Baylor Theatre Arts finds hope in the midst of COVID-19 show cancellations

In Dec. 2019, Baylor Theatre Arts’ presented its production of “Rhinoceros,” directed by Chad Kennedy, in the Jones Theatre of the Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center. Lariat File Photo.

By Andie Chilson | Reporter

Baylor Theatre Arts department members were left disappointed by the cancellation of their second main-stage production of the semester, “Enjoy,” due to the spread of COVID-19 and the cancellation of all campus activities at Baylor.

“Enjoy” is a Japanese play by Toshiki Okada that was slated to be a part of Baylor’s Spotlight: Japan 2020 week. The week was going to offer a chance for students and faculty to enjoy cultural, artistic and educational events that celebrated the history and culture of the country.

Dr. David Jortner, department of Theatre Arts graduate program director, summarized “Enjoy” as a contemporary Japanese play that focuses on a group of 30-year-olds who are forced to look at the decisions that led them to the dead-end jobs they are in.

“I thought this would be a good time to do a Japanese play here at Baylor,” Jortner said.

While rehearsals had only been in the works for about a month, Jortner as well as two student dramaturgs received a grant to go to Tokyo last year and have been preparing for the play’s debut at Baylor for about a year.

Portland, Ore., junior Charly Wood, a dramaturge and scene designer for the play, said she knew that the show was going to be canceled over spring break.

“As an art student, it’s hard because all of your projects require you to be in class – in person,” Wood said. “Having the whole department have that realization at the exact same time was a really weird energy.”

Many members of Baylor Theatre Arts do not know what will happen next for their department.

“This would have been my first main-stage show. I’m hopeful to work on a main-stage show next year, but I think things will be difficult,” Wood said.

Because many of the cast and crew members are graduating seniors, it is not possible for the remaining shows of the spring semester to be pushed to the fall.

However, Wood is hopeful that the department will see to it that students have similar opportunities to be a part of productions next semester.

Burleson junior Delaney Wenger, a member of the cast, said she was saddened that audiences did not get to experience the messages and story of Okada’s play.

“As actors you become so invested in the story and the people you’re portraying, so it’s heartbreaking that other people won’t get to hear those stories,” Wenger said.

Wenger also said members of the Theatre Arts department have taken some serious hits in the wake of COVID-19 and urged people to continue to support Baylor Theatre and the arts, in general, in any way they can.

“Support of any artist or any art is support of Baylor Theatre, because as artists we are such a tight-knit community, so support of any type of art will feel like support for us,” Wenger said.

Wenger noted several different ways to support the theater arts, specifically by reading plays, attending livestream events hosted by theaters and getting memberships to access play libraries from theaters.