The Show Must Go On: The Effects of Covid-19 on Highschool Theatre

Why the Pandemic Has Been so Difficult on the Performing Arts

Ava Bien, Staff Writer

After a year and a half of uncertainty, highschool theatre students in Bend, Oregon are just grateful to be back and creating art once again–even if it’s socially distanced and masked. Covid-19 has been especially taxing on the performing arts, being one of the first things to be restricted back in 2020, and one of the last to fully return now. 

“Everything shut down at the start of Covid-19, so there were… about 3 to 4 months of nothing,” said sophomore Lincoln Hammond, a theatre student at Summit. Performing arts students were left in the dark without stage lights during distance learning, and even through the transition back into hybrid school.

Abby Busch, a long-time dedicated drama student, said she has had two shows get canceled, one that was moved to be performed in a backyard, and another with an audience that was limited to only 60 people. 

On the other hand, sporting events at Summit are packed with students, and while masks are supposedly enforced, many can be seen without one. Poppy Fridae, a junior at Summit said that at a game she attended, most people weren’t wearing masks correctly. 

While performing arts at Summit are just now returning to semi-normalcy, a much more relaxed approach has clearly been taken in terms of athletics. There have been over 25 indoor varsity volleyball games this school year with full capacity, whereas Busch says that the weekend of October 16th was the first time she’s had a show that had loose enough restrictions to be allowed to hold a decently sized audience inside. 

The arts being pushed aside by the district causes students to feel more undervalued than ever. Maddy Walsh, a freshman theatre student at Summit said “I think schools have always prioritized sports over the arts. The only posters I see up about theatre are up in the hallway where the classrooms are, on tiny little billboards.” 

The prioritization of athletics in whole has detrimental effects on the more creative members of the district. Art presented through theatre can heal and open doors for conversation and understanding–something that is greatly needed in these times of stress. Taking away the aspect of performing for a live audience completely destroys a large portion of what theatre is and why students fall in love with the art in the first place, making them less motivated and hurting the theatre community as a whole. 

Most theatre companies in Bend opted out of virtual options for performing, as the magic of performance arts stems from being present with the actors. Having personal interactions is part of the beauty of live theatre–not being disconnected from the art while dealing with glitches and Zoom malfunctions.

Since March 2020, drama students have faced months of bad news and heartache, with little hope for regaining what they once had. 

Despite these inequities with extra-curriculars, highschool actors have retained their love for theatre with small performances and staying connected while 6 feet apart. In these upcoming months, as we create a new sense of normalcy and consistency, we can expect the theatre community to do the same. 

“The theatre program is moving forward, trying to do as many shows as they can while also following Covid restrictions. I think performers are still super excited to do plays, it’s just hard to actually get back out there.” Walsh said. Though it’s impossible to know exactly which direction things will go in, we look forward to seeing the number of shows and audience members increase as restrictions are lifted.