Our school and theatre events may have been cancelled and/or pushed back by a few months, but there are performers from Broadway, off-Broadway, touring companies, and from theatres all across the world that are currently out of work. There are also countless theatre majors out there, bored out of their minds without creative things to do.
However, this time off has given many people inspiration for projects to bring the theatre community together as a whole. For example, one group of three students from the University of Minnesota/Guthrie BFA Acting program and a New York University Tisch student created a bake-off style playwriting contest. Five “ingredients” were required in every submission and were emailed to participants and posted to Instagram, Facebook, and their website on Monday, March 16th. The necessary ingredients were an empty store/stadium/theatre, a bottle of hand sanitizer, a virtual dance or duet, a moment of mass panic, and a light in the dark. Anyone who wanted to write then had 32 hours to write a play with a fifteen-page maximum. These four students, along with a group of readers from around the country, read through over 4,500 submissions from participants around the world in under a week and announced eleven plays that were going to be read live via YouTube on March 25th. The students noted that this group of plays was only the first group to be read.
On a more local level, many theatre students from Bloomfield Hills submitted to this challenge. Naomi Parr, a sophomore, was one student to participate.
“I really love writing, especially playwriting, but i can rarely motivate myself to write unless I have a specific task… The Quarantine Bake-Off offered these inspirational factors in a non-daunting and motivating way,” said Parr.
The International Thespian Society leadership board has been working with the students who participated to figure out a way to produce their original plays. This will be an entirely student-directed and run event. Mary Bogrette, theatre director and teacher, has also been working on the spring play Shakespeare in Love and has been running rehearsals with the cast and creative team using Zoom, a video chatting app that many schools have implemented in lieu of in-person lectures. Starting April 1st, Bogrette will also be hosting “Improv Wednesdays” for students who are bored at home or just need to laugh.
Similarly, another website has surfaced with the goal of bringing the art community together–The Social Distancing Festival. This website, created by actor and writer Nick Green who’s Toronto-based musical was cancelled on March 13th, showcases other shows that were cancelled due to the coronavirus and allows livestreams or links to be posted in one cohesive place. He and students from a Toronto college work to upload submissions to the website, and it gained much traction in just a few days. The website explained the purpose of the festival, and hosted an ever-growing calendar with links to thousands of livestreams.
“This is a site for celebrating art from all over the world, showcasing amazing talent, and coming together as a community at a time when we need it more than ever,” Green wrote on the homepage of the website.
Though this is a very tough time for many people in the theatre and art community as a whole, projects like these are keeping creative minds running. Zoom rehearsals keep those in the high school theatre program from missing their peers too much, and materials shared by Bogrette keep the times interesting even with so much uncertainty.