Nov 2020 Blogathon: Helen Morris

It is Brelby tradition to dedicate the month of November to giving a platform for our artists to share their stories. This month our annual Blogathon theme is “Shifting Perspectives”. We’ve spent a large portion of 2020 with our stage dark, but that doesn’t mean that our artists haven’t been growing, changing and creating. This year we asked them, “How has the pandemic impacted your perspective on theatre, the arts, and life? What are your hopes for the future of theatre?”
Enjoy this year’s series with 30 Days of Blogs.

Day 7: Helen Morris

The morning of March 15, 2020 was like any other morning. I woke up, drank an obscene amount of coffee, and worked on my theatre project at the time. Between acting, composing, music directing and sound designing… I had been working on back-to-back shows for over two and half years. It was my life.

The only thing different about this project, however, was that it was special. It was my own. I was the co-writer, composer, and lyricist for Echoes: an original musical. Alongside playwright, co-lyricist, and my best cohort, Shelby Maticic, we had hand-picked our dream cast for the workshop to debut our show in two short weeks. That morning, I was putting the finishing touches on one of the 21 pieces of original music I had composed.
The morning of March 15, 2020, I was preparing to share my dream with the world. By the afternoon of March 15, it came crashing down as we canceled everything. By the night of March 15, I learned I wouldn’t be returning to my day job as a high school music teacher. The morning of March 16, I was escorted out of my other job at the Phoenix Symphony, with a handful of essential documents and rushed, hand-written work-from-home instructions.

The pandemic completely uprooted my life. It changed everything of what I knew and who I was. In 48 hours, everything I had known was gone. And I never knew if I would get it back.

Like most others, initially, I held the mindset that everything would be much more temporary and short-term than it would actually end up being. There were discussions of re-opening Echoes in a couple months. At every Zoom meeting for work, I expected to be told we could return to the office. But we never did. The air never changed. It just lingered. And after a while, the depression set in. For two weeks straight, I laid in bed and cried. I would leave my house at 11pm to drive around and look at the world, only to return home and go back to bed. Before this, I was someone who never slept, who was always on the move, who was always rushing to the next thing, the next project. And now, I was forced to sit in solitude and silence for the first time in two and half years. I was broken. Who was I without theatre? Without music? Who was I without the arts? Who was I at all?
After a while though, things shifted.

I believe as humans, one of the most beautiful skills we subconsciously possess is the art of adaptation. It’s one of those things you never know you have, because it just happens naturally. So truly unbeknownst to my own conscious, I started to fill my days with things that I could do. I spent a lot of time hiking, mountain biking, and outdoor exploring. I did a lot of songwriting, and even began composing my own EP, which was a goal of mine I had never gotten to work on in the hustle and bustle of my pre-pandemic life. And I met the love of my life and actually got the opportunity to cultivate and dedicate my time to our relationship, which was something I never thought I’d be able to do previously, as I was working 14+ hour days, every day, in the arts. My life has changed – for the better. Every moment I live now, I carry this life-altering experience with me. And it has made me stronger. It has given me a perspective on life, and who I am that I would have NEVER realized had I continued in my comfortable, familiar pre-pandemic routine.

Do I miss theatre? Yes. Do I miss performing? Immensely.
Do I know what the future holds for the arts? Not. At. All.

Oddly enough though, none of that worries me anymore. Because firsthand, I’ve experienced how we adapt. My life, that I once thought was empty and alone in the face of the unknown, feels brighter in the face of how I adapted to it. And I see further proof of that bright future ahead not only in theatre, but in humanity. We went from ghost lights, to zoom readings, to digital productions, to outdoor venues, to immersive experiences that are literally CHANGING the world. How the performing arts community has adapted to this pandemic in a few short months is a testament to how far we will go. 

And when we wait in the wings for our entrance on opening night, when we crack open those scripts for the first time at the initial read-through, when we pace through our rooms belting audition songs riddled with nerves again, I truly believe how we have adapted in the face of the largest unknown we’ve ever experienced will give us an unprecedented strength in all those little ones that we won’t know until we get there. And we will get there.

Things will NEVER be the same. And I couldn’t be more excited.

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