This weekend would have been our Open House, when prospective students accepted into our programs at USC School of Dramatic Arts would have come to campus to participate in workshops, meet current students, and talk with faculty who’d answer their questions about the various programs. All this prior to making the tough decision about where to go to college on May 1st.
Due to the hard work of the staff at Academic Services, Saturday was still that day, in five virtual webinar sessions organized to answer the questions of;
- BFA Musical Theatre students
- BFA Acting for Stage, Screen and New Media students
- What it means to be a student at USC – student panel populated with BFAs from the Stage Management program, Design program, Musical Theatre and Acting for Stage, Screen and New Media, as well as two BA students.
- BA students with the Heads of Undergraduate Acting and BA Programs
- BFA Production/Design students at a webinar populated by the Heads of all of our programs.
Kudos to the moderators of each of those events, as they deftly moved the questions to the panelists, and in the case of one of the webinars, allowed the person asking the question to become a panelist so that we could see them, too! There was a video introducing the work of several of the Independent Student Productions, and a virtual greeting from the Dean.
It was strange not gathering on stage at the Bing at 11:00AM to have our designers and stage managers share about the collaborative and creative process of mounting the Spring Musical; We’d have then gone for a campus tour of all the theatres and shops led by Duncan Mahoney, prior to adjourning for lunch in Queen’s Courtyard, taking our picnic boxes and finding a spot with excited freshmen-to-be and their parents. Later, we’d have all gone inside to see a performance of The Secret Garden, and we might have taken the Production/Design students upstairs for a peek into our Bing Design Lab.
But this is not a normal spring, not normal conditions, and so we gathered “together” in what has become our new normal. Small jewels of screen cradling very individual lives, precious students each with their own concerns and questions, learning styles, personalities and time zones. Most of the webinar formats precluded our seeing those individuals, so it was disorienting without the “stars” of the day visible other than in a list of participants, so we could see their names only.
Speaking of normal, I don’t know if you now take supreme pleasure in the little things as I do. The gratitude and appreciation for our heroic health care workers, or maybe the drivers, or maybe for Clarence, the lovely Instacart shopper who filled my small order yesterday and with whom I virtually traipsed through Ralph’s, choosing between Nature Made Vitamin B-Stress formula vs. Nature’s Bounty. We giggled as we bent over the meat counter, selecting the 90% lean rather than the 85% lean I’d originally chosen. For the same price! Imagine that! The timing of our shopping spree couldn’t have been worse. Clarence and I texting back and forth just minutes before the Production/Design Panel began. I called downstairs to my security guard’s desk to say, “Whomsoever comes with my groceries, please let them upstairs to deliver – I’ll be in a webinar and can’t answer my phone.” (Okay, so I have never in my life used the phrase Whomsoever). Max, at the desk, said “I’ve got you!” I put a $20 in an envelope with instructions to not knock wedged into my front door, and proceeded to participate in the open house within my freshly vacuumed open house.
The panel ended, and I rushed to the door, the envelope dropping to the floor as I opened it. I went down to the lobby, and Max told me he’d just sent him up, so I jumped back on the elevator, to find Clarence trundling down the hallway, my grocery bags in his hands. I thrust the envelope into this hand, and thanked him for the groceries, as he hurried away. Inside I went, but wait….. I didn’t order that type of bread, and this pineapple isn’t what I ordered, and Almond milk? Uhoh. I had the wrong order, and Clarence was gone. I had way more groceries in these three bags than I’d ordered. I picked up the phone and “reported a problem” to the Instacart App, which, have you noticed? It’s become way less responsive since we entered the lottery for when your shopping will be done. Hesitantly, I put the Almond milk in the fridge, leaving the other items in the bag, and waited, hoping that Clarence would figure out what happened. Sure enough, back he came with my two bags of groceries, holding out the money in his hand to me sheepishly. Of course you should keep it! I said. I’m just so glad you came back. We laughed about how the other person would have been so upset, and disappointed with the women’s deodorant, B stress vitamins, pie shells and half and half that made up my order. Though they probably would have been delighted with the Kettle Chips and cereal. Happily, I was able to make two crab quiches last night, which seemed somehow appropriate as a celebration for Easter.
The communal gratitude for human connection has birthed a new event every day at 8:00PM. I’m not sure who chose 8PM, except maybe just the brave soul who one night opted to fling open their sliding door or window, and stand there in DTLA, holding a light saber and whooping and hollering until reluctantly, others drew close to their windows or out onto their balconies, drawn to the sound and the desperate need to be a part of a community of neighbors, separate but together. We make a hell of a ruckus every night at 8PM. Last night as I stood waving my lit cellphone in my right arm, reaching my left arm into my living room to flick on and off the porch light, I teared up at the simultaneous solidarity and solitude we were all feeling.
Easter. A complicated day for the deeply agnostic former Presbyterian. Last year, I celebrated with my son and his wife and two children, going to the community’s egg hunt, the star of which was the Easter Fire Truck and the chocolate bunny who lost his head in the excitement of the celebration. Bittersweet to look at these pictures and be apart this year. This too, shall pass.