It’s been a wild a crazy ride, but graduation day has finally come. My daughter, Ashley, started her graduate studies at NYU in the fall of 2019. As she packed to go home for spring break last year, she had no idea that she would not be returning to school. The pandemic hit NYC hard. After being home for only a few days, she received an email from the university. If you lived more than eight hours away, you should not return to NYU. Talk about total chaos! Suddenly, life turned upside down and inside out.
Doing what should be hands-on coursework — conducting auditions, directing actors, designing sets — for a theater degree online presents its own challenges. Add to that the dilemma of getting your belongings in your apartment packed up and sent to you while city services are shutting down.
A year later, as she graduates with an M.A. in Educational Theatre in Colleges and Communities, the theatre world looks very different from when she started her degree. During the pandemic, theatre experimented with zoom performances and, as a result, started a whole conversation about what defines theatre and when does an online performance become a film? If a performance is recorded and not shown live, is that considered theatre or film? Actors’ Equity (theatre) and SAG-AFTRA (film/television), each representing their respective actors, must now grabble with those questions.
Theatres around the country have been shuttered for the last year. How many were able to stay afloat during the shutdown remains to be seen. All is not doom and gloom, though. Restrictions are being lifted, states are opening up, and, fingers crossed, the worst of the pandemic is behind us. The day of NYU’s graduation ceremony was also, ironically, the day NYC opened up. Here’s hoping that’s a good omen, not just for NYU graduates and NYC, but for all of us. It’s been a long year. It’s time for things to turn things upside down and inside out again, so we can get life back to normal — or maybe even better.