The shows must go on

Wednesday, April 27, 2011. Everyone in Tuscaloosa knows that date. Almost two months later our town is still reeling from the blow dealt us by that EF-4 tornado.

The tornado ruined many things. It ruined plans, families, jobs, houses, neighborhoods, towns, roads, futures and lives. In one brief, painful moment, things changed in a massive way for many people.

The day of the tornado, I was supposed to be the assistant stage manager for the opening night of the Alpha Psi Omega show “Blackout.” When the tornado hit, we didn’t realize exactly how bad things were for some time. There was a very brief moment where we thought we’d do the show that night anyway, but campus power had gone out, so there went that idea.

Then we found out how bad it really was. Our show was not happening, not Wednesday, not Thursday, nor the next couple days. It took until Thursday or Friday for power to even return to campus. When those of us involved in the show found out exactly how bad everything was around town, we stopped and said, “Alright. We’ve put about two months of work into this… but should we try and do it? Is that crass and self-serving?”

On Sunday, May 1, we put on the show. We decided, “Screw this tornado. We’re going to do this show, and we’re going to turn it into something productive.” We were already raising money for cancer and AIDS foundations, but we also took monetary and physical donations for Tuscaloosa relief. We had to do what we could.

The day after the storm, I was supposed to be stage-managing a read-through of the script for The Rude Mechanicals’ production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” That ended up being put off, of course. When the date for opening night started looming closer, Dr. Steve Burch, the artistic director of The Rude Mechanicals, asked the company about the idea of donating half of the money earned this year through our “passing the hat” gains to Tuscaloosa relief. We voted a unanimous yes.

The Saturday after the tornado, I was supposed to be performing in my final Subject to Change concert. I had only been with the UA men’s a capella group for two years, but the concert was still important to me. It almost hurt to think of it being cancelled.

Last Saturday, we held our concert and raised money for Tuscaloosa relief once more.

All throughout the summer, artistic movements have been held to raise money for Tuscaloosa relief. Concerts, musicals and other stage productions have been trying to do what they can to help by gathering up as much money and supplies as possible.

But I don’t think that’s the important part.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Tuscaloosa needs as much money as it can get right now, and more. And there are so many supplies needed all across the board. In fact, the entire state of Alabama could do well with large helpings of both, and an extra dollop of national reminder that we’re still hurting would be nice, too.

Some might say our insistence that we continue with these shows was just selfish. Sure, there may have been a little of that in there. We’d worked hard on these things, and some stupid natural disaster wasn’t going to spoil that.

Some might say our insistence to perform was an attempt to raise money. That was definitely there. Raising money for relief was very important to each event I was a part of.

But I think the reason that we need to insist continually that the arts continue on is because our community needs them now more than ever before.

As a theatre major, you might think me biased, as performance is going to be my bread and butter between bussing tables. But I earned no money from doing any of these events. I saw no definable personal gain beyond another notch on my résumé. These performances, and all of the arts, offer something somewhat unique: a sense of true community and an escape.

I’m not going to say the arts are the only things offering those qualities. But theatre, music, film, dance, studio art and all the other artistic forms can touch people in a lasting way. They are often transient events with lasting effects. And in this time of despair and pain, they can offer an escape and a lifting of spirits. They can remind people of harsh realities, but they can take that reminder away and let the audience be lost in a simple moment.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011. Two months later, the arts are still here, telling the world that disaster cannot stop what we set out to do and lending an invaluable aid to the community. The arts will always be here. The shows must go on, and they will go on. Support the arts, and you will find that the arts are there to support you, too.

 

Sean Randall is a senior majoring in theatre and philosophy.

 

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