The Conservatory faces new challenges every day while preparing for their first shows of the season. They don’t plan on letting the complications stop them.
Live performances across the world were cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Performers of live music, theatre and dance had no idea when they would next take to the stage. For Webster Conservatory students, the return to performing has already started.
Musical Theatre student Jalam Sutton is working on his first performance of the year. He is casted in the show “Canfield Drive” as a multiple role performer. The show focuses on the events that unfolded after the police killing of Michael Brown.
Sutton is a person of color. As a Black man living through the age of the Black Lives Matter movement, he feels honored to help tell the story of Michael Brown and open up the conversation about police brutality.
The production is coming at a time where the Black Lives Matter movement is at an all-time high, similarly to the time of Michael Brown’s death. Despite the ongoing pandemic, Sutton and the Conservatory are working hard to produce a show in the safest way possible.
“The biggest challenge for me has been to continue to perform without letting our mask be a barrier,” Sutton said.
Sutton has been involved with theatre for about six years. His passion for theatre was jeopardized by the pandemic. When the university shut down last semester, there was no telling whether or not live shows would be possible come the fall semester. The production this semester will be filmed and streamed online.
In order to perform, the cast and crew had to adopt new guidelines in order to keep the production running safely. Lara Teeter, head of musical theatre at the Webster Conservatory, said the school is taking as many precautions as possible to keep students safe.
“This is the first time in the history of the Conservatory that the fall auditions were completely virtual,” Teeter said.
The faculty and students are navigating through new challenges every day, but Teeter says the students are just as eager to be in the classroom learning.
“Our students are incredibly resilient and tenacious,” Teeter said. “The great thing about teaching in the Conservatory is that each and every student who is here really wants to be here studying from our teachers, learning from this curriculum that has been developed over the last 50 plus years.”
Sophomore acting major Samantha Cordero says her class experience has felt familiar to that of the previous semesters. She says her professors are doing their best to make the classroom feel normal.
“The professors have been incredibly creative in creating as normal a situation as possible in these unprecedented circumstances,” Cordero said.
Teeter said he is dedicated to helping his students thrive no matter the circumstance. He said almost all aspects of theatre have changed since the pandemic hit. Live theatre has taken the virtual route.
Cordero is set to perform in the ensemble of “The Living by Anthony Clarvoe.” Even though live performances are not allowed during the pandemic, she is still excited for the opportunity to perform. Her biggest fear is that the students on campus will ruin her chances to perform if they do not comply with COVID-19 guidelines.
“Performing means doing what I love,” Cordero said. “I am nervous we will get kicked off campus because of students not being cautious, but I know the show will go on some way, somehow.”
Teeter shares a similar mindset about persevering through the challenges that the pandemic has created.
“The one thing that remains constant is that theatre is a way to tell stories,” Teeter said. “Theater artists all over the world are creating stories that can be told online.”