Ten days ago, I attended a live performance of “1984” at the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center without a second thought about the other humans sitting around me. I was transported by Aquila Theatre’s rendition of George Orwell’s classic, gasping and clapping in tandem with my fellow audience members.
During intermission, I chatted with Erin Butler, the WYO’s executive director, complimenting the actors’ prowess and raising eyebrows about the dystopian world.
Less than a week later, Erin and I were on the phone, plotting how to stay sane — and help our community stay inspired — with the world we once knew crumbling around us.
“Here’s what I know,” Erin said. “And it’s what I’ve dedicated my life to: art. Art brings people together, even in the darkest of times. In World War II, soldiers would come together to sing. It’s natural. As humans, we need to experience art together.”
I have often wondered at this phenomenon. Why is it more emotional to watch a play with an audience than a film on my couch, regardless of acting or directing prowess? The intangible rule also applies to personal and professional behavior. I will drive for hours for the chance to have dinner with a good friend; many companies send employees across the world to discuss projects face to face. Sharing a space is valuable for us as humans.
Today, of course, we are advised to avoid groups of 10 people or more — and really, if we are considering others in our community, we should skip socializing altogether.
Luckily, all we need to connect is the swipe of a finger. Not only do we have the CDC’s latest recommendations about how to slow the spread of a pandemic at our fingertips, but we have networks created to foster social relationships at our disposal.
Across Sheridan County, different organizations and individuals have utilized technology to create a virtual community online, from WYO Virtual Vaudeville performances to Kula Space’s yoga classes. Facebook friends have been sharing songs recorded live from their living rooms; Luminous Brewhouse even hosted a virtual concert with Sarah Sample last night. Many of Sunday’s church services will be live streaming only.
Meetings are held via Zoom or Skype; office employees are working remotely and communicating via instant-messaging platforms. April 1, Sheridan County School District 2 will educate all students online.
Even my internal Luddite has to love technology for this. Our current state of social interaction — or lack thereof — may be discouraging, but, as is the case with so many struggles, there is more that unites us than divides us. Read more about virtual life in Ashleigh Snoozy’s article on today’s SCENE page.
And if you have good news to share in the time of coronavirus, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.