2020: The Blessings of Covid

This year sucked, and we all know why — Covid.

But it hasn’t all been a shit sandwich. Although I have certainly missed seeing my friends, going to restaurants, and performing in live theaters, Covid has brought me many blessings as well.

I learned to adapt and teach improv online, thanks to the generosity of my friends who teach improv who encouraged me that I could do it. And because I have been teaching online, I am getting students from all over the country and all over the world who want to work with me.

Covid has also meant that I have had less distractions, which has meant more peace and serenity and more time with my daughter, Betsy, and my wife, Lauren.

Thanks to Covid, we went on more outdoor adventures this year, too — canoeing, horseback riding, blueberry picking, apple picking, and even just walks around the neighborhood. Things I would have never done without a pandemic to give me a push, and I enjoyed them.

I had a lot more time to play with my daughter and get to watch her incorporate “coronavirus” into her play. When she played with her Disney Princess dolls, they had to get their temperature taken before they could enter Cindrella’s castle. One of her baby dolls got Covid and had to quarantine in a hamper for 20 days. She is still sitting in there as I write.

As a family, we would often play a game at dinner listing off things want to do after coronavirus, and then afterward we had a ritual of playing a boardgame or doing a puzzle together.

I have spent hours on the floor coloring in coloring books. It’s been like art therapy. I can’t explain the calming effect and sense of accomplishment I feel when I am finished coloring.

Yes, sometimes the togetherness gets to be a bit much, but overall, Covid has made my life is simpler and slower, and because of it, I feel more connected. I actually feel joy at times and deep sense of gratitude.

Of course, I don’t feel this way all of the time. Throughout the pandemic, I have sometimes also felt a low-level of depression and a real fear for the future, but as I write this, things are fundamentally good in my life.

I feel guilty telling you all this, because I know that many people are really suffering — with job loss, sickness and even death — and I am picking out the blessings that I’ve experienced.

That being said, I hope next year doesn’t suck as much as this year, and that you have many more blessings in 2021.

Happy holidays, happy New Year and stay safe.

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Urgent! Now Is the Time to Create

Recently, the performing arts have been hit hard. Live theater has gone dark, until further notice. We are feeling all sorts of emotions about it. Mostly we are all still grieving.

Some day we will be in front of live audiences again, I am sure of it, but in the meantime we must fight these feelings of isolation or die. It is that serious.

If an artist stops expressing themselves, it’s like they have lost the will to live.

The stakes have never been higher. You must find a way, any way, of expressing yourself. You must create for your well-being.

This is non-negotiable.

For actors and improvisers, it seems like the only option is doing stuff on Zoom. I’ve become an expert on it, and I’m well aware of its limitations for live performances.

I am not going to try to convince you that it’s a substitute for a 100-seat black box theater. It is not, but right now it’s all we have.

I was skeptical about teaching improv on Zoom, but it’s worked out pretty well. I am constantly learning, forever grateful that I often still get a “performance high” from teaching, like I do from a teaching a live class or performing in a show.

If acting or improvising on Zoom does not work for you, that’s fine. Then pick something else to express yourself. Write a song, do watercolors, take pictures with your phone. It doesn’t matter what you pick, as long as you are enjoying it.

I know I feel better when I write this blog, color with my daughter, or call my improv friends and do bits on the phone.

Art does not happen in vacuum and neither does life. We need people in both areas of our lives – our regular lives and our artistic lives. At this point, you may be discouraged and may not feel very productive in your art, but that doesn’t matter. If you try new things, you may look back at this pandemic as your Renaissance Period.

And just think, if you have tried lots of new creative endeavors, when you return to doing a live play or an improv show, how many more things you will be able to draw from? Right now, more than ever, doing something creative is not about the results, and that can be incredibly freeing. Think of this as an opportunity to create something just for yourself. For your sanity. For your mental health.

You may not know this, but artists are healers, and every time we create art, we have a chance to heal someone else. And sometimes, that person is us.


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