by Cynthia Hellman

I think we can all agree the year 2020 has blasted us with a massive curveball. Can I get an, “Amen!”? We’ve all made adjustments we never thought we would make. While most of us were already homeschooling, “crisis schooling” became a term we embraced. On varying levels, the majority of us identified with this concept of homeschooling during a crisis. It affected every area of our lives including MoezArt Productions.

I’m not much of a sports enthusiast. I usually yell, “Go sportball!” for All The Sports. This is mostly to get a laugh and only a little to antagonize sports fans. But I digress. I was never a pitcher and not really a great batter, but something I learned during my stint with sportball has stuck with me: Most coaches will tell the batter not to swing at a curveball unless they already have two strikes against them. MoezArt took a chance and swung at the curveball. In a scant two weeks, MoezArt’s Grand Central sought the Lord’s guidance and birthed a plan beyond anything we ever would have swung at prior to covid-19 entering our vernacular. Online classes with directors continued. Our fabulous Masters Classes were delivered right to your inbox every week, complete with quizzes (and quiz keys for directors-hallelujah!). Games traditionally played in person were adapted to online platforms with delightful, and oftentimes hilarious results. New avenues for rehearsing became standard fare and we forged on with a sense of awe that God had unlocked new possibilities.

A lot of you swung too. There have been amazing stories of students writing books, learning new skills, sending letters through the postal service (imagine that!). We had the privilege of watching new skills unfurl in your students as they flexed spiritual muscles, trusting that God was working good from their disappointments.

If I may be so bold, I’d like to suggest that in some tangential realm, theatre has prepared us to face challenges such as this current pandemic. Yes, you read that correctly. Engaging in the art of theatre from a biblical worldview has created a microcosm of what we now experience with the coronavirus. Consider this:

  • We face a litany of unanswerable questions. The, “What ifs” abound. Go ahead, ask your student about some of their, “What ifs” from any semester. Some of their concerns are a little, shall we say…ooohhhh…dramatic (SHOCKER). “What if I forget to go to Call Time and don’t even realize I missed my show?” Ummm…okay, honey. We’ll keep an eye out for you to suddenly forget you have a show (insert parental eye roll). Some questions strike at deeper fears and concerns. “What if I get sick right before the show?” “What if my friend gets upset that I was cast in the part they wanted?” “What if I completely freeze on stage and don’t remember a single word?” “What if I break/misplace/move/look at a prop and the prop master dismembers me before I can tell my family I love them?” The bottom line is that most of our, “What ifs” will never materialize. Those that do, we will face and know the answer as we move forward. There’s nothing more we can do.
  • We experience stages of grief. If you don’t believe this is true, you have never witnessed an actor in the throes of Post Production Blues. I once had a friend call me after her student’s first production season asking if her child’s behavior was normal. Said student was simply sobbing uncontrollably in fetal position on her bed. Yes, my friend. That is normal. We birth something beautiful in the weeks leading up to a performance. When the curtain closes for the final time, everything we worked for is gone, existing only in memories. We are used to heartache. We are also used to honoring those memories while forging ahead to great things on the horizon.
  • We have to be flexible. In theatre, plans can change more readily than the players on a pro sportball team (I’m sorry sports fans. It’s a compulsion.). Every student has war stories about having to adapt during a show. Pose that question to a room of theatre students and then sit back while you get an earful. “The set actually fell on me.” “We skipped, like, three-and-a-half pages of the show!” “We had to stall for two whole minutes while we waited for so-and-so to come on stage!” Every single story of quick thinking-on-your-feet moments are accompanied by wide eyes and elevated decibel levels. Just trust me on this.
  • We face our fears. What actors do isn’t easy. Your students face a great deal of fears as they work their way through a semester and production. If you don’t think that’s the case, I invite you to audition for any upcoming Community Theatre show and get a feel for what your students experience. Actually, either way, I strongly recommend you give Community Theatre a shot. There’s a unique vulnerability that is on display in theatre classes and rehearsals. Actors are forced to get outside of their comfort zone, face their fears in front of their peers and lay aside their vulnerabilities. It’s a humbling process to watch…and an even more humbling process to experience.
  • We have no choice but to rely on God. There are a host of things that can go wrong in a semester at any given moment. We are stretched in ways we didn’t think possible. There’s always a moment during the semester that I call the Titanic Moment. We’re all just teetering on the brink of madness and mayhem, clinging to each other with a ray of hope in Jesus that we can weather the storm.

Is this an oversimplification of a worldwide pandemic? Yes. The current crisis is most certainly more dire than, “I forgot my character shoes.” I am in no way downplaying the real loss of life, income, security, mental well-being that we have sustained during this pandemic. However, MoezArt students have been equipped with every class, with every show to handle this curveball.

Ultimately, this semester is not what any of us envisioned. Most of us are weary from the unanswerable questions swirling in our own brains, not to mention those we parent. We are slogging our way through the stages of grief in an unusual way. We’re tamping down fear, and facing our vulnerabilities. We’re rolling with punches we thought we’d never stare down. We’re pressing into Jesus in ways we haven’t really had to before. On the one hand, I’m ashamed it takes something like this to make me face my own spiritual deficits. On the other hand, I’m profoundly grateful for the opportunity to shift some priorities in my own life.

May we handle these curveballs with the love and grace of God’s redeemed…and throw a little theatre training in the mix. Please know that each MoezArt family is loved and prayed for in these uncertain times…as well as when things are sunny and idyllic.