Stepping into the forgotten world of live events

I’m excited to see live performances again, but also anxious

The lack of live arts events has been difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic, but not everyone is in a rush to get back in the crowd. (Supplied photo)

My entire life has always revolved around the arts. As a singer, I love seeing concerts, orchestral performances and open-mic nights. As an actor, I love watching plays, musicals and improv. As a visual artist, I enjoy attending gallery openings, art shows and just generally being around talent and art.

COVID-19 took that all away from me. The last significant performance I saw was in Edmonton, in March 2019. My parents bought me tickets to the Broadway tour of Dear Evan Hansen, one of my top-five favourite musicals.

Since then, the only shows I have watched have been recorded performances online. My favourite musicians cancelled their tours. My local musician friends have been out of work. I feel horrible about not being able to support them by going to their shows or seeing them live.

Even though music, theatre and art are my life, I haven’t been running to every live event since things have started opening up. I am excited, but a part of me is also very anxious.

I sing in the NUOVOCE Chamber choir, a new ensemble that only had one live concert before the pandemic changed everyone’s plans. During the pandemic, we rehearsed over Zoom and recorded a few digital concerts. So far this season, we have had a couple in-person rehearsals.

Although it has been great to see friends and sing together again, I had several panic attacks during that first rehearsal. It was the first time I was in a room with so many people in over 16 months.

I currently work at The Gargoyle Theatre, a new theatrical venue that will premiere new works by local playwrights. I have always wanted to work at a theatre, but I question whether or not we will sell out seats, whether people will be comfortable sitting and watching a show now.

The Winnipeg arts community is very supportive. Although the theatre has yet to open, patrons have expressed a lot of interest in the space. Still, I wonder how many people will choose to not attend the premieres because they aren’t comfortable sitting in crowds.

Right now, it feels like there’s a fine line between comfort and chaos. In some spaces, I feel completely comfortable, and others make me feel like I can’t breathe. I desperately want to go back to a time where I could enjoy being crushed by a crowd while screaming the words to the song being played.

The community I grew up in is not the same. I want to raise a glass to an artist at a gallery opening. I want to hug friends after a show. I want to really immerse myself in the community that I call home. But home isn’t the same anymore. Soon, maybe it can be. But while we readjust to life post-pandemic, we need to be gentle with ourselves and accept that things won’t happen overnight.

Rebecca Driedger is a freelance writer, photographer and graphic designer. She currently works at The Gargoyle Theatre as the venue technician and media coordinator. When she isn’t working or freelancing, she is cuddling her three-legged cat, Link.

Published in Volume 76, Number 07 of The Uniter (October 28, 2021)

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