BWW Interview: Quarantining with Molly Lajoie
For all of us in the Arizona theatre community, this is a time where many of us feel displaced or disoriented. Akin to living an episode of The Twilight Zone, many have turned to alternative ways of bringing their own spirit and talent to this community. In a time where we have virtual variety shows, cabarets, readings, and presentations of past productions, theatres and, more importantly, the people who work in them, are filling the void left by the quarantine closures. One person doing her part to actively keep this thriving arts community alive is Molly Lajoie. Like many artists in the valley who have been affected by the quarantine, Molly has lost some projects but has gained a new perspective,
What projects have been put on hold or even canceled as a result of the quarantine?
I was set to direct and choreograph ASU's production of 9 to 5. Thursday before Spring Break we had a sing-thru/read-thru with the whole cast. When we came back from Spring Break, we weren't sure how the classes were going to resume, but we still had the go-ahead to continue with the show at that point. We had worked on schedules where we only had seven people in the room (me, the stage manager, music director, and four actors). But then it was decided that it wasn't going forward and we had a Zoom call to tell all the students. We talked about our feelings and I told them all: "You know what? How awesome that we had a sing-thru! We might not get to do the show but look at what we had. And that was great."
Another project that got canceled was a project that I was doing at Childsplay called iPlay, showing teachers how to use drama in their programs. We didn't get to finish our last unit with our teachers or say goodbye to our kiddos (pre-K). While we are going to continue onto other schools next year, I have confidence that what we did teach will still be effective.
I know that you are faculty at ASU. Did you have any classes that you reconfigured in a creative way?
I currently teach tap, Broadway dance styles, and musical theatre technique. Yes, I had to reconfigure! I was not going to let my students down, but I do have to admit that I am a bit technologically challenged.
When I was unable to get back into the studio at ASU, I did something I have always wanted to do; I built a studio in my garage with padding, vinyl floors, and mirrors. Luckily, I had some tap mats that I cut up to give to students so that they could have something to tap on as well in their homes.
I faced the camera toward the mirrors and produced videos so that the students could still learn the dances and movement. I also created a Facebook page where students can gather and talk about things. I go back and forth on our Zoom calls between showing the movement and asking/answering questions, and so-on.
Tap was particularly difficult because you cannot talk and tap at the same time (it sounds like background noise). Lauran Stanis helped with a solution where we could do that effectively and I even shared that solution with others at the Musical Theatre Educator's Alliance!
Most Fridays, you teach tap at Childsplay in a class called Fall into Dance, which came out of people wanting more dance after getting hooked on your Summer of Dance classes at The Phoenix Theatre Company (PT). You've started meeting people on Zoom for this particular class out of a demand from your in-person students, but you've also expanded these classes. Can you tell us a little about these classes?
Now that I have a feel for Zoom, I've started teaching tap for adults, but then I also started a "tiny tot" version for kids with jazz, ballet, and musical theatre technique. With kids being home all the time, parents have been struggling to find their children viable outlets for their energy. What better way than to dance! I love teaching, kiddos, and dance so this just made perfect sense. Classes are Mondays and Wednesdays from 10:40-11:10 am MST Jazz/Ballet for 3 to 7-year-olds and 11:15-11:45 am MST for 8 to 13-year-olds.
With my adult classes, typically I break it down in different levels, with Wednesdays (6-7 pm MST) being intermediate and advanced, and Fridays being beginning and intermediate. I teach at various tempos so everyone can ask questions and learn.
All classes are only $5 a class. They can go to the Facebook group Fall into Dance, join it, and then sign up for the zoom classes there. This is a great way to get fit and ready for Summer of Dance!
Switching to PT's Summer of Dance (SOD) program. You and a group of teachers are responsible for a whole summer of dance intensive classes at PT. Has it been decided what's going to happen with that this year?
We had a Zoom meeting the other day with all the other teachers to see if we would be able to make that work effectively via Zoom. We are going to keep SOD alive, even if it has to be through Zoom. As a matter of fact, I have started working on some choreography that will include some of the pieces I was going to do for 9 to 5. It's going to happen no matter what.
Are there any new classes or projects you're developing to be unveiled after quarantine?
There is something in development, but I can't reveal anything about it yet. I am, however, very excited about it. Stay tuned!
With all this talk of professional projects, what have you done for your self-care?
PURGING. Some things I donated but other things I sold so that I could use that money to help out some theatres. I also got my home office finished by purging a lot of stuff and organizing. It's actually a blessing having some of this time because doing this is going to make me feel more balanced as an artist once we are out of this.
I'm also spending a lot of time with my spouse, which is nice. I normally wouldn't get that being in rehearsals all the time. I've also been catching up with some old friends that I haven't talked to in a long time.
What is the first thing you are going to do once the quarantine is lifted?
HUG MY FRIENDS. HUG MY STUDENTS. HUG MY COWORKERS...I miss them. I... I can't wait for that. I can't wait.
What is one thing that you learned from this experience or an "A-ha" moment you can share that's important?
I always look at the Love Languages and I always knew that I was Acts of Service. What I have learned from this is that my secondary is Physical Touch. I miss that from everyone. I know that I can see them, and it is still a positive experience, but I miss that interaction. I am going to remember and take advantage of that in the future.
I also had a very important professor of mine pass away prior to the pandemic but thinking about him during this time made me realize that I want to reach out to those people who inspired me and are an important part of why I am where I am today. I wanted to write to them, and this is giving me the opportunity to do that. I want them to know how important they were in the development of who I am today and why I am so happy. I think that everyone should know they are important to someone.
And lastly, value the time. I know that life gets busy, but it is precious. It's okay to take a day off when you are go-go-going to enjoy life. The time with my husband, catching up with my friends... I wouldn't have had that before. So that's why rather than look at this quarantine as a negative breath, I'm going to look at it as a positive inhale.