Since March 2020, the theatrical world has been on an extended "intermission." We do not know when we will be able to perform comfortably and safely in front of a live audience again but we know we will. Live theatre is too important to simply wither away forever. We will return, stronger and better than we were before.
Theaters all around the world have gone dark, and while they haven't been able to perform live, we as performers have adapted. And yes, for a few fleeting moments before wave after wave hit, some theaters were performing again with limited audiences following very strict COVID protocols and they were even streaming their live shows through social media. Whether they be professionally edited or merely bare bones cell phone recordings, these are becoming the new normal for now and a great way to share our talents around the world in ways live in-theater performances were unable to do. Performers will continue to challenge themselves and keep their theatrical muscle memory going strong in any way possible in order to show their skills.
While I could never understand what it must be like for all these performers and artists all around the world who rely on the arts as their livelihood, I respect them and can only hope that they get to return to their normal lives as soon as possible. The amount of people in the arts who are now out of work and have been for nearly a year is staggering, but even they have been adapting ways to show off their talents, keep money coming in and their creative juices flowing. I tip my hat to all of them and have the upmost respect for choosing a profession that has more talent than opportunities.
My "intermission” has been the longest I have gone without either performing, directing or some form of design since 2002. My last on-stage performance before all of this began was in "Little Shop of Horrors" in October 2019. I was also preparing to be in MTVarts’ Classics Series production of "All My Sons" and a summer repertory position at Weathervane Playhouse in Newark, Ohio. I was going to be pretty busy theatrically.
However, when all those plans fell through, I went into our MTVarts warehouse and organized the tech side of things, so when we return to live theatre, I will know where everything is. Usually we are running multiple shows at one time and in returning items after striking a show, they might not always get put back in the right spot. It is usually very late and we are all tired. We say “I’ll get back to it later.” That doesn't always happen, of course. This was an opportunity to use this extra time to sort and organize the warehouse. And to breathe. Remember that MTVarts runs on volunteers, so it shows you the passion that people have to do this.
During this down time, I also started a podcast called the "Making Theatre Podcast" (PROVIDE LINK) for MTVarts and The Alcove Dinner Theatre where I interview people from within our group, talk about upcoming or past shows, reveal top ten lists and chat with other arts creators around Ohio to see how they are coping during these COVID times. Once again, it was an adaptation to the situations we have been put in and now a new way to create, which I plan to continue even after we get back to “normal.”
So, while it has been hard to not share the stage with my friends and enjoy that feel of a live audience, I know we will again. We will be able to get together and laugh, cry, cheer, dance and sing along with one another soon. In theatre we create an ensemble, where we work together to bring the best performance possible to our audience.
With COVID-19, I feel like we as performers, audience members and even as a society in general will start to come together more to create our own ensemble, not just within the arts but in life. It will truly be a monumental start to Act Two once the curtain rises from our "intermission."
Ian Fraser Ernsberger has been involved in some form of the theatrical arts for nearly 30 years around central Ohio and is the managing producer of The Alcove Dinner Theatre and a core volunteer of MTVarts.