“Masquerade:” The pandemic perspective of a Theatre Major

WHNT Interns

JACKSONVILLE, Ala. – COVID-19 is a thief; it is on a massive streak for stealing the lives, safety, normality, and peace of mind from so many people. As vaccine accessibility grows, many anxiety levels shrink. However, moving forward, the impact of this pandemic will always remain high, especially among college students.

The Altered Process

“Adjustment Making” should have been offered as a major in the 2020-2021 school year, as thousands of students across the United States and worldwide found themselves in a uniquely difficult situation. The altered learning process, mental health struggles, and physical health concerns weighed specifically heavy on students making what was once the daily process an unpredictable and inescapable one.

Mason Ward, a senior at Jacksonville State University shares his experience readjusting to a COVID-Cautious lifestyle with his major, employment, and personal life.

Empty World, Empty Faces

“All the world’s a stage” (except for actual performance halls), for those pursuing a career in the dramatic arts. “With the pandemic going on, being a theatre major is complicated because you can’t cram people into an audience to watch a show,” Ward says. As a theatre production major hoping to make his debut in the world of makeup, there are obstacles. “I can’t put makeup on people’s faces because I can’t get close.”

Jacksonville State University’s Drama Department, however, found ways to adapt to its new role: a virtual show livestreamed to its audience with cast members in separate rooms.

After the Final Bow

Entering the workforce remains a common concern for upcoming graduates, but especially for those that rely on teamwork and a packed house. Nearing the closing of his time at JSU, Ward admits to being fearful for the future, as live theatre finds itself at a halt. “Who knows when I would be able to get a job because theatre would have to resume first. It’s frightening.” 

Harsh Lighting

Working closely with people also remains an issue in Wards’s minor: photography, an experience he describes as interesting. “I took a studio lighting class last semester and you cannot take photos of people effectively with masks on.” His photo professor at the time, however, found two rather unusual adjustments off of Amazon: mannequins.

With school owned equipment, students found themselves handling camera gear with sterile gloves on and adjusting light to texture-less plastic skin. “At the end of the day it worked because it’s what we had to do” Ward says.

Resident Life

Ward is also a resident assistant on campus, a big job to take on in the midst of COVID-19 forcefully affecting everything. Being surrounded by people constantly who are also around different people on campus can be very daunting. Even with implemented measures such as mask policies and limited visitation to help stop the spread, living in a communal setting has had an effect on Ward’s anxiety levels. “I’m around people all the time. I’m at the desk, I’m checking student I.D. cards. Even with masks it’s still worrisome.”

Take Cover

Outside of student life and his employment, Wards’s personal life and the people within it have also been negatively affected. “My partner had to be put on anxiety medication which was something he’s never had to use as an aid before because of how badly the panic of Covid-19 affected his mental health.”

Ward highly encourages students to visit available campus counseling services. “People are actively seeking counseling and a lot of those reasons come from the effects of the pandemic. Talking to a professional that can provide guidance and stress relief helps a lot,” Ward adds.

Even at this time of anxious uncertainty, so many shows must go on and we hope to see COVID-19’s theatre career covered in a few rotten tomatoes soon.