I write this a week after the Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Wolf, declared schools would be closed for two weeks to combat the spread of COVID-19, and days after he’s ordered a shutdown of all events with more than 50 people in attendance. Thus, he wiped out thousands of school, community, and professional theatre productions in the state. All around the U.S. and the world, the decree is the same. As of now, Broadway is not even a week into a month-long blackout.
These preventative measures are necessary, but they exact a price.
A lot of my friends are hurting. As deep into various theatre circles as I am, I’ve been hearing lamentations of cancelled and postponed shows for weeks.
Some amateur department directors fear their programs will never be able to recover financially. Actors mourn roles they’ll never get to play for an audience. Professionals are without pay for who knows how long.
Despite everything, the theatre community keeps art and hope alive. Young actors share videos of their would-be performances, clips of themselves singing and reading monologues. Professional theatre and dance companies like BalletNova Center for Dance post Facebook Live ballet classes for anyone to enjoy.
But we are hurting. Many actors have had something taken from them they will never really be able to recover.
Actors, singers, dancers, professionals and amateurs alike; Performers of every sort who have been effected by the spread of this disease:
Take this time to rest, whether you want to or not.
Actors often seem susceptible to an inability to rest. They see shows they want to participate in, and suddenly that few-month break they were planning to take at the end of their current show is replaced with another rehearsal period.
This endless cycle is easy to excuse because performing is an actor’s lifeblood. Whether paid or not, it’s often energizing or at least fulfilling and fun, and each show poses many opportunities for growth.
But just for now: rest.
You have my permission to be as inactive as you wish during your lockdown or self-quarantine. Do absolutely nothing if you wish. Rest.
Reset yourself. Prepare for the next one. Burnout has a habit of creeping up on us, so let’s take care of that, collectively, now. We’ll return to the stage ready.
It’s possible, though, that resting doesn’t really cut it for you. Some people aren’t predisposed to rest. Whether you rest or not, your next step:
Perhaps not everyone is like me, but I’ve often daydreamed about what I would do with my time if I wasn’t busy working or going to school or even rehearsing. I’ve imagined how productive I might be with all my energy to devote to any one thing in particular.
Now, I already said I gave my permission to be as inactive as desired during this period, and I have been inactive. But I’m also reading about acting method. I’m listening to podcasts about singing. I’m watching Facebook Live ballet classes. I’m finally experiencing Shakespeare (that I’ve been putting off reading for years) through videos from BroadwayHD.
Use your time now to do what you must. Rest. Rest. Grow.
It is unclear when exactly we will emerge on the other side of this tunnel. When we do, however, we will emerge hungry for art. May we return to the stage stronger than ever.