“Beware the Ides of March,” warned the soothsayer.
He, of course, was talking to Ceasar in Shakespeare’s Julius Ceasar, but his words are eerily resonant.
Up until last week, COVID-19 had largely been framed as what Lauren Berlant might call a “situation” – “a state of things in which something that will perhaps matter is unfolding amid the usual activity of life” – outside of China. This week, that changed.
Officially declared a pandemic, COVID-19 went from situation to crisis in the span of a few days, and government, institutional, and personal responses have hurled us into a collective impasse, a “stretch of time” in which “the activity of living demands both a wandering absorptive awareness and a hypervigilance that collects material that might help to clarify things …” (Berlant 4).
As is often the case with such situations, the material effects of this impasse are unevenly distributed.
For theatre and performance folks, it is a stark reminder that much of our work takes place in, and relies on, the public, both its spaces and its people. Work has shut down (or shifted) alongside public closures: productions and conferences have been cancelled; studios and theatres have been closed; universities are largely shut down; courses have been moved online; and primary and secondary schools have been closed, putting extra child-care pressure on those with kids.
While these closures and the call to social distance are critical, they nevertheless have profound material and financial impacts that foreground how many of our workers, artists, and teachers are on gigs and contracts, or are seasonally or otherwise precariously employed.
If there is anything heartening about this impasse (and there are actually many things), one is that people are banding together to help one another.
Several resources are actively being compiled to support instructors who suddenly have to shift to online learning.
We’ve annotated five such resources and listed them below:
This is a collaborative document originally created by Maria Aladren, Stage Director and Academic Specialist in Theatre, Union County College. It includes a list of activities, ideas, and resources for teaching a range of elements of theatre and performance through online platforms.
Originally created by Dr. Daphnie Sicre, Loyola Marymount University, this is a second list of activities, ideas, and resources for teaching a range of elements of theatre and performance through online platforms.
A list of (largely) American-based links to a range of theatre-related sites.
I’ve chunked these two non-theatre specific resources together.
While not theatre-specific, Canada’s NFB has a wealth of interesting, free, artistic content available online. For Canadian instructors, it’s almost always a useful resource to remember.
The latter is a (frankly overwhelming) list of virtual museum and e-learning resources. It’s one that’s good to “favourite” for now or for later, as it compiles lots of information in one place.
5. Your Institutional Mental Health Services
So, this is clearly cheating, but as the uncertainty of the COVID-19 impasse intersects with end of term stresses, and the (potential) isolation of social distancing, mental health and well-being needs to be a focal point of conversations for both students and instructors. While not always the case, many institutions offer discounted (and sometimes free) access to online counselling and therapy through their health plans and wellness hubs. A quick search will help you identify resources that you might send to students and also resources that you might use yourself or share with colleagues.
Stay healthy: wash your hands, be well at home, and check in with your neighbours and students, especially if they are feeling at risk.