As a nation, we are all coping with the current stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19 in different ways. Some of us are becoming quite comfortable quietly quarantining, while others are anxious to return to some form of normalcy. But for much of the arts community, this epidemic has forced them to transform their actual mode of production in order to remain socially relevant.
Theatre is one art form that’s had to make this adaptation. The particular challenge they faced was not only no longer having a space for cast to congregate and safely perform in, but also in having tons of scripts and productions ready to be presented with nowhere to perform them.
However, Zoom, a cloud-based conferencing app that allows for users to open chat rooms which can hold up to 500 members, came to the rescue. The app itself has been around since April 2011, but until the COVID-19 outbreak, was primarily used by multi-regional tech corporations.
Presently, Zoom has become a lifesaver for the theatre community in more ways than one. The platform has provided a way for cast and crew members to continue to work within the industry and has given the general public the opportunity to view works they may have not otherwise seen, most times, for free.
One Minnesota organization that is currently providing various theater content for Zoom is the Playwrights’ Center (PWC). The Playwrights’ Center, located in Minneapolis, was founded by writers and has offered “artistic and professional support” for theater artists since 1971.
Since the start of April, each Tuesday and Thursday, PWC has hosted informational online seminars for writers and non-writers alike. The subject matter of the seminars often vary topic wise from very broad to incredibly specific.
For example, a recently held seminar entitled “Why Am I Here” ended up evolving, for some, into an emotional discussion about writer’s block that they attributed to the pandemic. The host calmly offered participants personalized tips for dealing with their individual anxieties in an attempt to help them regain their footing as a writer.
Meanwhile, another seminar held entitled “Playwriting After College A Panel Discussion for Undergrad Playwrights about Grad School and Next Career Steps” ended up going exactly as the title implied. The panel composed of students spoke about how they selected their particular grad school, what their personal experience at school had been up until that point and how they felt about continuing their degree program following the pandemic.
Fridays often present a change of pace at PWC and, instead of informational sessions, they hold actual play readings using actors from various locations to bring writers’ characters to life. Not surprisingly, the theme for Zoom play readings in the month of April have all revolved around the idea of restarting.This was cemented further after viewing the most recent play reading entitled “Begin, Begin, Begin, Again.”
Maybe the month of May will provide us all with a different reality or perhaps things will remain the same. Either way, we must let the healing begin.