I have had “write blog for 2020” on my list of things to do for about three weeks now. And here I sit in front of my Christmas tree this last night of the year, just now opening my computer to put words to the page.
What has kept me from getting started? For those of you who know me, you know I’m a “get it done” kind of gal. Procrastination has never been a problem for me. And yet, I think the exhaustion of the last year has kept me from wanting to do much of anything these last two weeks, which I suppose is exactly what I needed.
2020 started with so much hope. We had incredible shows in January that really raised the bar for what we have been able to accomplish at the studio. We had a sold out February break camp. But I was feeling burned out and mentally exhausted and decided to take a couple of days off and go to a yoga retreat March 3-5. I came back to the beginning of the shutdown, which officially began the following week.
Like so many small business owners, I felt paralyzed with anxiety about what would happen to the studio and what would happen to my family. Would we be able to keep Artistree open? Would we be able to pay our mortgage? What if we had to sell our house and move? I could barely breathe sometimes thinking about all the “what ifs.”
What I did know was that we had to move our classes immediately online and get creative. And while I might have wanted to lay in bed with the covers over my head, I wasn’t afforded that luxury. I had to get up every morning to homeschool my own children and then do my best to put my “creativity” hat on and start teaching in the afternoons. I kept staging and choreographing, because in the beginning I thought surely we would have shows in May. Surely this would be over by then…..
But then it wasn’t. Days turned into weeks turned into months and we had to come up with an online solution to our shows. I was so afraid of how disappointed my students would be when we told them we’d be making movies or when, working with my student Chase These and a model used at Northwestern University, we’d be doing our high school production of “Heathers” on Zoom. But they weren’t upset—they were excited. They were getting to perform, albeit in a different way, but still performing. And, together, our students and our incredible staff–we saved the semester.
When summer came and we weren’t sure of when we could physically re-open the studio, we thought outside the box once again. I saw that local yoga and fitness studios were doing classes in Harbor Island Park and I thought, “why can’t we do that?” And thanks to Jason and the incredible team at the Village of Mamaroneck Recreation Department, Camp Artistree in the park was born. That first day, with masks and face shields, with temperature checks and hand sanitizer, might have been one of the most meaningful of my entire career. Just being together with our students again, in person, was one of the greatest joys I have ever experienced. It made me hope that I never took for granted a rehearsal, a coaching session, a staff meeting. Because I knew how easily it could all be taken away.
One of our long-time parents reached out to me in July and suggested that I think about pushing the shows forward to before Thanksgiving, in anticipation of a second wave. It seemed completely unfathomable. How in the world could we get 7 shows mounted, rehearsed and produced in 9 weeks? But then Peter and I took a breath and again, GOT CREATIVE. We made lists, looked at dates, consulted our staff, booked what spaces we could and decided we’d do our best to make it happen. And you know what–it did happen and again, were some of our most incredible memories.
Why do I rehash all of this and relive the pain and anxiety that 2020 brought? Because now on New Year’s Eve, I can look back and see all the good that came of it. I can see what we learned as a studio and what I learned personally. I see how incredibly resilient our children are. I see how the power of great storytelling can transcend all mediums. I see how we all SLOWED DOWN, which I know I needed. And while I often say that I’m the “least creative creative person” you’ll ever meet, I think I’ll give myself some credit for being just that—CREATIVE when I had to be. I think we have all been. We are stronger than we give ourselves credit for and for many of us, COVID reminded us of what really matters–our health, our families and the love around us.
Now, don’t get me wrong–I can’t WAIT until I don’t have to teach in a mask. And I want 2021 to bring us back to many things we considered normal before. But perhaps, we can learn to stop, to breathe, to be present in the journey a bit more. I know that is my resolution–to wake up every day eternally grateful for the opportunity to be part of this incredible craft called theater.
I wish everyone a healthy and happy new year, filled with love, grace and a little creativity.