WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Local Commentary: Reclaiming 2020

Oct 21, 2020

A few weeks ago, I stood onstage in Macomb High School's Fellheimer Auditorium for the first time since the storm of cancellations last spring. Walking centerstage, I realized exactly how much I missed theater and my community. I even missed the audition nerves that sit in my throat and shake my hands. I worried that something would feel hollow having to project through a mask and maintain social distance with the other actors, but it didn't. Instead, it felt like normal, and we all know normal is excellent in a pandemic.

The puzzle of how to have pandemic theater buzzed in the back of my mind throughout the summer until it dawned on me that we can’t pretend we’re living in normal times. The audience can’t be tricked into false normalcy and neither can we. In theater, we come as we are, and right now that means wearing masks. We’re still living valuable lives and have stories to tell.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis it felt like time stopped. We dropped our projects, vacations, and opportunities to protect the people around us. But time didn’t stop, and we watched seasons change. It was no longer useful to set a date when normal was predicted to return. We had to adapt and become better than our circumstances.

Seven months later, we are truly writing history by undertaking the endeavor of living and creating. Despite the saying, the show doesn’t always go on, but we will continue to look forward until we have to pivot again. This production won’t be like any other, and we are all holding our breath until we see the lights come up on opening night.

We’re different from when we left rehearsal that Friday before spring break, but it’s still home. It’s where we’ve waltzed and laughed and cried. It’s still worthy of our time and care. The resilience that students have had to show is reflected in many parts of our lives whether it be adjusting to singing outside in a tent for choir, walking through quiet halls with half of our class, or disinfecting our desks every hour. We have all become more adaptive than we thought possible, and we’ve managed to make our own fun.

With the consistent low grade stress that 2020 has ushered in, it’s easy to forget how impressive it is that we are all simply showing up for our lives. In many ways, living through a global pandemic has made it easier to be authentic and engaged. I’ve watched my classmates seize opportunities because of what is available to us. We’re all more present at school and in our activities because we now know how lucky we are to have it and how fast it can all go away.

In this disconnected and fraught time, it would be so easy to call it a wash on the year and just start planning for 2021. After losing so much, it’s hard to look forward. But if we don’t participate in and appreciate our communities, we’re going to lose a part of our lives, a part of our story. We can’t just write the year off. There is still hope. There is love and vulnerability and perseverance. Of course, for me and my people there is theater.

All of this is to say, we hope you’ll tune into Macomb High School’s production of It’s a Wonderful Life this November. While we’re still figuring out the logistics, we know that Macomb will be behind us, as always. I want to thank our directors and school administrators who said yes and in order to make this happen.

Annie Powell is a senior at Macomb High School.

The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Western Illinois University or Tri States Public Radio.

Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.