BWW Interview: Hayleigh Evans of Q&A at POP Art
BWW: What have you seen of the effects of the lockdown on the entertainment industry in general, and the theatre in particular?
Hayleigh: I think different mediums have different action plans and strategies for the short and medium-term. Long term, if restrictions continue, we might all be in the same boat. Live theatre is being forced to find long term solutions because we need our audience to be live, in front of us and in one space. This is key to our craft and impact. Many gigs have been canceled or postponed and we are trying to figure out how long we can keep the wolves of real-life financial demand at bay. While we wait, we work out how to adapt and be effective artists and storytellers in a time of Covid-19.
BWW: In what way do you see the arts adapting, or want them to adapt as a response to this current crisis?
Hayleigh: It's tricky territory. Everyone seems to have rather polarising opinions on now. To create, or not to create? That is the question! Ideally, we would have the time and resources to adapt as an 'industry' in a way that doesn't do long term damage to 'live' performance. We need time to experiment with a New Medium of storytelling and understand why we want to be part of this medium. The 'why' should inform the 'how', not the other way around. The intersection of live arts and the digital space can be exciting and offer us new outlets - that is if it is responsive and not reactive. As POPArt we are in a highly experimental phase of navigating this new world. Luckily that is pretty on-brand for us!
BWW: Has there been any response from the entertainment industry to the crisis that you can tell us about?
Hayleigh: We are panicked and polarised around issues. The crisis has highlighted how underfunded and under prioritized artists are at a governmental level, despite how many other industries the arts at large supports (think restaurants, transport, PR, etc.).
BWW: How has this pandemic affected your day-to-day working life?
Hayleigh: Definitely the way I dress... Surprisingly, we've been able to make ourselves very busy in a short space of time. As a producer, your job is to figure out how to get money, plan, and problem solve. So really, the context has just changed. It's slightly less social, but I have been on that screen chatting and connecting to many people. I'm finally starting to get used to how I read on camera. I am a lot more disciplined at making time for important things (like doing the 9 am Vuka Actor Club workout on Facebook Live EVERY DAY) and have a lot fewer excuses when it comes to running on time.
BWW: The crisis must have severely impacted your operations at POPArt. How have you adapted to this challenge?
Hayleigh: In a way, we're lucky that we were already prepared for a big change. We had been preparing to move out of our current space and run the theatre remotely as a pop up in different venues for a while, so essentially the unexpected thing is that the pop-up theatre now exists online. The place where we have been biggest hit is financial- we too had canceled gigs. The problem with replacing them with online work is that we don't have a clear financial model yet. We'll get there - but it will take some time.
BWW: What have you been working on anything during this time?
Hayleigh: Pretty much problem solving, research, and going through the archives to see what can be successfully re-adapted for online audiences. It's fun and challenging. So far, we have felt comfortable sharing Incubator21 (a version of 24 Hours in the City) and ZoomProv (improv on Zoom) with an actual audience.
BWW: Do you have any advice for others in a similar position?
Hayleigh: For sure. Respond, don't react. This has been our mantra throughout. As artists, we must remember that, so often, our place is to comment on our world. We can't do that without taking some time to observe this unfolding. Collaborate. Don't worry about the competition. The online space is VAST and you're now competing with Bruce Springsteen, not another show, or just Netflix.
You really don't need to be first, or right. What is important is that you believe in what you are doing.
BWW: What impact do you think our current situation will have on the future of music, theatre, film, and television?
Hayleigh: It really depends on how long stricter restrictions last. It will change things forever, that's certain.
BWW: And to end on a more personal note, what are you doing differently, during the lock down, in your personal life?
Hayleigh: I am exercising compassion and discipline. Reading a lot more. Getting acquainted with the voices in my head. Being consistent in reaching out to people who matter to me. And for the first time since starting a theatre 9 years ago, I am being INSISTENT about not working on weekends.
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