Advice for Young Theatre-Makers During COVID-19 (Part One)

June 19, 2020

During my sophomore year at Yale, I started my most ambitious project to date: writing the book, music and lyrics for an original full-length musical. Over the next two years, I would become consumed by the process of researching, writing, rewriting and recruiting cast members, designers and musicians in preparation for the world premiere of Y2K: A Survivalist Musical—a satire about turn-of-the-millennium doomsday preppers and where they are today.

While working on the piece, I read and liberally annotated books such as Educated by Tara Westover and The United States of Paranoia by Jesse Walker. I scoured the Internet for prepper blogs and survivalist wisdom (and/or paranoia). And I binge-watched an unhealthy amount of Doomsday Preppers on Nat Geo. And, from January 2018 to March 2020, I had been planning to produce the show at Yale as my senior project in musical theater composition.

Needless to say, I did not expect to spend what would have been opening night (April 2, coincidentally also my birthday) at home in Los Angeles, Zooming with my cast, fondly sharing rehearsal memories and missing those late nights in the theater.

COVID-19 has brought an early end to the year for countless students around the world. We have all lost academic projects, theatrical productions, summer internships and more. Seniors like me have lost graduations, goodbyes and closure to our years of hard work throughout high school and college.

It has been difficult to find the energy to celebrate graduation during a time when we are all, to some degree, in mourning. My peers and I now find ourselves entering a strange and uncertain world—not one ready to receive us, contrary to what the usual graduation rhetoric would have us believe. Those of us who had envisioned careers in the arts, theatre and/or entertainment have been dealt a real blow as productions are postponed, rehearsals are suspended and theaters shut their doors around the country. Many of us are struggling to find our next move—or even wondering what a next move would look like now.

But it's times like these that force us to be creative. College was a whirlwind of classes, clubs and coffee with friends (and the more-than-occasional party). Never in my life have I had so much unstructured time to write. Or if not write, just think and reflect: time spent reading, researching and musing can be just as productive as writing itself. The upside to being any kind of artist during quarantine is you can never run out of projects to occupy your time.

And all is not lost with Y2K: A Survivalist Musical. Though I won't be there, my brilliant cast and production team has postponed the Yale production to the fall of 2020. I am planning on holding a reading over Zoom later in the summer. And my friend who goes to the Rhode Island School of Design is designing a filmed adaptation here in LA. I am extremely grateful for the love and enthusiasm my friends and collaborators have poured into this show since its conception.

Ultimately, Y2K insists that in the face of an uncertain future, we can rely on the ones we love to get us through. As the times become increasingly uncertain and quasi-apocalyptic, this message has almost prophetically become more relevant. I sincerely hope that in the near future, the show will bring humor and comfort to audiences emerging from such a scary moment in history.

So, though the future of theatre is uncertain for the time being, I encourage you to take advantage of your newfound time. We are all desperate for timely, innovative and daring new theatre. Even if we can't physically be there for each other right now, theatre will always have the capacity to unite our hearts and minds across any distance. This is something no crisis can take from us.

For more on how to make the most of your time at home, stay tuned for part two of this blog!

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