By: Nikki Ghaemi
If you know someone who has participated in one of UHS’s spring musicals, then you also might be familiar with the major commitments it demands: long hours, grueling rehearsals, and constant advertising of the show in the weeks leading up to opening night.
It’s something I am deeply familiar with. For the past three years, I have been a performer in the spring musicals. I’ve gotten to see the best parts of theater, like the nerves the performers feel while waiting backstage and hearing audience members trickle into the theater.
You could imagine my disappointment when our last musical, “Pippin”, was canceled on that notorious March 13 morning.
When the opportunity to perform was taken away from me, I forgot all about the stress I had been dealing with during weeks prior. All I could think about was what I loved about being in the show–and everything I was about to miss out on. It was a moment that made me seriously consider what art means to me.
Quarantine was difficult for the creative part of me. Playing guitar alone in my bedroom got old after a while. I began aching for the camaraderie that comes with creating art at school with fellow theater enthusiasts. I missed learning choreography and practicing harmonies with my friends. The most difficult part was not being able to see when it all would go back to “normal.”
I am not alone in this. Now more than ever, the arts are proving to be vital in students’ mental health and well-being.
This past fall, UHS hosted its first virtual theater production: a show called “All in the Timing”. Due to COVID-19, we used Zoom to record the scenes. The show’s virtual nature posed a challenge for us; this was the first non-live fall play UHS has ever put on.
By the end of the experience, however, I felt so proud of what we had accomplished. The show was not perfect by any means, but I was content knowing that I was able to channel my creativity and collaborate, especially after spending many months in quarantine.
Junior Scott Burke, an actor in Uni theatre productions, details what motivates him to continue fostering creativity.
“I think it is important that we continue creating art because art reflects the context in which it was created,” Burke said. “What art the pandemic produces will reflect [are] the deeply emotional challenges, we, as humans, faced together during the most bizarre time period in recent memory.”
From a mental health standpoint, art is also incredibly beneficial to teenagers, especially during times of crisis.
Senior Hiromi Nishida, an actor in Uni theatre productions, says, “I feel centered and purposeful when I create. In a quarantine life that can admittedly feel a little claustrophobic and small, so having something to bring you purpose is important.”
This challenge is not exclusive to theatre. Many arts, including music programs, have had to find ways to adapt to this new environment.
Junior Sol Choi describes ways he has participated in orchestra: “We were able to record ourselves individually playing our orchestral parts. Mrs. Lee would stitch everything into an online performance…I also performed in a virtual performance of Mendelssohn’s string octet by individually recording each part and it was very worthwhile.”
These innovative ways in which artists continue their craft despite troubling circumstances is inspiring.
The pandemic has not been easy. It has been a real test of creativity and has challenged all artists to find ways to collaborate and maintain skills. Considering the significant global impact of COVID-19, art will be used as documentation of what it was like to live during a modern pandemic. It will be a testament to how artists were able to play with the cards they were dealt.
One day, the world will reach a point where it is safe to put on live performances again. Years will pass and the memories of lonely days in quarantine will grow dimmer and dimmer. But having art representative of this time will remind us that no matter the circumstances, we can persevere.