The United States has been under restrictions for more than a year because of the coronavirus. Over time, some businesses may open with restrictions. Most of the theaters, however, remained closed. This has left thousands of established and aspiring actors out of work, forcing them to look elsewhere in unknown areas.
It also prevented many students from starting their classes, many of whom have to stand in person because theater is about a community of people. Theater students need person-to-person contact, especially at the start of class so that you can get to know each other.
University of Arizona senior Adriana Acedo Campillo said she knew it better than anyone.
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Acedo Campillo is a double major in theater arts and film and television. She also has dual American and Mexican nationality. She was born in Yuma, but has lived much of her life in Sonora, Mexico. After spending four years at AU, she said it was difficult not being able to be with her peers.
“I am a sociable person and I love being with the community,” said Acedo Campillo. “The first half of the semester was my denial phase during the pandemic. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I like to surround myself with people and it was hard not to see my friends, family or anyone.
Acedo Campillo was fortunate to be part of the productions during the pandemic. Although it was nice to be on set, it didn’t have the same feeling Acado Campillo is used to having.
“Being on the set is completely different from what I’m used to as well,” said Acedo Campillo. “There was [COVID-19] frequent testing, double masking and social distancing. We had to make sure there was no risk, which is difficult in a pandemic. I was very lucky to be on a set where nothing happened, but it was a different experience.
While Acado Campillo was fortunate enough to act in person during the pandemic, many of his fellow theater performers were not. Freshman Alyssa DiRaimondo is a major in theater production from Crystal Lake, Illinois. DiRaimondo was not involved in any production when the pandemic hit, but having to shut down inside was not easy.
“It was really tricky,” DiRaimondo said. “The pandemic has been tough on everyone. You are stuck in [your home] and there is not much you can do [as an actor]. “
One thing DiRaimondo really said she misses is seeing the reactions of audience members during a show.
“[I miss] seeing people’s facial expressions, ”DiRaimondo said. “When I play, I like to see people’s facial expressions. It adds so much more to the room.
Many AU theater students have been affected by the pandemic even before starting their first year of college. Freshman Clayton Lukens is from Camas, Wash. After being accepted to the AU as a musical theater major, Lukens had one final high school theatrical production before officially becoming a student. He was the starring role in the musical “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying”. Once he heard the pandemic was halting production, Lukens said he was devastated.
“The production was canceled the day before it opened,” Lukens said. “Originally we were only supposed to leave school for two weeks, but I thought there was no way [we would be back in two]. “
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With Lukens and the whole of Washington state going into quarantine, he said he realized he wasn’t going to be able to perform with friends for a long time. Lukens gave his take on life in quarantine as an artist.
“It was tough,” Lukens said. “I had such a bond with the community that would come and encourage us during the shows. It was hard to lose that. “
Lukens wanted to perform once again in high school, but that didn’t happen. Lukens said he was proud to be an optimistic person. Even during the chaos, he did his best to find the right time with his high school production.
“Eventually I realized I had had the whole rehearsal experience,” Lukens said. “I always had the camaraderie [with the entire cast]. “
Another incoming freshman who saw his dreams cut short was Brach Drew, a Spanish musical theater major and minor from Tempe. Unlike Lukens, Drew was able to wrap up his high school production “Seussical”, a musical based on various books by Dr. Seuss. After the musical, Drew entered the ASU Gammage High School Musical Awards, a local competition for musical theater students. Drew was named “Best Male Actor”. Whoever wins best actor and lead actress can compete in the Jimmy Awards, a national musical theater competition in New York City, which has become an epicenter of COVID-19. The competition was called off and Drew said he was crushed.
“It was a dark time [for me]”Said Drew. ” Jealousy [I felt towards] the old children who have been there and the extreme unease and grief I have had for this opportunity. This opportunity could have given me so many chances to be seen and to be signed by an agent. Since my first year [in high school], I thought I was going to win and I was going to go to the Jimmy Awards … and I couldn’t go, and I was heartbroken.
While losing such an experience can be difficult, AU is doing its part to get student actors back to work. The University of Arizona School of Theater, Film & Television has teamed up with Scoundrel & Scamp Theater to create the production “From the Fishbowl,” directed by Wolfe Bowart. Professor Claire Mannle explained what the movie is about and who helped bring it to life.
“From the Fishbowl is a conceived production that is an original work created by students,” Mannle said. “It was designed and managed by the internationally renowned physical theater artist, Wolfe Bowart.”
Mannle said she was proud of how the AU’s theater department was able to use the tough restrictions COVID-19 has made to their advantage.
“It’s a production that integrates all kinds of media because of the unique circumstances we find ourselves in,” Mannle said. “There is live theater, zooms and filmed performances. It is a combination of the three forms of these media.
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While unfortunately no guests are allowed in the theater to watch “From the Fishbowl,” viewers can still watch online until April 18. Tickets for “From the Fishbowl” are available online.
The performing arts are making a comeback, and it’s starting right here at AU. Even though many actors, like Drew, lost opportunities and memories that would last a lifetime, Drew did not lose faith. As the theaters were closed and the actors were out of work, Drew knew that was not the end.
“There’s light at the end of the tunnel,” Drew said. “When Broadway was closed and everything was closed, I had hope for the future. I knew that no one could live without a live performance. It is something that will never leave us. This bond that a performer has with a member of the public is something that can never be replaced. It is a tangible, indescribable and irreplaceable energy.
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