Like most of us, you may well be sitting patiently as an audience member yourself right now, patiently watching the world unfold around us, waiting for news on re-openings and restoration of all aspects of our society following the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic. The decision to reopen is understandably a difficult and well timed one for every individual event, venue or occasion. Under strict new guidelines, sporting events are being given dates to recommence, take away restaurants are advertising their return but what about the arts and entertainment industry? When will we begin to see theatre shows reopen and the colorful musical billboards publicized around our towns and cities?
Being an actor encompasses the very idea of giving everything you have to others, shredding your inner self and laying your emotions bare for other people’s entertainment. The ability to take audience members on a roller coaster ride of emotions is something that professionals across the world have trained years for. For many, acting is not a full time job. Yes it requires full time hours and a tremendous amount of determination and love for your subject. However the payment for such roles does not reflect this and more often than not, actors have side jobs in bars and restaurants to sustain a living. Another industry that has suffered due to the ongoing pandemic.
The very idea of a social distance rehearsal space presents itself with a number of problems and obstacles. What if the actors have a scene in which they need to stand closer together? What if the dancers need to pick each other up or group together? How can we safely show the love between two people without allowing them to touch?
Think back to your favorite musical, dance piece or theatre production. That stunning, captivating piece that moved you to tears. Just one piece that will have required hours, days even months of rehearsals. Actors and dancers living in each other’s pockets. Fall outs and reconciliation, hugs and air kisses within a tactile community. The beauty of that art piece takes time and commitment. None of which seems possible or realistic when you need to keep 2 metres apart and limit the amount of people you come into contact with.
Let us imagine for a moment that it does become possible and that with small groups, limited productions begin to rehearse and a different kind of show emerges. What is a show without its audience? The enjoyment of the theatre comes not just from the show itself. It is the whole experience, a united audience with a vast variety of opinions watching the same piece, critiquing each scene and moment. Packed theatre goers that have planned trips with family and friends. The religious Christmas gathering to the Pantomime or the school bus full of pupils on an educational day out. If the outdoor events of 2020 are being cancelled or postponed for next year, how can we begin to imagine theatres full of audiences across the globe?
So what, if anything, is happening to help support budding actors, young and old, amongst this uncertain time? Former EastEnders actor, Michelle Collins, with the support of stars such as Ian Mckellen, is working alongside the Equity Benevolent Fund, to help raise money and keep morale high within the entertainment business. The scheme, #FortheLoveofArts sees an array of talents across the industry performing monologues from the safety of their own homes. In What’s on stage, Michelle states that “As we know – it’s very hard for everyone, and it feels like our industry has been left out by the Government. This is a great chance for actors to do something – to actually act”.
It is hoped that the high end of theatre businesses will be able to afford to help out the smaller, more local parts of the industries.
Undoubtedly this is not the final call for theatre goers, as a nation of problem solvers, the show must go on. How it does, is yet to be decided. Smaller audiences which sees rows of empty seats roped off being an obvious starting point. Must we say goodbye to a generation of experienced talents, as age becomes a matter of safety? Age has never been a stumbling block like this within the theatre, on the contrary, the knowledge and years of working in a theatre environment being an advantage. As the over 70’s are advised to self isolate at home, what impact will that have on theatres return?
Helping keep theatre alive and at the forefront of our thoughts is the plethora of online streaming currently available at the click of a button. So why not sit back and relax and swap the hottest front row seats for the ‘hottest front room seats’ as stated in the Guardian?