Grace Urquhart, junior psychological science major, discusses the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the local theatre community and Jewell student experiences, as well as encouraging people to take care of their mental health through this trying time.
I like routine and planning and knowing exactly what’s going to happen. I tend to like to be in control of everything that I’m involved with and anything that might affect me. I enjoy a nice equilibrium. This is a fun fact: I could not control the COVID-19 pandemic. I know, it’s surprising. Keeping my world stable hasn’t been my reality lately. My reality has been twists, turns and cancellations. That’s how I would describe my experience of COVID-19 so far – not knowing the plan because things were changing all the time. Everything happened so fast, and I wasn’t sure how to handle it. Events I had been looking forward to were being cancelled all around me. The last few weeks have been similar to being on one of those deep sea fishing boats during a large storm and not knowing where the next wave will come from or if it will knock me over. Not being in control creates anxiety in me. So does my nicely planned schedule being obliterated right in front of me.
This pandemic, besides causing me much anxiety and being a monumental historical event that I will have experienced, has affected my life in a variety of ways. The theatre industry is not an industry with many consistent jobs. And when your job relies on the gathering of a big group of people, a stay-at-home order, though necessary, does not work in favor of your job.
Since January I had been working with Faust Theatre downtown as stage manager for their production of Spring Awakening. The run of the show was set for March 12-22. When we finally arrived at opening night, shows at other theatres all around us were closing their productions due to the virus. On the 13th, we made the decision to only allow essential staff to stay for the runs of the shows, meaning that I operated the light board instead of telling someone when to hit the button. By the 16th it was decided that the show could not continue for our second weekend, and all of the hard work and preparation everyone had put into that beautiful show was cut short. The show rehearsing in the space just above our space at the Arts Asylum closed before it even opened, so we are grateful we had performed for at least the audience that we did.
I had also been mentoring a high school student director, Alice, who had written her own show about depression and suicide. Her show was set to debut April 2nd and will not be performed any time soon due to the virus. I had gotten to know the group of high school students, and I am deeply saddened that they won’t be able to perform. I am hopeful that a performance of the show will happen at some point, but at this time we just aren’t sure what the future will be. Some of the cast members were making their theatre debut in Alice’s show, while others were performing for their final time as high school students – both of which are important milestones as a thespian.
Even another theatre job opportunity of mine hangs in the balance, as it’s fairly uncertain what the summer will be like yet. And as part of the greater Kansas City theatre community, I have seen how COVID-19 has affected my friends and friends of my friends who work in Kansas City theatre. Many have now been rendered jobless due to cancellations of shows. It has been a sad few weeks watching this happen and will continue to be a hard time until we find a cure and vaccination for this virus.
Closer to home, we can look at Jewell Theatre Company’s cancellation of their spring musical, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. This would have been the last musical for the seniors, and it would have been some of the first-years’ first musical at Jewell – memories that we won’t be able to make up. And in general, speaking as someone who is not yet a senior, we have lost precious time with our favorite senior friends.
I’ve also lost my outdoor track and field season, like many other student athletes whose spring season is no longer in existence. Though I can anticipate next year’s season, I am grieving the loss of my chance to break my personal record this season, and I’m grieving alongside the seniors who won’t even have a senior outdoor track and field season or a chance to make conference one last time.
And, similar to a lot of Jewell students undoubtedly, I forfeit some of my organization’s planned campus events. As a campus leader, I believe we are grieving the lost time with our organizations that we adore so much. I also believe that this new lifestyle we have been forced into is an opportunity, as campus leaders, to lead and support our organizations in any way that we are able to do so. This is my call to other Jewell student leaders. Remember to check in with yourself and let’s remember to check in with our people.
While I know others are losing much more than hopefully any of us will lose, such as a loved one, that doesn’t render our feelings about what we have lost void. We deserve to grieve too because we have lost important parts of our lives, many of which we will not be able to get back. Nonetheless, we will eventually overcome the grief we feel and find our way into a period of new growth.
Finally, I want to make sure that all Jewell students get the necessary support and care that they need during this time. Please contact the Office of Counseling Services at firstname.lastname@example.org for any mental health related issue that may come up during our absence from Jewell. The OCS staff are wonderful and are there to support you.
Here is the link to join the Zoom meeting happening every Monday and Thursday from 3p-4p: Click here to join the Let’s Talk Support Group.