Plague and Plague Again, Theater Has Prevailed

Julia is a junior at Syracuse University, and she is hopeful about the future of theater

Julia Catalano is a 20-year-old junior at Syracuse University and is currently cooped up in her house that she rented for the Spring 2020 semester. She is a theater studies major and has a passionate voice about the sake of theater and how it brings people together. Through many pandemics and plagues alike, it has always survived. The form of its survival is different over the years but unites theatergoers under one roof: the ability to overcome hardship through collaboration and shared struggle. Julia understands this as she is closely associated with Syracuse Stage, the production organization that Syracuse University operates out of. Next semester she is directing Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” and is seeing close productions being canceled due to coronavirus. She looks at how Coronavirus has temporarily halted life Upstate, but questions how things will be going forward, including Fall 2020, and what it would mean for her.

This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

Hi Julia! How are you doing right now?

OK, I guess. And then better than usual, you know what I mean? It’s just so effed up right now.

How is Syracuse compared to nyc? I could see how much more distressed the city is, so how is upstate? Do you see people taking the precautions they need to remain safe?

Our numbers are climbing now. I know yesterday the cases were 350 in Onondaga County, where I live. So it’s been going up. For a while I was wondering if it got, not unaffected obviously, but maybe it’s kind of contained to a certain degree. I felt a little safe here, but I don’t know anymore. On precautions, I was hanging out with my friends last week. I think what people are doing right now is keeping their circles small. A couple weeks I saw someone in the house behind me dartying (day partying). I saw my friends over spring break but I saw people who I knew stayed here over spring break and didn’t really go anywhere. We’re so close together so we’re basically quarantined. 

You’re fortunate enough to still have a job amid this crisis. What do you do?

So I work in the student center and am kind of in charge of all the buildings on campus and the events that happen. So anyone who had to stay on campus, because we have international students who couldn’t go home, had to stay at our South Campus. If you left campus over Spring Break, then you couldn’t come back to school property until online classes began. So I stayed because I don’t want to be out of a job this semester. Apparently people have moved back in after moving around. It’s uncomfortable now because it’s not just students who come in. Janitors and bus drivers come in sometimes and I get paranoid sometimes.

How is your relationship with the theater department being affected by this? 

I’m directing Summer’ Night’s Dream so I was casting for next semester. But once I found out we weren’t coming back, we were starting to plan for each inevitability. I talked to my thesis advisor for the play. She said that as of right now, there is a 20% chance I won’t have face to face classes next semester. It’s bad right now. She said next year is going to be painful for theater. Because everything right now is up in the air. It’s all on hold. Next year we are looking at how we recoup all of this money.

Syracuse Stage has logistical issues to work through?

The department has to see who we have to let go of. What shows we have to let go of, what shows do we even put in the season. How are people even going to see theater again? They lost so much money. My advisor said we are doing so much better than Syracuse’s colleagues right now because it is so much better to be associated with a university right now.

Syracuse Stage funds the theater program? If it were an independent theater would they most likely close? 

Yes. The general manager of Syracuse Stage is my teacher and he told us before this hit us really hard that there are going to be contingency plans and how we would handle next season. Every other theater that isn’t connected to a university like this, that would be the end of that theater forever. Regional theaters, theaters in New York.

How do you see the future of theater in general? 

At least the near future of theater, because I think theater will always survive. Shakespeare went through plagues and it would always come back. I think there will be a huge emergence of poor theater. 

It’s terrifying. It’s so sad!

 You dedicated your education, your money, to study for a job that can’t happen unless people can assemble.

There’s such a huge possibility that we would be disappointed in anything going forward. Do you agree? 

Yea, what I learned from this more than anything is that you just have to have no expectations and just live in the present. Whatever I’m doing right now, I’m focusing on that. Because even thinking about my show next semester, it’s not even worth my thinking. I just need to not have the expectation. Just value the pre production work. There’s no reason to think ahead because no one knows.  

Interviewee: Julia Catalano

Phone Number: 1 (646) 413 4170


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