I have a nephew who just started medical school at Harvard. He busted his ass and a few other body parts to get in, and I’m very proud of him. Unfortunately, all his classes will be online until the end of the year. How can medical school be effective under those circumstances? I have no idea, but they’re finding a way—and drama schools are doing the same. Most of the ones I contacted are going 100% virtual. A few have in-person classes. And some are scheduling a patched-together, Frankensteinian mix of both.
Those of you who just started the fall semester are facing unique difficulties, because acting classes are not the same as history or science courses. They’re much more social. You have to interact with other humans, make eye contact, and sometimes you have to actually touch. How do you pull that off if your classes are online? And if they’re in person, how do you buy into the reality of a scene when your partner’s cough might send you to the hospital?
Here’s my advice: Own it. This is your battlefield, and you need to lock and load. There’s a good chance the world will take a turn for the better after the holidays, so it would be a shame if you wasted the fall semester complaining about your lot in life. Yes, it’s a crappy situation. We can all agree on that. Now, what are you going to do about it? Necessity is the mother of invention, so start planning now for the future. See what your fellow students are doing. Join or create a support group. Organize online toga parties. Get to know your teachers. Arrange virtual screenings. Become a Jedi master of Zoom. The bottom line is you’ll have to be 10 times more flexible and proactive about how you approach your studies.
As for the effect this will have on me as an agent, my main concern is about the annual showcases in the spring of 2021. For those of you who don’t know, almost every drama school in the country sends their soon-to-be grads to Los Angeles and New York to perform for agents, managers, and casting directors. It creates a hectic pace for us because there are several shows every week, but I love it. The amount of talent on display is staggering.
How will the annual showcases work next year? Will the state of the pandemic allow students to travel and perform in other cities? Will a quarantine be necessary? I have no idea. I stopped thinking that far ahead when the world started shutting down. But I do know one thing: I don’t care if it’s in person or on Zoom; I’ll be there, and so will my Hollywood friends. You know why? It’s because this business is all about discovering and developing new talent, and none of us are about to allow a damn virus to stop us!
So here’s hoping the spring semester is wrapped in a warm blanket of normalcy. And I’ll leave you with this quote from Robert Frost: “In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: It goes on.”
P.S. I just received an update from my nephew, and Harvard says he has to show up in person to dissect a human corpse. But it’s all good, because the corpse will be wearing a mask! Cue the laugh track.
This story originally appeared in the Oct. 8 issue of Backstage Magazine. Subscribe here.
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