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  • Writer's pictureJenny Hanrahan

Art Plus Doubt [original blog post 3/13/2020]

We live in a nonsense time. It’s been a month and a half since I have sat down to write, and even still I felt a resistance to blogging about our Circle life. I mean, by the time I finish writing this post, there will surely be a handful of new changes or updates in how the world is navigating this pandemic. Yesterday afternoon was a swirling constellation of emails, messages, texts, news notifications; all spiraling in on the final decisions to close down Circle in the Square Theatre School and move to remote classes. Today was the first full day of Circle classes over Zoom (I did not experience any of that, being that I was in a hospital room in Chicago watching the birth of my nephew!!!!). All classes moving forward will be held remotely: zoom classes, self-taped dance videos, singing loudly in my apartment for my teacher in her apartment, attempting to communicate a depth of physical acting through a tiny macbook camera, general chaos and confusion. I am personally thrilled at the mere suggestion of doing passionate Chekhov via google hang for Alan Langdon. All in all: my shoulders live in a constant shrug.

Everything is goofy and as such I frequently have to remind myself to take a breath and a step back to re-center. What seems like a year before all of this began, I was riding the train home from a thrilling late night scene rehearsal (s/o Dot and George). Listening to a recording of “Live From Here” with Chris Thile, I was floored by something the wiggly mandolin man said: “art plus doubt equals new art.” And boy if I can’t describe my general mental state of the past few weeks with that one word: DOUBT. In the business, in myself, in the world, politics, health, work. My brain has been a swirl of question marks and confusion about everything.

But life has moved on, and so have I and all of my classmates. The industry showcase happened! We returned for stage combat the next day with donuts in hand and exhaustion in our bones. Spring break happened! And for much of it we continued to descend into the basement for dance rehearsals and Seagull parties. And then we returned again to the grind of pushing and learning, with the wide, expansive void of the end of our education looming ever closer. Day by day by scene by class by hour, we’ve continued rolling right along. And now with the virus having gutted any sense of our initial end-of-year schedule, and really any sense of regular life, we are faced with an even deeper need to take things minute by minute, second by second.

This blog has been sitting, half written, in my google drive for a couple weeks. At first because I had so many fears and feelings rolling around that I couldn’t even find a starting point for sorting them out. And now because all of those feelings of last week seem a world apart from my anxieties of yesterday and now today and whatever is to come tomorrow. Yes, I have been navigating an at times paralyzing fear at the world and business that await me when I finish my two straight decades of Being A Student. But now, I don’t even know when that end will happen. When are our final projects? Are any of our cabarets or shows going to happen? Will we make up this lost time? How long will we be kept from school, and will the quarantine intensify? Why is everyone buying so much toilet paper?? What what what what????

But, art plus doubt equals new art. Even in this first day of suspended classes, I’ve seen my classmates dig into their creativity for how to make the most out of theatrical training from afar. Amid a devastating time, the theatre community at large has been shouting their love to each other, with challenges and inspirations for feeding our artistic souls while we are kept in our homes: write a poem, dance, sing, make something. Turn all of this doubt into art. Students from the UMN/Guthrie BFA program have announced a Quarantine playwrighting bake-off, and I will ABSOLUTELY be participating with my zero experience in playwrighting (see the insta post with info @bigelnerkeley). I have many fancy baking plans, and a large bookshelf awaiting me when I return to my Brooklyn apartment on Monday. This world makes no sense to me, and probably to anyone right now. My heart especially goes out to all of the Broadway actors/crew/ushers that face the loss of their livelihood with the closure of business until April 12. This is a terrifying time to be in a business built from bringing many people together, and anything I could say here is said thousands of times better by Sara Ruhl in her NYTimes Op Ed: But still my heart is warmed by my fellow theatre artists seeking to make beauty out of the chaos, and hold on to our community when we all are away from our theatres, in our pjs stuck behind a zoom camera. My doubts from a week ago have transformed into countless new doubts, but I feel such deep gratitude to all the wonderful people who remind me that those doubts are not unchangeable. AND??? I watched my sister give birth today. There was no doubt in how amazing that was.

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