This Spotlight shines on Sydney Holliday, a college student who I first met as a Mira Costa High School student when she performed in the Kentwood Players productions of The Imaginary Invalid, The Crucible, and 12 Angry Women. Here is her perspective on how the shutdown has affected her Arts education as a freshman at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA.
Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?
Sydney Holliday (Sydney): Hi everyone! I'm a current freshman studying Theatre and Media & Communications at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. This past year, I was in two one-acts (one being The Long Christmas Dinner) and joined a sketch comedy and improv group, Damsels In Excess, at Muhlenberg. I'm originally from Manhattan Beach and have been acting since I was five years old. I started with school plays, then moved into community theatre in high school. I was in three productions with the Kentwood Players, including The Imaginary Invalid, The Crucible, and 12 Angry Women. I also began acting with the Phantom Projects Group and was in their production of The Outsiders. At Mira Costa High School, I was in The Drowsy Chaperone and won 2nd place at the Fullerton College High School Theatre Festival.
(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out you needed to immediately postpone or cancel the show?
(Sydney): Muhlenberg had a lot of productions in the works, like a Fringe Festival and a Greek tragedy just to name a few. I was beginning to direct a one-act play, The Seussification of Romeo & Juliet, that would have been performed in April.
(SB): How was the shutdown communicated with the cast and production team?
(Sydney): As the Media Coordinator of the Muhlenberg Theatre Association, I was in charge of creating promotional videos for three of our student-directed productions and was at their rehearsal to get some videos and photos. In the middle of our tech rehearsal, we got an email from the President of the school saying that we would have to leave campus for at least a month and move to online classes. It was as if time stood still; then suddenly, loud conversation erupted inside and outside the theater. Within two hours, the Theatre & Dance Department arranged immediate performances for two of the productions. Pertaining to my one-act, I let my cast know my outlook on the situation and potential ways for us to perform a staged reading of the show.
(SB): Have plans been put in place to present that production at a future date? What happens if you can’t return to college to finish the semester?
(Sydney): With the big announcement coming out on a Tuesday, the department had the two productions perform on Thursday with one show right after the other. I was tasked with filming the entirety of the student-directed shows, which performed one after the other. Then, The Bacchae had their one-time performance right after. The show was meant to open on March 27th, but they were able to put it together three weeks early. We also had a senior organize a showcase of other shorter performances like shows in the Fringe Festival and acapella performances. Damsels In Excess was able to perform two improv games and a sketch, which was our first and last performance of the semester.
Sadly, I won't be able to put The Seussification of Romeo & Juliet onstage. With the inevitable busier schedule during my sophomore year and more intense theatre classes, I will not have the time to dedicate myself to the production next semester. It's devastating having to even say that, but I know I wouldn't be able to immerse myself in the process of developing a show due to being weighed down by other extracurriculars.
(SB): What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?
(Sydney): I was excited to come back to Los Angeles and audition for shows all over the county and was preparing monologues and audition songs for at least two auditions. But they have been postponed. I am hoping to audition for shows with groups I've acted with before, and possibly find some student films that are holding auditions. If I don't get to act in any shows, I will be looking for any assistant stage management or sound design jobs, given they are still open and shows are actually happening.
(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?
(Sydney): Since I have to watch one film per week for my Film Analysis class, I'm trying to watch movies that have been on my watch list for a while now. I'm also a part of two theatre classes and I get to meet with them online at least four times per week.
On campus, I was part of a club called Magical Memories and we would visit elementary schools and care centers as characters. Now the club is trying to make health videos for schools to send to their students, so I have been dressing up as Captain Marvel and Ariel for those. I've also started to learn more about photography and hope to do some fun photo shoots very soon. Finally, I host a radio show at Muhlenberg during the school year and am always looking for and listening to interesting movie soundtracks.
I think "the Arts" can expand even further than what we usually think of as the stereotypical artistic activities. For example, I want to learn more about interior design and cake decorating while I am social distancing!
(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?
(Sydney): I'm excited to throw myself back into theatre once we are able to do so! It's sad to come back to Los Angeles and see no shows being performed. I know I speak for everyone when I say that I am itching to be a part of a show and hope that time comes very soon. And I cannot wait to see what some were working on prior to the shutdown.
And to anyone that needs someone to listen to a rant or to, I am always here for you! So, look for me on Social Media sites. And please know that you are not alone during this wacky time. To any high school seniors, I understand how hard it is to choose where to go when you can't visit the college. Let me know if you have any questions, not only about Muhlenberg, but about anything pertaining to that process since I went through it myself not that long ago. I have a unique perspective since not only am I an actress, I am also a tour guide and now know way too much about the admissions process.
Good health and good spirits to everyone and see you all soon!!
Kentwood Players photo credit: Shari Barrett
This article first appeared on Broadway World.