Let me start by stating the obvious: 2020 has not panned out the way I expected it to.
Yes, I know. Understatement.
At the beginning of the year, I was groggily adjusting to life with a newborn, starting to plan my return to full-time work, and wasting no time returning to theater.
I was in rehearsals for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, playing a bucket-list role, Maggie. And later that summer I was going to be taking on the role of Isabella in Measure for Measure. This was promising to be a big year in theater for me, with huge creative growth.
And then, we all know what happened.
Mid-march, a week before Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was slated to open, California’s shelter-in-place order came in. As the weeks went by, and the order continued to extend, it became clear that the production wasn’t going to open anytime soon.
Even more weeks passed, and I got the official notice — the summer Shakespeare season was being pushed to (hopefully) 2021.
And just like that, my year of reaching new artistic heights vanished.
Or so I thought.
Theater in the Time of Coronavirus
At the beginning of Shelter in Place, I joined throngs of theater people desperately trying to find any substitute for the stage and rehearsal room.
I filled my evenings with Zoom play and other script readings. I even got to read Isabella — admittedly not quite as satisfying speaking to a computer screen, reminding my scene partner to unmute himself.
I wouldn’t say these readings did much to help improve my acting skills. Rather, I saw them as a way to stay connected and prevent “getting rusty.”
Then came a voiceover gig for a mobile game, and more recently, voiceover work for an animated video series. I also took part in a radio play of sorts, performed via Zoom.
These projects allowed me to really focus on my voice and fine-tuning that instrument.
And then came Much Ado About Nothing. I was doing Shakespeare this year, afterall! And in another bucket-list role, no less — Beatrice.
We ended up doing the production pretty much as a film, which really allowed me to work on my film acting skills. I also performed in a Zoom production of Dracula; while live, the closeness of the camera and microphone also had me tap more into film acting techniques, rather than stage acting ones.
While theater acting has to be big to a certain extent (especially outdoor theater), film acting allows you to practice subtly.
And for the past few months, I’ve role-played as part of a Dungeons and Dragons game live-streamed on Twitch. This has allowed me to really work on character development (I wrote a 5-page backstory) and improv.
And, of course, I haven’t only focused on acting. As I detailed in my previous blog post, I also wrote for a 48 Hour Film Project competition, and won the Best Writing award! And, of course, I launched my YouTube channel, gaining valuable skills in video production and editing.
All in all, I’ve probably worked on more creative projects (and more diversity in projects) this year than I have in any year past!
I can definitively say that I’ve achieved that creative growth after all.
The key was accepting projects for what they were. Not trying to make them be substitutes for live theater shows, expecting the same experiences or to gain the same skills. But rather, appreciating the opportunity to develop different skills.
These new experiences — many of which, I might not have explored if the pandemic didn’t happen — and the new skills I gained from them, have ultimately given me a more well-rounded acting tool-set leaving me more poised than ever to excel on stage, when live theater returns.