Facing Intermission: Stopping the Show & Resetting the Stage
My name is Sarah Connolly. I’m the editor of the Facing Intermission Project. I moved to New York City to pursue a career in theatre and like millions of arts workers, from actors to lighting designers to ushers, in March of 2020, I lost my job. People have given their entire professional lives to an industry that the coronavirus brought to a screeching halt.
This project highlights the stories of those who are impacted by the shutdown of the Theatre industry. I hope you’ll volunteer with the project to share your story or help someone share theirs or contribute to the publication of our book.
About The Facing Intermission Project
In this period of isolation, it is more important than ever for us to connect with one another and feel a sense of belonging and togetherness. That’s where this project comes in. Facing Intermission: Stopping the Show & Resetting the Stage will serve as a space for professionals working in all corners of the industry to share their thoughts, fears, hopes, and dreams about what post-pandemic theatre will look like and how they have coped and are coping with this moment of extended pause and increased time for reflection
This unprecedented disruption has left millions out of work. The live, in-person nature of theatre makes it difficult to envision a world in which the industry looks exactly like it did in February and early March of 2020. From Zoom readings to socially-distanced outdoor performances, many artists pivoted to projects that enable them to work, though less frequently and actively, while simultaneously adhering to public health guidelines. Others continue to feel a sense of loss and despair that the field in which they once dreamed of succeeding will never look the same and might not have space for them. Others worry about the financial viability of going over a year without working in hopes that the industry might regain some sense of normalcy. Still, some see this pause as an opportunity to take the time and space to rethink and reshape the entire field, finding ways to make it more accessible to people around the world and easier for young artists, particularly young artists of color, to succeed without taking a serious financial hit. As reopening theatres around the world begins to feel more and more like a tangible possibility, artists must ask themselves, how do we want to rebuild?
Volunteer to share your story or help someone share theirs by acting as a listening partner. Partners will transcribe stories into first-person text, and these stories will be shared on The Facing Project site, archived at Ball State University, considered for the Facing Intermission book and Zoom performance, and could even be selected for The Facing Project radio program on NPR. The goal of sharing these stories is not only to cultivate a sense of belonging among isolated artists, but to increase awareness about the struggles that many artists are facing and instill hope that, despite this moment of unprecedented uncertainty, the theatre community can come out of this time stronger than ever before and build a more inclusive and equitable industry on the other side.
The Facing Intermission book which will be available in paperback (if we are able to raise enough funding) and as an ebook, and could even be selected for The Facing Project radio program on NPR.
So, I want to hear your stories! Here’s how to get started.
Step 1: Find a partner and sign up
No one tells their story alone. If you’d like to share your story, find a friend or family member willing to listen to your story. If you’re not in the same household, connect via phone or virtually. They’ll take notes or record your conversation, and then reflect what you said in an 800-1,200 word first person narrative.
Or if you have a friend, family member, or colleague who has a story you think should be shared, ask them if you can write their story.
If you cannot find a partner but still want to share you story, do not fret! We will pair you with someone who can listen to and write your story.
All stories are told using The Facing Project model (see full tips and guidelines and a video of a storytelling training below):
- Stories are written in first person (first draft written by listener).
- These are true stories. Don’t make anything up!
- Be careful naming 3rd party organizations or people by name.
- Stories should focus on lived experiences and not simply opinions.
- Best stories take readers into defining moments.
- The storyteller (person sharing story) is in ultimate control over their story and how/if it will be published.
Step 2: Submit your story
Our editors will instruct you on how to submit your first draft. After you do so, our editors will get back to your team with comments and suggested edits.
Step 3: Make edits and release your story
Approve or reject our team’s edits, or make additional changes. Once you are happy with the story each of you must fill out a release for the role (storyteller release / writer release) you played on your team.
There is strength in our stories
Since the shutdown, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on what it means to be an artist in this moment and how artists can move forward and use this extended pause to build a more inclusive and accessible industry. I’ve definitely experienced the full range of emotions, from wanting to give up and pursue a career in a different field to feeling excited and inspired by the possibility of virtual theatre expanding the reach and impact that the medium can have. I’ve found it incredibly comforting to share these feelings with other artists and feel a sense of community in knowing that I’m not the only one experiencing these ups and downs during this uncertain time. In this period of isolation, it is more important than ever for us to connect with one another and feel a sense of belonging and togetherness. That’s where this project comes in.
We are all in this together and each of us has a story to share, and each of us can find hope and understanding through the stories of others.
Guidelines & Storytelling Tips
(This training was for a different project, but it can still help you with this project.)
Have a chat Skype, Zoom, phone, or some other appropriately-distanced method unless you live in the same household already. Allow ample time for a chat. Try to find a key moment or a few key moments of the storyteller’s life to dive into. Focus on details that take us into these moments.
All stories are written in the first person (“I knew everything was going to change the day…”) from the storyteller’s perspective. Think of this as a monologue. Stories are typically between 800 to 1,200 words in length.
Voice! Voice! Voice! Record the conversation. Writers take good notes. We recommend transcribing the audio from the parts of the conversation you want to focus on. There are transcription services that do this automatically when you upload audio. We recommend Temi.com, which does this in under 5 minutes. The first upload is free at Temi, and 10-cents/minute after that.
Tell true stories. Don’t make anything up. Don’t embellish.
Be careful naming 3rd parties. We prefer not to get sued, so if a story mentions a third party (person, institution, or business) in an unflattering manner, please use discretion whether to name them directly. Our editors will be watching out for this as well. We’re all for raging against the machine, but at times we have to tread carefully so the machine doesn’t chew us up and spit us out.
Stories should focus on lived experiences and what was learned and felt. Stories shouldn’t be rants or manifestos or analysis of current events or a time to grind an axe.
You don’t have to give every single detail – the best stories just drop the listeners right into the story without having to give the listeners every single detail.
Great questions lead to great stories, but the most important thing is to be genuinely interested in the person you are talking with. An ideal scenario is that you ask: “What made you want to share your story with this project?” and then the conversation flows from there. That said, it’s not a bad idea to have a few questions prepared. Story Corps has a great list of questions.
You are collaborators, but the storyteller has ultimate control over the story. The writer should take a shot at the first draft, but after that the storyteller says what stays, goes, or is added. It’s their story!
Once you’ve both reviewed the story submit your story.
We’re here to help. Our team of editors at The Facing Project have polished thousands of stories. We can help get your story to the place where it makes the most impact, spreads understanding and inspires action.
All money raised earned beyond the initial costs will be donated to The Actor’s Fund, a national human services organization that provides services such as emergency financial assistance, affordable housing, health care and insurance counseling, senior care, secondary career development to artists working in all parts of the industry. Learn more about their Covid-19 Emergency Relief Fund here. The goal of sharing these stories is not only to cultivate a sense of belonging among isolated artists, but to increase awareness about the struggles that many artists are facing and instill hope that, despite this moment of unprecedented uncertainty, the theatre community can come out of this time stronger than ever before and build a more inclusive and equitable industry on the other side.
If you have any other questions or concerns, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.