It is common knowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of everyone socially, as well as harshly damaging the economy. Businesses have had to adapt drastically in recent months with working from home becoming the norm. However, an industry that has felt left behind, due to the difficulties with it existing with the virus, is the performing arts industry- particularly musical theatre.
The pandemic has had a huge negative impact across all arts sectors. This is due to the issue of social distancing requirements in venues for audience members, as well as actors in rehearsals unable to social distance. In response, theatre companies such as the National Theatre have provided free online streaming of performances that were recorded before the pandemic.
According to Statista, the sale of theatre tickets in the UK fell by 93% due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This devastating statistic has decimated the performing arts industry, leaving many unemployed. The Government has issued that it will take £257 million to save the 1,385 theatres, arts venues, museums and cultural organisations in England alone. This was revealed by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden who has been heavily criticised throughout the pandemic for his lack of cultural interventions.
This has created enormous uncertainty among fellow actors as many are freelancers or on a temporary contract. However, another group that many of us fail to consider are the thousands of Drama and Musical Theatre students across the country who will be the next generation of budding actors.
I interviewed Musical Theatre student, Rosy Smith, on her experience of studying during the pandemic, as well as her thoughts on the performing arts industry.
Rosy is an 18-year-old student studying a BA (Hons) in Musical Theatre at Guildford School of Acting (GSA), University of Surrey. She started in September after gaining a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Musical Theatre at Emil Dale Academy in Hertfordshire.
I firstly asked Rosy how she has found her first month of university. Rosy replied saying: “I have personally really enjoyed it, despite not having a proper Freshers. The University of Surrey have done their best and there was plenty of fun events to go to.”
She went on to say that “GSA has been amazing; we still have face-to-face lessons in all of the disciplines. The class sizes have been smaller than usual, as some lessons are split into two having one half in the studio and the other half on zoom. This allows us to get loads of attention.”
With so much uncertainty with regards to the performing arts industry, I wanted to get an insight into how Rosy is feeling about the future when she graduates. Rosy said that she is concerned about the industry but is “fortunate enough to not be graduating soon unlike some of [her] friends who graduated this year into no industry.” Rosy expressed that she is hopeful that the industry will pick up again.
When asked about who should be responsible for protecting the careers of actors, Rosy said: “I think the government should support the industry and the people in it more, especially at this time. But of course, they seem to think we should retrain which I think is ludicrous as I spent so long to get where I am.”
Rosy finished the interview by talking about the Government’s duty to the theatre world. She said: “The Government needs to help get theatres up and running and support the people that are in them. Theatres are a massive part of tourism in the UK and generate so much income for the country that I do think they should try and open them again if not just for the financial gain but to support the people in the industry who haven’t had an income for months.”
Rosy’s ultimate career goal is to either be on the West End or part of a national/international tour. Rosy would particularly love to tour internationally as she wants to explore the world and earn a living simultaneously.
To follow Rosy Smith’s acting journey, she can be found on Twitter: @RosyISmith.
Words by James Mayer.
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