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Notes on Pandemic Life from Virginia Rep’s Nathaniel Shaw

by Nathaniel Shaw

Like so many of you, I have been working from home for the past couple months. Time feels foreign without the usual rhythms and events to indicate its passing. On my older son’s sixth birthday, March 31, much of the neighborhood came to our cul-de-sac standing at a distance to sing Happy Birthday to him. When I was reminded of that event this morning, I would have sworn it was six months ago, not a mere five weeks.

Even in more normal times, I often have a running scorecard in my head, noting for myself when I meet or exceed my own expectations, or the more frequent outcome of feeling I have fallen a bit short of goal, trying to capture the necessary learning as I go. Adapting to new ways of working and a completely different schedule at home, the learning moments come fast and furious now.

A couple things I’ve learned, or things that have been reaffirmed, while staying at home:

  1. I’m not terribly comfortable in the online space. Whether it is my bad lighting and bad angles when filming videos to introduce Virginia Rep’s creative content or consistently dialing in to our conference line while everyone is waiting for me on Zoom, there is room for growth.
  2. Public school done at home requires keeping straight eighteen different websites, passwords, and QR codes.
  3. I miss the daily in-person interactions with staff. Music Supervisor Anthony Smith dropped off a computer stand today (to help me with problem number one), and we ended up sitting eight feet apart on lawn chairs in my driveway talking for two hours as my younger son slept in the stroller next to me.
  4. I can drink more coffee in a day than I ever thought possible (and that admission might frighten those who work closely with me given how much coffee I consumed before this).
  5. This is widely known, but this time has reaffirmed that I married up.
  6. My spouse – mentioned in number five – is a bit kookier than I realized, dressing up in hula-inspired costumes or painting her face like a cat to teach her online ballet classes.
  7. The farmers on my dad’s side of the family that raised him in Idaho in the 1940s would be pleased with, but far from impressed by, my efforts to improve our garden.
  8. Lastly, I knew theatre artists were highly adaptable creatures, but none of us could have seen this absolutely inspiring reaction coming. Rather than sitting at home waiting for theatres to reopen, Virginia Rep artists have sprung to life. In a few short weeks, we have transitioned to a completely online educational model; we are producing at-home performances of beloved musical theatre duets; we have launched an at-home monologue initiative bringing patrons, playwrights, and actors into collaboration cataloguing Richmond’s experience with COVID-19; and we have additional projects in the works to provide online entertainment. We have improved and beautified all of our rehearsal spaces, and directors and designers have also heard the call to accelerate designs for Virginia Rep’s 2020-21 season – compressing processes that we normally stretch across months into a few short weeks.

While this time has added a new list of things I can improve upon in my personal and professional life, it has also proven to me that the theatre artists I am surrounded by every day at Virginia Rep can overcome just about anything.

I am incredibly excited for our season announcement, which will roll out within the next few weeks. I am also looking forward to getting back in the studio with actors, even if we have to stay six feet apart. 


Learn more about actor, dancer, choreographer, and artistic director of Virginia Repertory Theatre Nathaniel Shaw here.  

Richmond’s Fresh Face of the Arts

Read more about how Virginia Rep is staying connected to the community here. 

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