performing artist?
TT: My experience has been, similar to others, a mix of chaos while also attempting to stay positive and calm. Besides a few conversations here and there with peers or my mom, it was not until I was traveling to Boston on March 7th that I began to understand everything. After returning from my trip was the first time concerns of cases in Oklahoma became a reality. When the concern of spread became the conversation, students were first informed of the extended spring break. The next day it was declared we were moving classes online until April 12th. I am originally from Wichita, Kansas and had already made plans to travel home for break. After discussing things with my parents, it was decided it was best for me to move as much of my belongings home as possible since I live in an on campus apartment.
So, in about 48 hours I packed up about seventy-five percent of my belongings, loaded it all in my car, and drove home. The first few days I was home, I pretty much just wanted to grieve and process all that had changed so quickly.
My mom has been a great support in helping me recognize that it is okay for me to be disappointed and upset about things but that I shouldn't let these emotions overtake all of the positive in my life and all I have to be grateful for. She has been helping me find a new normal and establishing a good structure and routine at home, which is so important for me as an artist. I have been playing my Great Grandparents' piano that we have in our home, and enjoying all of the amazing online content that so many artists have been releasing.
BWW: What were you working on that was postponed or canceled? Have you continued to study and work on it during your downtime?
TT: I was in the middle of rehearsals for UCO's production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Because of all of the uncertainty, it is still unclear if this production will ever see the stage. We had actually just finished staging the entire show when we went on spring break. I have been reviewing and making sure to keep it in my mind with the hope that one day we might be able to perform. I was also cast in three of the senior directing scenes and sadly I do not think those will be happening now. I also had multiple summerstock auditions canceled that I had been working on for quite a while.
BWW: What has the atmosphere been like amongst your fellow performing arts students? Have you been able to keep each other calm and hopeful?
TT: Hopeful. That is really the best way to describe the overall atmosphere. Some are more anxious than others and such, but as a whole I would say we are all hopeful and also eager. Hopeful that one day this will all be in the past and we can be back together creating and doing what we love. Eager to be with one another as we did not have the chance to say proper goodbyes. We have all stayed in touch and checked in on one another. Our UCO Music Theatre Facebook group has been a great source of comfort and distraction. The head of our program, Dr. Greg White, has been providing many music theatre movie ideas, as well as YouTube clips and such for us to watch. We are all looking forward to starting our online classes and being back into somewhat of our normal routine together.
BWW: What were you working on when the cancellations started? Do you have plans to continue after the pandemic is over?
EV: I was in rehearsals for You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown at Pollard Theatre in Guthrie up until we took a pause due to recent events. I have every intention of continuing once this mellows out and they reschedule.
BWW: Have you been able to supplement your income from the missed projects you had planned?
EV: I am very lucky to still have income coming in. I work at Pie Junkie in OKC, and while we have had to make adjustments, I do still have a job, whereas a lot of theatre and performing folk are out of performance work and bartending/serving gigs. Most performers I know hustle to make a living and have multiple gigs, but unfortunately a lot of those have been put on hold, too. One of my side gigs is choreographing at a middle school, and that's a no-go right now, too.
BWW: How have you been managing the stress from this outbreak and all the constant news coverage?
EV: Ehhhh...to be honest, it's been weird and anxiety- ridden. It's a hard balance between staying informed and safe and also not becoming consumed in it. I'm doing my best and that's all we can do.
BWW: What are some simple things that are helping you through this time?
EV: Watching funny things, cleaning and organizing, and yoga! Trying to stay inspired through this mess! I am trying to take this as a time of reset. We have to find the light and help shine it in a scary, strange time. xo