Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you as a performing artist? (community, financially, initial reactions, company shift, online class, emotions, initial cancellation reaction)
I have to get up at 9am for clown classes. It’s so weird being a clown on your computer screen. There is a weird disconnect between shooting a self tape and going into a different format completely from class and rehearsal. You are taking this huge leap of faith everyone. The energy isn't in the room with you and having faith that it will all come together.
As a performing artist it has affected all the things I was planning on doing. I was going to have a solo show, I was in the process of beginning rehearsals which keep getting pushed back because we are not allowed to congregate. Logistically, that has been heartbreaking. That has been artistically stifling because usually I use collaboration. I personally started writing theater by doing collaborative theater and at this moment I can use Zoom but it’s not the same as being in the room with people. It has been difficult being in a room talking about our work in vulnerable ways is challenging over the internet. Clearly, time is now a social construct for everyone. The point in which I start writing has flipped. My sense of day and time and schedule is really strained. That only makes collaborating with others more difficult.
I am in a conservatory program with 10 other people in my ensemble and these are people I would see 4 days a week and I now see them twice a week. That has also been very strange because they are like family and I do miss them. Everyone is freaking out and when the world turns itself inside out we go into a room and for 4 hours all the outside world we drop it and focus on our craft and we don't have that same flexibility right now, we don't have that ability anymore. It is so much more difficult to let the outside world go when you are not in the world with them.
I am a senior and I was really looking forward to the acting showcase. Everything is so up in the air and people are still deciding if it would be better to postpone to September or do a digital showcase - that has been nerve wracking. We are graduating soon and it's our first leap into the professional acting world and we were looking forward to gaining that edge and now we don't know when that will happen. We were also looking forward to graduation and our department has a BBQ in Prospect Park and we looked forward to that with alumni coming back. That is in late May so fingers crossed that it will be postponed to July. I was looking forward to spending these next 6 weeks of the semester with these people because I know it will be my last. That isn't gone but it has transformed into a while different entity, a strange new connection. I know I won't lose them after the semester but being in the room with them is something that brightens my week. I miss them most of all and my teachers because they are the best.
Classes have shifted online. There are a lot of people who have different financial strains and that means we are ranked number 1 in diversity as a city college. This is normally awesome because my ensemble is filled with all different kinds of people. One of the people in the ensemble does not have access to the internet and it makes it difficult for him to be in online class because that is an out of pocket expense for him to get online and we have all pitched in to help. We all have outside lives and the line between outside life and acting work has blurred. It also feels like now everyone is on demand. We aren't a streaming platform, you can’t call a meeting and have everyone show up within thirty minutes. But it’s also like, what else are we doing? It has been surprisingly easy to get everyone in a meeting together. It is strange to have that level of intimacy through a screen or do any kind of physical exercises. Also we have started to use the theatrical advantages of Zoom towards our acting. Different devices that Zoom has - if you stay still for long enough everyone thinks you are frozen so that will become a repeating theme in our masking class and different games that we have created over Zoom which is fun and surprising. It has been so weird also to do a play writing class as I am working on my thesis. I am studying screenwriting to learn how to adapt to screenwriting as a playwright and now I have to do that in real life. This has fed into the way i see cinematography and have an odd hands-on writing experience with the screen now.
I feel like as actors we are anxious that there will be a strange gap for the actors of 2020 it will be twice as competitive and it is already so competitive. There are so many talented people out there and they all deserve work. There is a lot of anxiety as a senior about the future and when we will all be able to get back to work. I have ceased writing one of my solo shows because it was about something else entirely and this virus has taken over. Now I am writing a solo show about the fear of death and how there is this widespread loss across the US. The thing is no one knows how to cope right now - everyone is stress eating and sitting in bed. I remember the first few days I was in bed looking at the ceiling thinking what I would do. I think this will scar the artistic psyche. It crippled our ability to gather and that is how theater started. It started as a community based experience. The new show I am writing is about morbidity but it is also about finding community when sitting alone. That is how I have been coping. I have shared this with our ensemble and continued my writing.
We are so much more resilient than we think we are. I feel like I thought I would crumble in this situation being away from my ensemble and the structures that I had - the educational structure, the audition circuit structure, all those things vanished and it’s become this strange universe where we have to build our own lives and now we can. We can prioritize what is important. We now have that ability to choose what we want to do in this moment and talk about the hard things. That is all we can do now and I think that there will be a weird amount of apocalyptic movies that will come out of this pandemic. I also think this will be a genesis for collaborative art and I think always change is good because that is what we thrive on as artists.