A Performing Artist’s Perspective on the Pandemic

Who Ate the Icing?

Photo by Deva Williamson

As we moved on from the initial announcement that we were now living with a worldwide pandemic, we began to realize that live performance was not coming back anytime soon. No more live theater, opera, ballet, festivals, shows, coffeehouse performances, and the list goes on across all art sectors, for the time being – however long that is. No one knows. We’ve all seen the announcements: “We regret to inform you that this year’s festival (concert series, shows, etc.) has been canceled.”

I have many friends in the performing arts community, and needless to say, they have all been hugely impacted. Not to mention the performing arts/music industry as a whole, with lighting technicians, stagehands, and road crews going without pay. As the year progressed, there was a heightened awareness of how vital live performance is to the continuation of creative activities by the artist. And how vital it is to audiences.

I recently asked fellow musicians how they were feeling about the sudden lack of performances. “Are you feeling more creative? Are you spending your extra time practicing, learning new music? Are you writing new material?” More often than not the answer was, “No, not really.” Although I am sure many artists find themselves creating more than ever during this lockdown period, those in the performing arts are experiencing a more acute sense of mild depression and feeling a bit lost and confused. They do not, for the most part, enjoy standing before their phone or other devices to perform to their living room wall. No doubt we need human interaction for energy and inspiration.

I think we’ve all come to realize, as never before, how truly enjoyable it is to go to a live event. To plan for it, to anticipate it, and to actually go about the activity of attending it. To see faces react just like you, to laugh or cry or sit in awe together. There’s some sort of marvelous connection or bond in that. To run into that person that you haven’t seen in ages. It’s all part of the good-for-you, natural medicine of life. Without live performance, it’s as if someone scraped all the icing off this beautiful cake and ate the best part for themselves. We work to provide for ourselves and our families, we buy groceries, cook meals, clean our homes and maintain them. That is the cake. Live events are the icing. It’s what makes the cake taste really good.

So who ate the icing? COVID ate the icing.

But, we haven’t forgotten the recipe. We still know how. For now, we’ll eat our cake without the icing.

Wait and see. Time will tell. Performing artists will find a way out of their slumpity funk. Start gearing up. More icing for everyone is on its way!

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