by Anna Gross

Online workshops kept Broadway performers and fans connected during a difficult year.

For over a year the bright lights of Broadway and Times Square have been dark. Tens of thousands of actors and actresses lost their jobs, causing them to turn to other forms of work, such as online workshops and voice-over gigs. Many also shared their creativity by writing their own songs and choreographing original dances to post on social media platforms. Finally, after months of Zoom classes and singing in the shower, Broadway performers will return to the stage on September 14, 2021.

Even before the pandemic, many Broadway performers needed a source of second income to make a living. Often, that second source of income came from the restaurant industry. So what happened when both of those industries shut down suddenly and indefinitely?  What innovative strategies did they turn to in order to stay connected and share their craft? Many turned to teaching. Jeanna de Waal plays the title role in the new musical Diana, which opened on Broadway for a week before the world shut down in late March 2020. As founder of the first adult only theater camp taught by Broadway performers, Jeanna de Waal used the connections she already had to start Broadway Weekends at Home (BWAH). She hired performers from Diana and other Broadway shows to share their talent and love for theater with people like me, quarantined at home.

During the beginning of the pandemic, I scoured the internet trying to find any online workshops taught by Broadway performers stuck in their apartments, as bored as the rest of us. Soon after I began searching, I came across BWAH, which began as a Facebook group and evolved into a community. Every day during the summer, I had at least two Zoom classes to attend in my bedroom. These classes were filled with people of all different ages and from every part of the world. Through our differences, we all had one thing in common: our love for musical theater. 

COVID-19 also caused all the movies that came out in 2020 to go straight to streaming devices, but maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing? I enjoyed being able to watch Hamilton and The Prom as many times as I liked. The pandemic may also have caused a rush to turn so many Broadway musicals into movies. Diana is set for release on Netflix this fall, along with a film adapted version of Dear Evan Hansen starring the original Broadway lead, Ben Platt. Plans for movie adaptations of Wicked, Mean Girls, and A Chorus Line are also in the making, although the release dates are unknown. 

BWAH classes along with the prospect of cinematic versions of my favorite musicals kept me feeling hopeful and a little bit more connected to Broadway during the height of the pandemic. Every time I logged on to Zoom for another meeting, I missed being on stage and performing with other people, but these classes also reminded me that we will be back soon and better than ever!

About Anna Gross

Anna Gross is a Sophomore in the Pre-IB program at Richwoods High School. She is involved in Student Council, Student Leadership Team, speech, tennis, and Spanish Club. Outside of school she loves to travel, bake, and perform as a singer, dancer, and actress!

About Faith Marie

Faith Marie is a homeschooled senior in high school who dreams of being an artist entrepreneur one day. She fell in love with creating at a young age and now experiments with all kinds of mediums. You can find her on Instagram at @faithmariedraws.

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