This past week marked the one-year anniversary since Playwrights’ Center shifted to remote operations and moved readings and workshops online. At that moment in time, we had no real idea how the pandemic would affect us, our field, and the artists we serve. The past year has been a time of loss for so many and a time of change for all. We asked artists and staff members to reflect on the moment, share what they miss, the things they learned over this past year of social distancing, and what they will take with us into the future. Their reflections are below. What do you miss? And what do you look forward to, when we can gather in person again?
Now is the time for art. But in order to make art, we must first survive. Our health, our emotional well-being, our income, our family structures, our funding, our identities, our communities, our artistic homes are on the brink of being lost. We fight to survive because we must, but at what cost? .. I feel like we haven’t even begun to understand the toll all this survival mindset takes. It gobbles up all our being. It exhausts us so that we aren’t available to be artists: bearing witness and creating rituals of catharsis for our communities.
My dream for theater is that we host outdoor rituals for collective grief. We are experts in empathy, structure, design, and shared experience. Let's help deliver the healing that people need.
—Jake Jeppson, Core Writer
The past year has shown me the resiliency of our Playwrights’ Center staff. It's made me deeply trust our team to go above and beyond for the playwrights, theatre-makers, and communities that we serve. I deeply miss being able to have those impromptu conversations at the desk, and even small things like having cross-talk in a meeting without Zoom garbling up the dialogue.
However, what I was surprised to find is that I am now more patient when people speak because I want to hear what they have to say. I value my one-on-one check-ins with staff because these moments now seem to be few and far between in this busy, online landscape. I value my alone time a lot more than I thought I would.
This past year has definitely been an adjustment, but it's taught me to pause when I need to, to give myself and others a bit more grace than I typically would since I realize everyone is dealing with different circumstances, and it's given me an appreciation for the small things and simple joys like a socially-distanced walk outside with a friend. These small gifts and aha moments are just some of what I'll take with me once we're finally out of the woods with this thing!
—Jasmine Johnson, general manager, Playwrights’ Center
If there's anything I've learned, and am still learning, during this pandemic, it's how to remove the immense pressure to be productive from my creative process (or lack thereof). No one should be made to feel bad for choosing stillness or prioritizing their mental health. Creativity comes and goes and that's okay.
I heard something on a podcast, where all the gems are, that really stuck with me: "Do your work for the authentic reason of the work itself and not because you seek the fruits of it." Gonna try to hang on to that for as long as I can.
—JuCoby Johnson, Many Voices Mentee
Our playwright members have been joining us from around the world for membership and public events in record numbers. We have been able to bring artists and playwrights together from around the country. Holding more things online allows for greater attendance and accessibility. This is very exciting.
I have also learned during this pandemic that nourishment is essential and comes in many forms: food, vitamins and supplements, adequate sleep, drinking enough water, having regular check-ins with dear friends, reading good books, listening to music, taking in the beauty of my surroundings, moving my body (in whatever way feels good to me). Ritual is important: it can look like morning coffee, daily exercise, journaling, a meal together with your family, meditation, etc. And learning to name my feelings and sit in them with curiosity and without judgment, helps me to move through them by identifying my specific needs.
—Hannah Joyce, director of membership programs, Playwrights’ Center
What pained me a great deal this year was missing PlayLabs. I looked at the lineup and was immediately devastated that these amazing artists wouldn't be sharing physical space together. The upside is how far all of our reaches got this year. How many more theatre friends we made than we would have otherwise. The hope is that soon and very soon, we will all be together again, and oh what a day that'll be.
—Stacey Rose, Theatre Maker and Core Writer