Within the past month, tons of posters, websites and emails have all plastered the same big bold letters: CANCELED.
From concerts to classes, the effects of COVID-19 are inescapable. While these cancellations are entirely necessary and help prevent the spread of the virus, they are nothing less than heartbreaking, as Rowland Smith, one of the former actors in the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s spring show “Gwyneth,” puts it. With countless days and months behind the curtains of “Gwyneth,” this kind of last-minute cancellation has left the actors in a whirlwind.
“Gwyneth” was a uniquely personal show for everyone involved, including the audience. The content of the show surrounded the topic of an “influencer world” immersed in social media, self-care and popularity. Taking our own technological culture to the extreme, “Gwyneth” would have revealed the dangers — and perhaps the underlying purpose — of a world obsessed with social media.
The actors were involved in the foundational elements of the play, each one having created their own character. Smith’s character, for example, was a social media influencer named Taylor who specialized in “crystals, astrology and other alternative spiritual practices.”
From the creation of their characters, the actors worked with the director to develop a script. Then, they had to design costumes for their characters, and, of course, begin the process of memorizing lines and perfecting each scene in nightly three-hour-long rehearsals. Unfortunately, after already being months into this process, COVID-19 had other plans for this show.
“We, as an ensemble, wrote an entire show from scratch,” Smith said. “ Likewise, all of the designers had fully realized their concepts by the time it was canceled. Our technical process was already complete.”
Looking into the future, it seems that “Gwyneth,” and a host of other shows, will not ever have the opportunity to see the spotlight. With most of the cast being graduating seniors and with theatre spaces already having been rented out for future shows, the possibility of pushing this performance to a future semester appears unlikely.
The other theatre department show planned for the spring semester, “Trouble in Mind,” will receive no attention whatsoever. Additionally, three student concerts from the UMBC dance department—including one specifically for seniors—will simply never happen. Live performances by UMBC’s music ensembles are no longer viable.
“We were so close to opening the show for an audience, which is why its cancellation stung so much,” Smith said. “It feels as if our entire semester’s work [was] all for naught.”