Arts Persist Through COVID

Arts+Persist+Through+COVID

Clara Kalas

     While COVID-19 seems to be forcing people apart, the music and theater departments at Fenwick High School are committed to safely bringing people back together. That is, while still maintaining the government mandated six-foot distance. In light of these difficult times, the theater and music departments have been turning to the arts as a means of spreading hope and comfort across the Fenwick community.

     Driven by the importance of music and art, the students and staff members of the Blackfriars Guild have reunited after the cancellation of the 2020 spring musical. Unfortunately, reuniting has proven to be more challenging for musicians, as studies from the University of Colorado Boulder, the University of Maryland, and even a study with the Vienna Philharmonic are showing scientists the dangers of aerosols emitted by both wind and string musicians, creating increased possibilities for the spread of COVID-19 amongst musicians.

     With these new risks, the theater and music departments have had to come up with creative new ways to perform and create music. The Blackfriars Guild have started delivering live-streamed and socially distant performances to the Fenwick community.

     Fenwick band students are also acting accordingly, taking necessary safety precautions.

     “We’ve made changes so that everyone is safe and comfortable,” said saxophonist Evan Auriemma ’21, “from cutting holes in a mask in order to perform safely, [using] bell covers so particles don’t fly, and staying socially distanced.”

     While the band program is doing their part to assure that students can continue to meet and practice a few times a week, Mr. Faille is introducing new performance opportunities with protocols implemented to protect the health of student performers. While searching for ways to introduce live performances back to audiences again, in addition to the typical Blackfriar productions, Faille added four small variety shows and three new theater productions. This includes two one-act plays that will be live-streamed to audiences, with cast sizes quite limited compared to other theatrical experiences like the fall play and spring musical.

     “We aim to provide as many students as possible with the opportunity to perform throughout the year while being socially responsible and cooperative with state and local regulations,” said Mr. Faille.

     Progress for the Blackfriars Guild has not been without setbacks. Auditions and rehearsals for one of the three new theater performances, a staged reading of the musical Freaky Friday, had to take place via virtual meetings in order to ensure the safety and well-being of the actors. On August 28, the first of many Friar Fest variety shows took place on top of the newly constructed Michael R. Quinlan parking center. This relatively small group of eighteen performers were required to social distance during this live streamed event. Additionally, the equipment was disinfected following the conclusion of each performer’s time on stage.

     In response to the innovation and hard work of the teachers and staff who make performing music and theater possible, students have expressed their utmost gratitude. Co-President of Fenwick’s Chamber Choir, Kate Turner ’21, stated, “We are so grateful that Mr. Faille has created opportunities for us to continue our art during this challenging time. It felt so great to be back at Fenwick singing up in the new parking garage for the inaugural Friar Fest.”

     After performing at the August Friar Fest, multi-talented sophomore Elise Weyer commented on the importance of safely bringing people together through music and live performances. “During the first Friar Fest, I performed Elton John’s Border Song,” Weyer said. “This tune talks about loving everyone, no matter what. During these times, loving everyone is even more important since we are all struggling with the same issues. The only way that we are going to survive COVID-19 is through patience, tolerance, and love.”