Behind the Scenes: An Update in Unprecedented Times

Hank Stolz and Talk of the Commonwealth have the latest update on how The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory is looking to a hopeful future in the time of COVID-19. Read on for highlights from his interviews with our president and CEO, Troy Siebels, and Meghan Montaner, director of education. Then tune in to WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.

Troy: We’re going through the same thing in real time at the same time everybody else is, and we’re all experiencing it together, which makes it so unique. We’re grateful for those folks who have stepped up. A lot of shows have been cancelled, and a bunch of people have allowed us to turn those tickets into contributions rather than a refund, which helps us keep our staff working and planning for the future.

Hank: There is no firm date where everything will be better, it is a very fluid situation.

Troy: For sure. We’ve cancelled and rescheduled performances as far out as the state has gone. We are aware that it may go beyond that, and we are making plans and provisions to cancel shows past that, but we have to take it one day at a time.

Hank: The things that people get excited for to get through all of this have been taken away. Do you have any theatre tips for things to help us get through it?

Troy: We’re in a business that is about bringing people together. We are also a community of people that has found a way of doing this all online. If you do a Google search, there’s a Broadway actress who felt bad for the high school performances that were cancelled, so she asked them to post a piece of what they would have been performing. There’s a hand washing challenge where you wash your hands for 20 seconds while you sing a song. There is so much online and you can feel the humanity of the community.

We all need to have a little empathy. Everyone is going through some hard times. Go out and buy a gift certificate to a place that you frequent that’ll help them get over the hump. The Hanover Theatre is a non-profit, so anything helps. We all want to come back to the world that we left.

Hank: Could you give us a movie, book, or music that gets you through the pandemic?

Troy: I’m a reader, so I tend to go to the books. In times like this, it’s good to read just a good old thriller. In terms of movies, I have kids in the house, so I have been grateful for Disney releasing “Frozen 2.”

Hank: The Hanover Theatre Conservatory would be a perfect outlet for people to go to their classes and look forward to, but everything is shut down. How are the younger students particularly reacting to this?

Meghan: A lot of our students are feeling pretty isolated right now, but they are taking advantage of the resources they can find online and be in touch with one another. We’re excited to start online classes so we can get them back to a virtual classroom online.

Hank: Tell us a little about how the virtual classroom will work.

Meghan: It’ll be like a large meeting online, where the teachers and students can all see one another. The program that we’re using, Zoom, has some really great features where they have a waiting room before class, so they can get that dynamic of hallway chatting before class that they normally get. That has been something that we have been very mindful of. They are not only missing the physical aspect of being there, but also the social interaction. These classes are not only for their creativity, but to help them with their social and emotional health.

A strength that we have is that we know our students. We work with them weekly, and some daily. Our faculty are familiar with the kids, with their strengths and weaknesses, and how to guide them. I hope this is just temporary, and we can continue these classes and foster this love for the performing arts.

Hank: Over the last couple of years, have you seen a rise of level in the Youth Summer Program?

Meghan: We certainly hope that is something that we are doing. We see it a lot in students that we have in classes throughout the year, and then we watch them perform and use those skills in the summer program. The way that they take the skills and study that they’ve gained throughout the year and use those to execute a performance. And for our technical students, they’re really bringing those skills that they’ve learned back to their high school program, to up the level of those programs.