Nostradamus’ housekeeper, the White Rose of York, grabs the Plague Doctor’s stick and hits him with it. Photo credit: Steampunked Stories

I have founded a DC non-profit arts organization called Steampunked Stories. We did live shows on local stages until the virus struck. We also tell our stories on Facebook:  We feature a different steampunk-styled story each month, with 365 pictures a year. This month’s online story is “Nostradamus vs. the Plague Doctor.” I have made several trips to the south of France to study the life of the famous 16th century prophet and herbalist. In my story I discuss Nostradamus’ specific herbal concoction to “cure” the plague and how that compares with treatment used by local plague doctors. The steampunk community enjoys stories that feature the plague doctors with their strange bird-like masks, their leather beaks filled with herbs. 

Tom Howell Executive Director Steampunk Stories, Inc., EE.UU./USA

We were doing a historic rep: America’s first Shakespeare’s Histories rep. 8 plays across two seasons – the first four with Richard II, Henry IV pt 1&2, and Henry V as our final show for the first season. We had been rehearsing since beginning of August 2019 and started opening one show at a time in January, rehearsing and teching the other shows throughout the run.

We had just gotten through tech week for Henry V when the virus had made it into the states. With everyday it was getting closer and more deadly. Everyone was getting scared.
We prayed we could just get to opening night.
We cancelled the other rep shows we had on schedule for that weekend, out moral responsibility, but we wanted to open that last show. Admittedly, I waited all day for my SM to text me that the show was canceled.
But they didn’t.
And we opened Henry V. Then, we closed it that night. Sent all the patrons away and had a private party amongst ourselves but it didn’t last long and it didn’t feel right.
What was supposed to be a celebration turned into a funeral of art. To be honest, I was so mad with everything and everyone that I contributed to that experience and left a bit early, which I sorely regret now…
Seven months. Seven months of the hardest work I had done in my career. Seven months of blood. Of sweat. Of tears. Of time. Of panic attacks. Of breakups. Of get togethers. Of pulling togethers. Of frustration. Of bitching. Of laughing. Of drinking. Of adoring. Of loving. Seven months. Gone, and without a fight cause their was nothing to fight.
Fortunately, for us our season was fully funded so we’ll be getting paid to May – what was left of our contracts. We hope to come back this August to do the other half of the rep and then next summer do a marathon of all 8 shows. I hold out hope but tbh I’m not sure if that will happen…
We do virtual line throughs as a way to keep our sanity… finish out the duration of the run, virtually and just for us. But it’s merely balm on the wound.
I miss the frustration. I miss the characters we had spent months with. I miss the world we built. I miss the work. I miss the love. I miss my cast mates – this close knit band of fools that I had grown accustomed to seeing everyday.

I miss everything.

I feel for everyone in our line of work who have lost jobs or had their shows canceled but this one takes the cake in pain, in my opinion. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be over what was robbed from us, and more selfishly, what was robbed from me.

Nicole, EE.UU./USA

Imagen tomada del video filmado y dirigido por Meredith Bragg / Image from video shot and directed by Meredith Bragg

It all happened so quickly. It was looming, but I think the majority of us thought, “no, it won’t actually come to THAT”. But it did. It happened. And with a snap, the arts sector came to a screeching halt. 

Yet ironically the one thing that hasn’t actually changed is the over-arching question we’ve always asked: Will people care? As as artist and arts manager I have had moments of doubt. Moments where I’ve stepped back from my work and asked myself why anyone would care about what I’m doing. I’ve asked it a lot, almost with every project I’ve been a part of, and I think it’s essential, as an artist, to keep that in the back of your mind. It keeps you digging for purpose, keeps your art relevant, and keeps you from taking yourself too seriously. Only now this question seems a lot heavier. 

I have new music coming out. 

Will it be heard? 

Will people care? 

Is that photography exhibit we’ve been planning for the past year going to happen? 

Will we have to launch the exhibit online? 

How will that look? How would that work? 

Will people care? 

Oh, and those shows our band was going to play…

The play my theater company was going to produce…

When this is all over, will we have an audience? Will people care?

The answer is yes. People will care. And this is the fist time I have been able to convince myself of that with more clarity than ever. People will care because art will continue to hold the same value and weight that it always has, but will fill a much deeper void. People will need to come together, en masse, to experience dance, theater, and music. They will be so grateful for this basic human need to exist together, breath in a public space together, physically, and as a community. They will flock to the museums and the galleries, stand in front of a photograph or painting, and soak up the art with their eyes in a way they never have before. These happenings, these experiences, this ART we’ve all been making (and possibly taking for granted) will become ESSENTIAL. Just as it is now, stuck indoors, relying on art as entertainment to keep our heads above water, art will be NECESSARY to lift us up when this chaos is all over. So yeah, people will care. 

At least that’s what I tell myself every night before bed. 

Erin Nelson, EE.UU./United States
Viva a Erin y su banda Beauty Pill aquí / Catch Erin and her band Beauty Pill here