Breaking the Silence

I haven’t posted anything here since December 2019. It was soon after that the world changed, with the arrival of a pandemic that decidedly darkened the landscape, and especially darkened theaters, concert halls and all performing arts spaces. As the lockdown dragged on and the death tolls and cases climbed, I wondered how long indeed it would take for any sense of “normalcy” to return– if ever. As with many of you, I struggled with fear, depression, anger, anxiety, and efforts to maintain hope.

Grandson Hugo

In spite of it all, I rejoiced at the 2020 birth of a new grandson, and got to see him (masked of course), as often as possible. I even directed a play for Left Edge Theatre on Zoom– The Thanksgiving Play by Larissa FastHorse. Technical challenges, a dangerous wildfire, and Zoom’s limitations all conspired to delay the opening– but we forged on (thank goodness for Argo Thompson’s stellar leadership and innovative thinking, and for a terrific, talented cast and crew), opened in November, and regaled patrons with a very entertaining show that barely resembled Zoom.

We weathered sadly reduced holidays, spent rare time with bubble friends, endured long walks and fell into puzzle mania to stay sane. I watched many streamed shows, and determined early on that I would not review them because it just didn’t seem fair– but I applauded the groups that made the effort to continue providing sorely needed entertainment, including Left Edge, Zoom Theatre, 6th Street Playhouse, Cinnabar Theatre, and more. In early 2021 I rejoiced over vaccines, that gave some relief from fear, but then lamented the politicization of those life-saving injections and the resulting inability to achieve “herd immunity.”

Now that many performing groups are cautiously “reopening,” with Covid protocols in place, it seems fitting to revive my chronicles of goings-on in the theatrical landscape. However, I’m in a new location. Yes, in the midst of pandemic, we moved– from North Bay to the Central Coast of California, for ocean vistas, balmy weather, lower fire risk, and miles of riparian landscape at our doorstep. We’re loving it.

I’m slowly getting to know local performing arts organizations and venues as they gingerly dip their toes back into producing. I was hoping to see the holiday show at the much-lauded Great American Vaudeville theatre (Oceano), but it closed early due to Covid positives. I managed to nab a ticket to the sold-out production of It’s a Wonderful Life: the Radio Play at San Luis Obispo Repertory, where everyone had to present proof of vaccination and wear masks. It was indeed wonderful, a delightful presentation of the holiday favorite, and a real gift for audiences craving a little seasonal cheer.

So here I sit, praying for the decline of the Omicron surge and looking forward to the possibilities of 2022 for us all. Stay safe, stay sane, wear your mask whenever indoors in public, and keep the faith. I leave you with words that have always consoled when faced with affliction: “And this, too, shall pass away.”

Namaste, Jeanie K. Smith

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