There’s Nothing Like the Arts, Especially When They’re Live
Empty halls, empty galleries — the pandemic has been especially difficult for performance and fine arts students, having lost that vital interaction with a live audience. However, with restrictions loosening, students — and the campus — cheered at the return of live events.
“Oh, it felt absolutely wonderful to be back on stage!” said Jamie Yerkes, a theatre performance and English double major who played the Stage Manager in the Thornton Wilder classic, “Our Town,” last month. “Opening night was like breathing fresh air again for the first time in a long time.”
The play’s successful five-day run at the Hartmann Center for the Performing Arts marked the first theatre performance on campus in front of a live audience since early 2020.
“‘Our Town’ is a show perfect for a return to stage, as well as a return to society. It asks the audience to remember that through all the ups and downs of life, we still never know how much time we will get on this Earth. So, enjoy all the little moments.”
Audiences are an integral part of live performance. Actors and musicians alike feed off their energy. For musicians in particular, it’s akin to the great jazz musician Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong’s words, “The music ain’t worth nothing if you can’t lay it on the public.”
“What matters the most is the kind of connection that we are able to make with an audience through our music,” said trumpeter and music performance major Hezekiah George. “I was finally able to do that again.”
Music education major Noah Hire agreed. “Once I was on stage, it was very exciting to be singing again,” he said of his recent recital.
Pandemic restrictions also curtailed the ability for fine arts students to share their work. With galleries closed, exhibitions shifted online, denying both the artists and audience the opportunity to interact with each other and the artwork.
“It absolutely reflected the kind of experience of ‘together alone’,” said Lisa Nelson Raabe, a master of fine arts candidate. Her show, “Sublime Idioms,” is the first student exhibit open to the public since early 2020, and is currently displayed at the Heuser Art Gallery until the end of the semester.
Many students took advantage of the unplanned hiatus. Raabe, George and Hire agreed while they missed the audience interaction, they grew as artists during this period.
“Less distraction, less socializing, more focusing on things that matter to me,” said Raabe.
“The pandemic gave the students a little more time to explore things on their own,” added music department chair Todd Kelly. “I have been pleasantly surprised by how well the students adapted … I was really proud of them.”
— Mel Huang
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Theatre performance photo courtesy of Associate Professor of Animation Scott Cavanah; all other photos submitted by the subjects.