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May 17, 2021

A year without stages

Last month we observed the one-year anniversary of when Covid-19 brought all of our lives to a sudden halt. 

Personally, this year has been a challenge not only health wise and financially, but emotionally and creatively as well. Like many of you, I lost so many of the things that gave me joy and made me feel alive. 

But perhaps the biggest hit for me was the disappearance of performing arts.

Before the pandemic, my second job was at Cabrillo College’s Crocker Theatre and Samper Recital Hall. I sold tickets, helped patrons and occasionally worked backstage. We hosted everything from tiny class recitals to sold-out shows during the Cabrillo Stage Summer Musical Festival.

In March 2020, we were halfway through a run of the play “Considering Matthew Shepard” when things shut down. It was devastating for the performers, the crew, staff and audiences. Everyone was feeling lost and confused about the future.

The arts were part of my personal life, too. I sang in a small community choir and often went to live events, from free concerts at Abbott Square in Santa Cruz to Broadway productions in the Bay Area. Whether on a stage, in the audience or behind the scenes, there was always something magical about live performance.

This is why I must say: I feel like the loss of this industry has been largely ignored throughout the course of the pandemic. It’s been missing from the narrative—deemed frivolous and unimportant. People talk about restaurants and other retail businesses. They talk about education, how to help students with distance learning. They talk about sports, from high school teams to Olympic hopefuls.

And all of these things are indeed very important, in some ways much more important than the arts in the grand scheme of things. I understand that.

But for many of us, the performing arts were intrinsically linked to our lives and identities. And for the past year, they’ve been missing.

For arts venues, there was never any chance of reopening. As eateries opened and closed, as we debated when to reopen schools and reinstate sports teams, they remained shuttered with little financial help. Venues across the world, some that had been operational for generations and were of great historical significance, closed their doors for good.

There were students who didn’t play on their school’s football teams, but instead were rehearsing for plays or concerts. There were adults who relied on these things for their job. There were people of all ages whose main source of joy and comfort was the performing arts.

My point of all of this is, when the industry comes back, support it, especially locally in public schools and at small, family-owned venues. If you have even a slight interest in live performance, or if you have a friend or family member who has a recital, go to it. 

If you are able to, donate to a local arts organization. Santa Cruz County is rich in arts and culture, and there are so many wonderful nonprofits doing some amazing work.

I also think we should once again start promoting the importance of art in schools. Not all kids are athletes. Not all excel in academia. Offering art early on in life could make a huge difference to a child’s confidence and creativity.

With Covid-19 vaccine distribution underway, there is hope ahead. Over the course of the next year, the world will slowly but surely open—hopefully safely—and this includes reinstating live performance.

So I do feel encouraged. Things might be different for a while, but maybe soon we can once again settle into a theater seat or gather at a festival stage. Maybe we’ll be able to see a school play, or watch a band perform indoors at our favorite venue.

When that time comes, I hope to see you all there.


My Point of View is a recurring column from Pajaronian reporter Johanna Miller. Reach Miller at [email protected].

Johanna Miller
Johanna Miller
Reporter Johanna Miller grew up in Watsonville, attending local public schools and Cabrillo College before transferring to Pacific University Oregon to study Literature. She covers arts and culture, business and agriculture.

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