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Can art survive the pandemic?

By Shelley Dean, Arts & Entertainment Editor

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Almost two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, artists from Broadway to Hollywood are struggling to stay creative while also following health and safety protocols.

During the winter holiday season, Broadway shows were forced to halt performances for weeks at a time when members of casts and crews came down with the virus.

Other Broadway shows such as “Jagged Little Pill” and “Mean Girls” abruptly announced their closing dates around this time. This came as a shock to many fans as these musicals carried a strong fan base.

Movie theaters across the country are struggling to fill up seats, and rely heavily on sizable blockbusters such as the recent hit “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”

Relying on hits is a gamble movie theaters cannot risk. The recent release of Steven Spielberg’s West “Side Story” remake was set to do great numbers at the box office, but fell gravely short. Critics suspect a mixture of lack of marketing and being overshadowed by the Spider-Man franchise was to blame. 

Some audience members do not feel comfortable enough to return to in person viewings yet. Others are ecstatic that venues are open, only to be canceled when cast and crew members test positive for COVID-19.

Though this is a time of great struggle in the artistic world, it is also a time to create new art, and get creative in the way performers deliver their work.

Theatre students on campus are excited to be back in the audience for Broadway shows. Especially when they are soon to graduate into the world of professional theatre.

“It was really nice to be in that atmosphere again, even though we had to wear masks it didn’t really make much of a difference, it just felt nice to be back in a theater,” senior musical theater major Lauren Arnold said.

Arnold has recently seen Broadway productions of “Moulin Rouge” and “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.” 

“It did feel safe, one of the shows I saw, Harry Potter, was a completely sold out audience, so we were all brought into the theater before the show actually started and were all mingling around,” Arnold said.

Arnold agrees that even though she felt safe in these circumstances, she could see how someone else might feel uncomfortable.

“With all of the vaccinations and boosters that we have now, you can come at your own discretion,” Arnold said.

All ticket holders attending Broadway shows are required to provide proof of vaccination, in addition to wearing a mask throughout the duration of the performance.

For movie theaters, the CDC recommends masks and social distancing. Vaccination guidelines vary based on state and local guidelines. 

For now, guests can still enjoy popcorn while watching their feature. 

“I haven’t been to the movie theaters in a very long time because of the pandemic. We were in reclining chairs, the sound was surrounding us, it was really cool,” senior musical theatre major Devin Butera said.

Butera recently saw the movie everyone has been talking about, “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” 

“I love the movie theater because it brings me a very peaceful quaint vibe. I love sitting at the top. I think it’s fun to have a choice of seating. It’s fun to go and buy popcorn, candy and slushies before a movie,” Butera said.

Butera acknowledges the fact that he could watch anything he wanted from the comfort of his own home, but there is something pulling him towards the theaters.

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“I know you can just stay at home and get all of your favorite snacks and sit in your bed and watch a movie but it’s also like, if it’s something you really love, an actor you really like, there’s something about going to see them on the big screen that makes it really exciting,” Butera said.

Butera and Arnold are both artists, and recognize the effort and talent that goes into each individual performance they both saw. 

Butera believes that the pandemic is no match for people’s love for art.

“Art will never die as long as people are alive. Everything is art, nature is art. People are the ones that are the perpetrators of artistic views. Everybody is always creating something, everybody is an artist in what they do. Doctors are artists, pilots are artists,” Butera said.

Arnold agrees, and recognizes the opportunities the pandemic has created for artists.

“Covid has kind of jet-setted our digital age. We have kind of been heading towards that, but covid just punched it in, so I think a lot more will be online artistically. My hope is that more original works will come out of this hard time,” Arnold said.

Broadway, Hollywood, and every theater in between has been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and artists such as Butera and Arnold will continue to recognize their resilience and drive.  

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