Six month old dust stands on an abandoned stage. Lights lay dormant, instruments sit in lockers, and costumes hang from racks. Since the lockdown in March, the world has seemed to be in a standstill. Things are no different for the performing arts.
As we adjust and start to reopen, a curious gaze turns to the arts. The performing arts are vital to our culture, but by nature human contact is almost unavoidable. Artists everywhere are grappling with how they’re to perform safely and still maintain their art’s integrity. So the question comes: how do the arts adapt to COVID-19?
“Every process, policy, and procedure has had to change to include the new safety guidelines,” says Mr. Gorring, director of TWCP Band. “We did not have a normal summer band with practicing only one week for 3 hours a day instead of the normal 3 weeks at 8 hours a day.”
“Normal” isn’t a word anyone can use to describe their performing arts year. Performances post-COVID are almost unrecognizable. Choir, orchestra, band, and theater have all either moved performances online, limited capacity, or suspended them entirely.
While left mostly untouched, the football games band performs in are not allowing support groups into their stadiums. “All band competitions have been cancelled with the exception of UIL marching Contest,” Mr. Gorring said.
Performing arts which are restricted to the indoors are not so lucky. The orchestra has moved their fall concert online, and their famous Bachs Office Show will only allow 200 of the theater’s 700 seats to be filled. Just about any other show that would have taken place on College Park’s stage has been postponed or cancelled.
“We no longer are hosting in-person performances, but instead are finding alternative ways to perform and create,” said Justin Douds, a thespian for TWCP Theater Department. “One of these is our current zoom-show, Alone, Together, which was written specifically to be performed via zoom.”
University Interscholastic League (UIL) competitions, a staple to the performing arts, have taken a hit as well. Events like the 2020 State Solo-Ensemble Contest for stringed instruments have been cancelled. Still, the show goes on.
“The Region orchestra process has been modified to a self-recorded audition platform and hopefully a live performance will take place in February,” said Dr. Kempter, the director of TWCP Orchestra. “The TMEA All-State audition will also be self-recorded but the actual convention will only happen virtually. We are hopeful that UIL in the spring will still be scheduled.”
Reactions are mixed about these drastic changes. Some feel that the new limitations on practice and performance has set them behind than where they would be pre-COVID. Still, others have seized the opportunities COVID has presented.
“I’m pretty disappointed,” said Alex Deng, a violinist for TWCP Symphony Orchestra. “COVID closed off a lot of opportunities I was looking forward to. However, with the extra time, I was able to find some new ones that were equally as impactful.”
Others, while upset, look into the future for hope. While it’s still unclear when the pandemic will end or what an end will look like, many are certain that there are new opportunities now and in the future that will make up for COVID’s negative effects.
“I am absolutely devastated by COVID-19’s impact,” said Doud. “I will likely not get to return to the stage as we normally would, and as a Sophomore, my only other UIL experience was cut short due to the virus we still face, but I also find myself fortunate that I will have two more years of Theatre to come.”
TWCP’s talented performers have hope for the future, as uncertain as it may be. The performing arts have done more than adhere to the new safety measures- they’ve evolved and embraced our “new normal.”
“We are a profession that constantly adapts (on a normal basis) and makes the best out of any situation,” said Dr. Kempter. “The performing arts has never been a group that needs to do it the way it has always been done. We are doing what is needed to provide a meaningful experience for all our students and performers. I think when all is said and done, we will be in a better place as a performing arts group and we will see amazing performances and innovative solutions that may never have come to fruition had something like this not happened.”
COVID-19 has opened the door to new ways of practicing and performing which would have never before been considered. With applications like Zoom and SmartMusic, practicing is more convenient than ever before. By recording performances, artists are able to review and respond to critiques in a way impossible in an in-person experience.
Mr. Gorring, when asked about what the future of TWCP Band looked like, had this to say: “We will be able to look forward a little,” Gorring said. “We still don’t know what the winter and spring seasons look like for us. With both learning platforms available, it is a bit challenging trying to make the team as seamless as it has been in the past. However, our remote learning students who are joining each day after school are doing such a fantastic job preparing for each rehearsal that we have. We are very fortunate that CISD has given our remote learners an opportunity to continue to do what they love – BAND!!!”