This is Day 45.
I was in the dressing room of Maybank Theater when I received word on the impending lockdown. I drove home and shrugged it off as a temporary and minor delay in the production calendar. We were set to open that weekend. If you’re an actor, you know that when you’ve managed to come out of tech alive (albeit with a bruised ego, tired eyes and a bum stomach), your show is set to open.
If things had gone according to schedule, of course without the nightmare of this pandemic, we’d all be flooding social media with #SEPANX posts by now. I cringe as I type this. All of that seems incredibly trivial and tone deaf in light of the plague that’s swept the globe.
For weeks, I pushed down these feelings to assuage my guilt—guilt of mourning a show that did not go on, guilt of worrying about indefinite unemployment, among other “worldly” things.
It seemed that my sentiments, verbalized or otherwise, had no place in whatever platform. Much like an opinion piece, it made no dent nor difference in the greater scheme of things. I felt compelled to shut up. I had no right to complain nor belabor my lost gig/s when people around me were losing their loved ones. As the world continued to churn out more depressing news, much of it political dumbassery, I felt myself shutting down. I didn’t have it in me to tune in to yet another address from the nation’s resident drunken tito.
Truth be told, I zone out the moment people mention the crippling effect this’ll all have on the entertainment industry. I already know the damage will be monumental—as in chandeliers crashing, the heroine shooting herself monumental. Unique to the theater is its sporadic nature and sheer reliance on social gatherings. That’s the beauty and curse of the stage—at least in the face of a pandemic. It would be impossible to predict when the theatergoing public will feel ready to head back into the theater and gather in an otherwise enclosed space. Think about the irony of practicing social distancing where the magic lies in people coming together to witness a live performance.
I’ve received a few articles, been tagged in a few posts—all of which I skimmed through. To me, reading them was tantamount to accepting defeat and allowing this monster of a disease to overpower whatever was left of my sanity. I couldn’t bring myself to acknowledge the full weight of the crisis, or the ambiguity of the future, so to speak. Yes, all industries, across the board and globe, will have to adapt and cut losses, but something feels particularly dim in the theater where the lights have gone out indefinitely.
Lungs meant much more to me than the next show or gig. It was my way of getting back on the horse, only this time, I fell off as swiftly as I had gotten back up. I spent an entire year focusing on my health and shuttling back and forth between the hospital and my home. The sabbatical was artistic starvation and I was raring to get back in the game after a year of virtually nothing.
In the show, my character would often spiral into this rabbit hole of her fears and anxieties. In one of those moments (and there were many), she asks: “Where do we go from here?” Ironically enough, that’s a question I’ve tried to dodge in the last forty days.
Amidst the global lockdown, where everything is at a standstill and people are paring down to the bare basics, it’s become harder for freelancers like myself to imagine life after this storm. These are truly unprecedented times, the kind none of us had the time or foresight to prepare for. In the world of nontraditional employment where we freelancers go from paycheck to paycheck, every bit counts.
I am extremely lucky to have the support of my family as some kind of safety net but I have always argued that I’m here to strike it out on my own. Yes, I am privileged enough not to worry about the roof over my head, what to eat, or how to pay for my medical bills (thank God for insurance), but I would be lying if I said that these extraordinary times have not made me second guess my life and career choices.
Am I neck-deep in my anxiety, fatigue and self-pity? Yes. Am I disillusioned by the way this year has unraveled? I mean, who isn’t? But am I hopeless in the face of this crisis? No.
The world has seen darker days and recovered. Life will go on. It has to. The way I see it, this is just another interval—a prolonged one but an interval nonetheless. As we eagerly await the time when we can all gather in the theater again, may we hold our loved ones close and remind each other that even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.
If it’s going to happen, the solution to it all, the survival of mankind, it will happen in our lifetime. It has to. And we’ll be alive to witness it.- M, Lungs
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