Creating a Coronaissance

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Seriously. I’m writing in the bathroom…

First off, I didn’t coin the term “Coronaissance.” I wish I was that clever. I read it on Facebook (of course I did…). Our lovable colleague John Bucchino gave credit to opera composer Mark Adamo for birthing the term. And it’s brilliant.

As I write from my bathroom floor (my fiancé Elbert has a zoom meeting in our studio’s main room right now), it got me thinking: what can we each do to make sure this is a fertile creative time? I’d like to share some quick thoughts before my butt goes completely numb on this tile floor.

Most of us have been “sheltering in place” or “pausing” (depending on where you are in the country or world) for about a week now. For the first couple days, I was completely at sea, barely able to focus on the long list of tasks in front of me. Everything took longer because I couldn’t wrap my brain around what was happening. Now that most of us have this under our belt (for better or worse), there are some things we can do to make sure this is a productive creative time.

Meditate

These times are not normal. More than ever, we need to ground ourselves so we can tap into our creativity. If our limbic brain is in control, our creativity will not flow. Mindfulness meditation is a way of being present non-judgmentally. I’m very fortunate that Elbert happens to lead two meditation classes a day virtually from our home. If you need some guidance, check out the apps Calm, Headspace, or others on your smartphone. I also regularly use these YouTube guided meditations: 10-minute morning meditation, 20-minute mindfulness, the RAIN of self-compassion, releasing anger, and guided sleep meditation.

Create a Schedule

I’m up at 7 AM. I take Elbert’s meditation class from 8:00 – 8:15 AM. We have breakfast. I start in on creative work (today, that happens to be writing this blog). Around 3:30 PM, we go running if the weather is nice. If not, a long walk. The more I’m able to create a loose structure to my day, the easier it is for me to find the flexibility within that framework. It’s a balancing act. I can’t say, “Create something impressive from 9:15 – 11 AM!” But if I have a structure in place, I find I’m more able to court the muse.

Get Inspired

True, you can’t go to the theatre or the opera, but you can check out Broadway HD, which is offering free access to certain productions, as is the Metropolitan Opera (which is currently streaming the entire Wagner Ring Cycle! I mean…). And you may not be able to go to the Met Museum, but what about checking out their many online features? Or MoMA’s online collection? Or maybe read this article, which has links to virtual tours of the Guggenheim, British Museum, and National Gallery in Washington D.C., just to name a few? Then, of course, there’s YouTube: performances, interviews, and talks galore at your fingertips! I just found this fascinating interview with Elaine Stritch and George C. Wolf about “Elaine Stritch: At Liberty.” And Netflix. Need I say more? There are lots of ways to fill the inspiration cofferdam so you’re raring to go.

Get to Work

If we can get past how devastating the news is, and how confining isolation can feel, we will embrace this rich gift of time and create something meaningful. Many of us have been given a rare opportunity to drop the scales of “busyness” from our eyes so we can have a vision of what is possible during this seemingly fallow time. We have the chance to use our deep well of feeling to produce something that will move and heal others. We have to make good use of this time. We have to get to work.

For the last year, my collaborator Tom Gualtieri and I have been working on a video project entitled “Draw the Circle Wide.” For too long, the “Everyman”  (a moniker with clear problems of its own) in theatre has been very narrow (think: white cisgender male). Through this project, we interview a diverse array of inspiring artists and intercut their insights with footage of us writing a song for them – a song that puts them at the center of a story. Our first season includes Tony Award winner Ali Stroker (Oklahoma!, Spring Awakening), Jonathan Burke (Inheritance, Choir Boy), Cindy Cheung (Iowa, “13 Reasons Why), and Ryann Redmond (Frozen, Bring it On).

Last week, we were supposed to record the world premiere of the four songs we wrote for this series at Yellow Sound Lab with our amazing artists and a phenomenal band. While that is indefinitely delayed, Tom and I have decided to release the episodes without the songs, which will be produced as an EP when time allows. We’ve had the time to meet each day and fine-tune the video editing on each episode. We plan to launch the first episode in about a week. Stay tuned!

“I think it is important to keep in mind that transitional phases are a part of life and that we have to do our best to remain positive throughout them. As artists, we can use times like these to rethink our purpose for creating and think about how these new experiences and environments can add to our artwork.”  – Erika Lancaster

What have you been meaning to do that you now have time to tackle? This hard time can create rich soil in which we will plant new creative ideas. Lean into the discomfort of these long days and discover what practices and attitudes work best for you to create the art this world so desperately needs.


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