Performing Arts Struggle During COVID-19

In the four weeks of putting on a show together, this group picture was the closest the cast of Pippin ever got to each other. However the cast – limited to twelve people – wasn’t complaining. Gibson said, “On the last day of performance, I finally understood how incredible it was that we got to perform during a pandemic and I made sure to give it my all and enjoy every second.” Gibson and his castmates were tremendously grateful for this invaluable experience during a crazy time. 
Photo by Bill Meese. 

Article By: Giovi Andreassi

With COVID-19 guidelines restricting almost all gatherings, the performing arts industry has been hit hard. Theater venues, dance halls and opera houses have all been forced to close their doors, leaving millions of artists without jobs. 

Luckily, many organizations such as Americans for the Arts and For Freelance Artists are providing resources such as relief funds, helpful webinars, and news updates for artists. Still, the loss of live theater has been a devastating one, and it is not clear how the industry will get back on its feet. 

One local Santa Rosa theater has provided a glimpse into what the future could look like for the performing arts. While almost all of the theaters in the area have been temporarily shut down, the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts has made accommodations in an effort to support the arts during this time.

 Over the summer, Roustabout Theater, a resident theater company at the LBC, put on a full socially-distanced production of the musical Pippin. Rehearsals ran five days a week for five hours each day, with both cast and staff members following social distancing and mask guidelines. Each day, everyone completed a thorough health questionnaire before getting to work. 

Both the rehearsals and the final two performances were done outside and six feet apart. The audience had to be limited to twenty four people, who were all required to wear masks and sit six feet apart; the cast members were only allowed to take off their masks for the two performances, and kept six feet apart at all times.

Robin Gibson, a sophomore at SRHS who played the title role of Pippin, is grateful for this one-of-a-kind experience. When talking about how rehearsals ran, Gibson said, “Acting with masks and social distancing was definitely a challenge. You can’t see your scene partner’s facial expressions, but we didn’t let this slow us down.” Dancing in the heat while wearing masks was not always enjoyable, but definitely worth it.

The audience expressed overwhelming gratitude and joy for being able to have some sort of normalcy during a pandemic. The actors reciprocated this feeling, with Gibson adding, “To be a part of or to see a live performance during this time is so precious and magical. There’s nothing better now than to witness a great story and escape.” 

Roustabout Theater is currently in the midst of their fall session, offering online master classes with Broadway performers such as Martin Moran and Stephanie Klemons, along with Roustabout alumni. Dance classes are offered in person once a week, all done outside with masks and social distancing. 

Gibson, along with many performers around the world, are hopeful for how the performing arts will adjust to the pandemic and restore entertainment and laughs to audiences.

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