Amidst the pandemic, another sector of society that is hurting is the theatre community. Thousands of productions across the country and the globe have been canceled. For some it might have been their last spring production of high school. For others, the last few times their show would ever run. Dream roles cut short. The looming uncertainty of the upcoming season.
Through it all, this community of artists has persevered and kept the spirit alive. In March, Rosie O'Donnell hosted a livestream to raise money for the Actors Fund during which she interviewed stars like Lin-Manuel Miranda and Kristin Chenoweth. In April, Stephen Sondheim fans celebrated his 90th birthday with a concert livestream of his greatest hits performed by legends like Meryl Streep (!!) This past Friday, the filmed version of 'Hamilton' was released on Disney+ giving fans the opportunity to watch the original Broadway production from the comfort of their living rooms. You bet I was counting down the days and treasured every moment of that experience. Listening to the soundtrack for 5 years and seeing that come alive on stage (on screen) exceeded my every expectation. There's nothing like live theatre. But this was a close second. Lin-Manuel Miranda truly blessed us with a gift. The entire time I was in awe of the sheer skill of this incredible cast (THAT ENSEMBLE THO).
It inspired me to share some things I've learned from my time as a theatre kid. I don't remember the first moment I fell in love with theatre. The first professional production I saw was Wicked (when the tour came to San Antonio in 2009) and since then I've been hooked. In middle school I joined the theatre club because my cousin was doing it and I wanted to make some friends. The shy 6th grader that I was, I didn't audition and instead had the role of stage manager. For our initial production of "Godspell" that basically meant I was in charge of playing the music from a small CD player. The next year I stayed backstage, playing sound effects on cue for "The Christmas Carol" and stage managing for "Bye Bye Birdie". I basically learned all of the songs and lines without the pressure of performance. That experience was a nice introduction into the world of theatre as a place where you're encouraged to be yourself and not take life too seriously. I even gained enough confidence to audition my 8th grade year! Enjoy these pictures of me making my stage debut as Mrs. Darling and a pirate in "Peter Pan" :) I had a blast and finally understood the magic of the stage.
(pictured right) Rehearsing in the car on the way to a two-show day. Full stage makeup. So concentrated lol. Wish I could go back and tell that girl how cool she is.
Cut to high school, I knew if nothing else I wanted to be a part of the theatre company. Freshman year I was on costume crew for "The Velveteen Rabbit". I think I sewed one pair of pajama pants (surprisingly not a disaster) but the real fun came from helping with quick changes. Talk about adrenaline rush. Sophomore year I think it was "The Three Musketeers" during which I also was on crew. Finally, junior year I stepped outside of my comfort zone again and got the role of a Mermaid Sister in "The Little Mermaid" (Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale version, deep stuff).
That was so much fun! I even had a short monologue! We did a performance for elementary school kids and it was so special to see them get excited about meeting us and getting our autographs <3 That role taught me how to think on my feet and adapt to changing situations. During a crucial scene one night, two of the other sisters missed their cues which left me and another mermaid on stage. When the spotlights came on, we gave each other a look and filled in their lines with quick improvisation to keep the plot running smoothly. Senior year I had other commitments so I was perfectly content being on hair/makeup crew while assisting with house crew duties when I could. That was special because it was the first time I could actually watch the plays (Sherlock Holmes and Snow White) from the audience's perspective. Through it all, I gained a greater appreciation for what it takes to put on a theatre production. I will never forget the anticipation, stress, and pride. Hard work and dedication truly pay off.
I can't wait for live theatre to be back. The feeling of being in a crowded theater. I hope to have the opportunity to grace the stage again. For now I'll stick to sitting in the audience. I'd choose seeing a live performance over a movie any day of the week. The last production I saw before quarantine was Les Misérables (bucket list!!) I dream of seeing a Broadway or West End show one day (Dear Evan Hansen, Hadestown, Wicked, Hamilton, you name it!) What is your favorite musical/play?
The theatre community is hurting right now, Broadway stages darkened and empty. The light will soon be ignited again. And the voices are forever speaking and singing their truths. Do you enjoy theatre as an art form? Let's keep it alive. You can call your senators and demand an extension of Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, or make a donation to the Actors Fund. At the very least, WEAR A MASK!
This post is dedicated to Nick Cordero, a Canadian Broadway actor who recently lost his life to the coronavirus. Rest in Peace.