Jefferson Parish Performing Arts Society

Jefferson Parish Performing Arts Society

Resolve to Get Your Humanity “In Shape”: Go to the Theater!


Resolve to Get Your Humanity “In Shape”: Go to the Theater!

It’s a simple fact that the most gym memberships are sold in January.  But as you resolve to get more exercise for your body this year, why not add more exercise for your mind and soul?

Perhaps you are watching more films and reading more books while working from home and quarantining. Maybe you even took up daily journaling and other activities that keep your mind and interior life active.

Still—nothing matches the experience of a live performance. Nothing measures up to the way you connect with someone on stage and share laughter and silence with strangers.

Jefferson Performing Arts Society has carefully returned live performances to the theater as of October 2020.  We started slowly and modestly, with comedians (The Comedy Zone) and then with a solo show (The American Soldier), both at our smaller venue, Westwego Performing Arts Theatre.  Neither of these required rehearsals and as much contact as a full cast stage production would.  Audiences were somewhat sparse some evenings, and other nights, we were at or near capacity based on our limited, physically distant seating.  Comics wrote to us to say how grateful they were to be able to perform after months of solitude, and the writer/actor of The American Soldier said that it gave everyone an hour “to be come together and feel human again—if only for an hour”.

Isn’t that what theater is all about? Sharing our common humanity by telling stories?

Then came The Nutcracker Ballet. This was a much-anticipated show by both the community and the families involved.  Nothing other than a visit with Santa is more traditional than this story of Clara and the magic of dancing and dreaming. But Nutcracker productions around the country were cancelled months in advance due to Covid-19, and an air of disappointment, even dread, hung over every community’s holiday planning. However, with strict mask mandates, smaller rehearsals, and various other measures taken, the show went on!  Jefferson Performing Arts Center was sold-out for the original four productions and a fifth was added—which also sold out.  No food and drinks were sold, and seats were spaced out; none of the usual mingling behind or offstage was allowed, and performers masked for each show.

The response was overwhelming. For most theatergoers, this was the first live performance they had seen since February 2020.  For ballet dancers, this was the ONLY show they performed in 2020.  For families, this was, in several parents’ words “the only thing” their child had to look forward to for the entire last quarter of the year.

To us, this speaks volumes about the importance of live performance. There is simply nothing else like it. Few other experiences make you feel everything that you feel while experiencing other humans together for a small time, celebrating the largeness of life.

What does this mean as you lay out our 2021 plans? While many will understandably choose to continue to quarantine until they are vaccinated, others who have ventured out to shows realize that with caution, distance, and plenty of handwashing and hand sanitizing—that they can again enjoy live performances and unique shared experiences.

We start our 2021 season again cautiously, with a solo show, so that no rehearsals were required at the end of 2020. But then, having shown that we can produce a show safely with a large cast, we will present One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.  Again, all those in rehearsals—from lighting crew to stage managers to actors—are masked and physically distant. Theatergoers will remain in physically distanced seating and no concessions will be served. All attendees must be masked to enter the building, and must remain masked for the duration of the performance.

But—you can still laugh with your mask on, and you will still be able to hear the laughter of others near you. Perhaps not as near, but…close enough to “feel human again.”