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Theater under covid requires extra creativity

The Queen's Theatre, London. (Rosie Evans/YJI)

Liverpool, UK – Theatres in the UK are still shut. This seems reasonable – and sensible, but it means thousands of theater professionals remain out of work for the foreseeable future.

For a time, the opening of pubs and restaurants, many of which do not adhere to social distancing guidelines, and the crowding of beaches on sunny days, seemed like salt in the wound to theaters and those who work in them. But the newest lockdown is curbing much of that, at least temporarily.

The arts sector is facing a period of uncertainty, to say the least, and the individuals and companies in the industry are struggling to make ends meet, even with some government aid.

In an interview, Bryony Rose, who has a YouTube channel where she documents her passion for theater through vlogs, interviews and chatty videos, talked about the situation in the industry.

The YouTube channel, aptly named “Bryony Rose,” has gained lots of popularity, especially for her vlogs of the musical Six.

Bryony Rose

“I was seeing six empowered young women on stage, of all different ethnicities, of all different shapes and sizes but feeling like they belonged in something. I just really resonated with that,” she said.
Live theater could look different after the pandemic, Rose said..

“I think what’s been most interesting is, where there’s not been any theater, so many people have had to improvise and try new things, and I’ve seen so many performers do podcasts or do their own mini online zoom theatre experiences,” Rose said. “It will be interesting to see if these will still be a thing after lockdown.”

Rose also spoke enthusiastically about how online concerts and pro-shots had increased accessibility for those who don’t live close to London or to a theater, while expressing excitement at the thought of a “wacky, ‘Be More Chill’ like” coronavirus musical.

Abby Melia and Bradley Thompson are co-artistic directors of Kitchen Sink Live, a theater company they founded last year. They work with young people in Liverpool to improve mental health through arts and culture.

On the importance of theatre in mental health, Thompson commented,

“I think theater is a different way to look at situations and questions and beliefs,” said Thompson.

Kitchen Sink Live is driven by an enthusiasm to promote exploration and experimentation within different areas of theater, including music, movement and spoken word.

Melia described it as a safe space where young people can be free of a persona and “own their stories” by creating pieces derived from personal experiences.

Unity Theatre in Liverpool, UK. (Rosie Evans/YJI)

The pandemic dramatically impacted Kitchen Sink Live. Youth theatre shows are unable to go ahead and regular rehearsals or meet-ups are paused for the time being.

While theaters are closed, Melia said, there are opportunities to take theater into different spaces and put more emphasis on community.
“The future of theatre might be through zoom and that’s horrible. It feels very impersonal,” said Thompson.

“Especially when you’re telling real stories with young people as well,” Melia added. “You can’t look into their eyes and connect with them.”

As for words of wisdom for those who want to be involved in theater right now, Rose said, “What I would say is that, being positive and really taking every opportunity is my best motto in life.”

The Arts Theatre in London. (Rosie Evans/YJI)

Both Thompson and Melia agreed that theater can happen anywhere.

“You create theatre out of situations,” said Thompson.” Write that play that you’ve always wanted to do. Try and create as much as you can.”

Melia said it is important not to push yourself too hard or wear yourself down by forcing yourself when the creative juices aren’t flowing.

“Every person is different so you have to take it at your own pace,” Melia said.

All three seemed confident that some sort of normality would return eventually, and that taking opportunities to create while staying positive is the most we can do until theaters are open once again.

Rosie Evans is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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