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Theatre students cope with canceled performances, lost opportunities

ARCHIVE: Evan Leeds plays Joseph Surface in The School for Scandal. Theatre students at Westminster College say each performance is a specific opportunity, and when shows are canceled that opportunity is lost. (Photo Courtesy: Gaven Nelson)

Lavinia Adams said she was pressured by her friends to audition for the school play back in junior high school. She was cast in a leading role and said that was when she fell in love with theatre.

“From then on I knew this was something I wanted to do,” she said.

This year, her junior year at Westminster College, she was cast as the lead in Sweet Charity

“This was my semester that I was hitting things off,” she said. 

Westminster announced all classes will be online until June 5 and all campus events have been canceled. For theatre students this means that, among others, the May Term production Dead Man’s Cell Phone has been canceled, the senior directing production has been canceled, and the fourth show of the year, Sweet Charity, has been postponed until the fall.

Canceling a show means losing an opportunity forever, according to Adams. 

“I know this is hard for everyone, but we’re in a unique situation,” Adams said. “We won’t get this opportunity again. Each show and each director and each choreographer is different and that chance is gone.”

Adams said the reason she came to Westminster was so she could have in-person, personal interactions in small classes, and it’s been hard to lose that.

“The experience of classes, not being able to be all together, it does get hard,” she said. “We can’t see each other, so everyone’s motivation has dissipated. But I still feel that I am being supported. And we are all trying our hardest.”

Adams said she wonders if there could have been a better option for theatre students. 

“The only thing I wish was handled differently would have been to contact the cast and include us in deciding to postpone the show,” she said. “We don’t feel that postponing shows was the best decision and we wish we were in the room to have a voice.” 

With everything else that’s going on, it’s hard to focus on school — especially when the heart of her education involves things she can’t do anymore, Adams said.

“The world is crumbling and I don’t want to be focusing on performing,” she said. “The magic and the spark of performing is not there.” 

Samantha Miller is also in Sweet Charity; but unlike Adams, this is Miller’s last semester. Fortunately the director invited Miller and the other two seniors involved with the show to be part of the final production.

Unlike her Spanish class, Miller said things like tap dancing and acting classes don’t transfer to the online platform well. 

“Before, we would be in the space and we would get to work [our scenes] and talk about them,” she said. “There’s a class I TA called movement and we literally go hold onto people and move their bodies in certain ways. Now they have to try and have that experience in their living room.” 

The Westminster production of Sweet Charity was supposed to open April 2, but due to COVID-19 it has been postponed until the fall. “We don’t feel that postponing shows was the best decision and we wish we were in the room to have a voice,” says Lavinia Adams, the lead in the show. (Gwenna Salazar)

Switching to online classes also impacts her living situation, Miller said.

“I’m the worst dancer in the world, and I have to tap dance at 8 a.m. in a house with roommates,” she said. “It’s crazy, but I do think all the students and professors are trying their hardest to make it as good as it can be.” 

Despite the disappointments in her last semester, Miller said she looks back at her time at Westminster fondly. 

“Honestly I really loved it,” she said. “I have no complaints. The people in the program were really kind to me and I loved creating work with them. I feel really happy with the education I’m leaving with.” 

Miller is involved in multiple productions that have been canceled, but she is also worried about how the pandemic will impact her ability to work in theatre after graduating. 

“I have no idea when there will be an opportunity to get a job,” she said. “Auditions are months before everything is going to happen, but since it’s on hold I can’t go out and audition. I’ve been applying for internships and fellowships, but now I won’t hear back from those until much later. Due to that, I have so much stress about what the hell the real world will be like for me.” 

For Samantha Miller, Sweet Charity will be her last Westminster show. For Kat Smith, a first-year theatre student, it was supposed to be the first. 

“I’m upset that it’s been postponed, but I’m just glad that it wasn’t cancelled entirely,” she said in an email. “With everything changing as rapidly as it has been, I don’t really know what else could have been done. It’s a confusing and difficult time for everyone right now.”

Switching to online in general is difficult, but especially with theatre classes, Smith said. 

“Stagecraft class is still pretty up in the air,” she said. “That class is about building, which is pretty hard to do online. I’m also very inexperienced with online classes, so that’s been a pretty steep learning curve.”

Smith and her peers are ready for life to go back to normal.  

“I’m pretty sure I’ll never take going to class in person for granted ever again.” 

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Gwenna Salazar
Gwenna Salazar is an honors communication student in her final year at Westminster. She is excited to spend another semester as the online and social media manager working alongside a great team. When she isn’t on campus, Gwenna loves critically consuming media, being outside, and snuggling her cat, Bruja. After graduation she hopes to forge a fulfilling career in public relations, leaving time on the side for adventures.

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