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  • Jessica Austgen

Creating During Chaos


If you're on any sort of social media, you've likely seen some version of the "Shakespeare wrote King Lear during the Black Death, and if you don't write something amazing during Rona, then you're a worthless piece of artist trash" post. And while that did cheer me up for a moment in late March—the reminder that great art came out of a time of mass quarantine, death and fear, not the name calling bit—but, as we limp into fall and I still have not written my King Lear—hell, I haven't even written my Merry Wives of Windsor—I'm starting to feel more and more despondent.

People have created during this pandemic. John Krasinki's Some Good News was a delightful distraction for a hot second, Sarah Cooper is keeping us all painfully entertained at the expense of 45, and barely a day goes by when I don't get a Facebook invitation to a reading or performance on ZOOM. So I guess some folks are able to get work done, but I'm not.

I don't know how to create in all this chaos.

No one is producing theater, no one is commissioning theater, no one can go to the theater.

I don't know how to write for fun.

Let me be painfully honest here: I am usually unable to create something without a deadline. Every single play that I've written has been a commission or a submission for a workshop/development opp. I've never written anything that had nowhere to go. I've ghostwritten a YA trilogy and dozens of novellas for clients on Upwork, and always squeaked those in right under the deadline, but my name will never be on those.

So how do we do this? How do we support the creation of new performing art when there is, to paraphrase Harper Lee, no theater to see and no money to see it with?

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