“Do you think all this being in masks is hurting people’s souls?” My mother asked me one day, as we put on ours for a routine trip to the grocery store.
How the hell was I to know? I’m a writer, not a theologian. And, on the off chance I do have a soul, I assume mine is already plenty scarred.
Though it’s been one of my favorite musicals for over a decade, I don’t think I was actually mature enough to absorb the full emotional impact and nuance of Rent until late this March, when I decided to revisit the musical for the first time in several years.
While the coronavirus has stopped South Florida theatre artists and aficionados from physically convening, it cannot stop us from creating or connecting. As we adapt to our newly distant lives, we are slowly discovering how to bring our beloved craft to the digital realm, with increasingly exciting results. As artists, it is our duty to bring joy even to landscapes of tragedy, to wring order from chaos and conjure hope from despair.
Like anything else, the internet age has its blessing and its perils. On the “blessing” side, it enables instant connection among people who could physically be oceans apart, which has allowed for unprecedent collaboration, communication, and innovation. Recently, it’s also become more important than most of us could have ever predicted as efforts to “flatten the curve” of the current COVID-19 pandemic have precluded nearly all in-person interaction.
When the first wave of coronavirus panic hit, I honestly thought everyone was just being paranoid. The virus, after all, was still states away, and I remained flippantly sure that even if it did come this way, it would not be coming for me—or on the off chance it did, I would emerge unscathed thanks to my freakishly good immune system. My resistance really ought to be toast given my horrendous sleeping and eating habits, but I can’t remember having anything more serious than a cold in years.
So, I plan on reflecting on the experience of attending and speaking at New City Players CitySpeaks towards the beginning of this month— procrastinated a little on this one since it wasn’t as urgent as the play reviews I’ve been working on, but it’s kind of a good Thanksgiving fit nonetheless!
The art of theatre is about a lot more than just what happens onstage. Ideally, it’s also about creating a community and raising the consciousness of that community, and about, in the words of another favorite director, “telling stories that need to be told.”