If there has ever been a year to learn the things we’ve taken for granted, 2020 was it. Everyone has lost something during this pandemic. It might have been a vacation, a wedding, a career high. It might have been graduation or in-person classes. It might have been a loved one. For many of us, it was the simple act of human connection. In our Zoom rooms and lockdown, we were all experiencing the same exact trauma…and yet we’d never felt more isolated and alone.
For over a decade, I’ve looked forward to the productions of Trumbull Hall Troupe. At first it was because my children were part of the troupe, and because we performed shows that I wrote with our incredible music-director-emeritus, Ellen Wilber. Then they were because I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know this generation – their passion, their talent, and their optimism. When, in 2020, we were unable to gather together in person, our creative dream team – Lanni Luce West, Allyson Weiner Sawyer, and Alicia Dale – figured out a way to let our cast collaborate by virtually writing, directing, and choreographing their own filmed music videos of original songs. But there’s nothing like being face to face, in a room, making music and dancing and stepping into character. When THT held open auditions this year, it brought me to tears.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stopped during rehearsal to just think, in silent wonder, WE ARE BACK. Yes, it looks different. At the time of this writing, we know that to perform we have to adhere to safety protocols that include vaccination and masking up in the wings when our performers aren’t onstage. We know that audiences may feel skittish being in a room together. We know there are still variants out there and unknowns. But we also know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel (thank you, science!). We’re going to have to learn to live in this new normal – and I am so, so grateful that in spite of all the things we have lost, we still have this: the opportunity to make something new together.
XANADU is the perfect antidote to a pandemic. It’s silly and dizzy and full of songs that make me very aware I am a child of the 80s. It’s a sugar rush; ninety blissful minutes that take you back to a time when no one ever knew the word Covid and leg warmers were considered fashionable.
There is a reason what we do is called community theatre. That’s never been more clear than now, when a live audience is still a privilege. Directors always say the last part of a show’s “equation” is the audience; it’s the final wild-card element added to the mix of theatre. In other words, we’re all in this together.
Together. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more beautiful word.