The show must go on: How the arts community is faring in these times – the Gauntlet

The show must go on: How the arts community is faring in these times

As a result of COVID, the arts community took a real hit. But this is only intermission. At Saint Stephen's, the show will go on.

October 7, 2020


Illustrated by Cassidy Miller

The ghost lights will be alight until theatres reopen across the world.

Cue the ghost lights. In early March of this year, the arts world as we know it began shutting down. Curtains fell on Broadway, concerts were canceled and screen productions came to a screeching halt. By April, over 3 million people in the arts community had lost their jobs and over 60% of those are still fully unemployed. Over 12,000 arts institutions report they may never be able to reopen.

Sadly, the arts shutdown has made its way to the educational realm and hits very close to home. According to in late August, Manatee County Schools decided to cancel chorus and band, at least for the first semester and reports that Hillsborough County announced similar plans to eliminate a variety of arts-related classes. Many parents argue this isn’t in the best interest of the children but realize we are living in unprecedented times.

Saint Stephen’s has always embraced the arts culture. Music, theatre, and fine arts subjects are found at every level including the Fledglings class. However, with the virus still active and mandatory social distancing in place, can our SSES arts community survive? Even with the challenges ahead, Saint Stephen’s could be more prepared to move forward than other area schools due to our strong ability to adapt quickly.

Ms. Elisha, the Saint Stephen’s theater department head, acknowledges there are many challenges when it comes to preserving the spirit of the arts here at Saint Stephen’s. As a result of Covid-19, she’s had to get a little more creative in her approach.

We need to adjust our performing skills to fit recorded productions and Zoom plays.”

— Mrs. Jeannine Elisha

“This year, [theatre class] is currently working on creating short production pieces that will be recorded for our SSES community to watch. In order to keep everyone safe…we will not be able to have the traditional Middle/High School or Lower/Intermediate School musicals in the Spring,” said Elisha.

Restrictions can sometimes open new paths to learning. “If the circumstance permits,” Elisha said, “second semester, I would like to put together a Vaudeville style show…In small groups, students can be recorded on a green screen, so a background can be inserted. Then the scenes and numbers can be spliced together to create a fun entertaining show.”

The theater director added: “Theater is meant to be seen live, so as stage actors we need to adjust our performing skills to fit recorded productions and Zoom plays. As viewers, we need to adjust to watching plays in these creative formats.”

The idea of adapting to our circumstances rather than giving up on the arts altogether is catching on. According to The Colorado Sun, nationally, musicians are experimenting with bell cover masks to lower the impact of aerosol spreading as they play. Singers are routinely using face shields and extra distancing to practice their craft. Actors are turning in video auditions and rehearsing on Zoom, hoping that theatres can safely open again one day soon.

Could Covid-19 changes and restrictions put the construction of our new performing arts center in jeopardy? David Glaser, our Director of Advancement, doesn’t think so. With fundraising for the building still in the beginning phase, we have a long way to go before safety precautions for COVID are part of the discussion.

It isn’t clear when the first play production in the new building will be scheduled but the fundraising for the theatre needs to stay on course.

“Covid 19 has greatly impacted the new theater,” Glaser said, “because of where we are (located) and where we are economically… However, if somebody walks up tomorrow… and they want to help build the building, we are ready to go!”

Collectively, we all want the same thing. One day, hopefully in the not-so-distant future, arts workers will return to their posts. Theatres will open and music will stream through concert halls. Until then, keeping the arts alive at Saint Stephen’s depends on the generosity and support of our entire community.

With the land for the building now cleared, the timeline for students, family and faculty to be able to gather for a show, watch a senior speech or attend a graduation ceremony without having to deal with uncomfortable bleachers or tiny, crowded spaces, is in our hands.

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