How to Survive a Pandemic: Celebrating Resilience and Community Through Digital Theatre

Presenter: Shira Weiss

Research Category: Humanities and Arts
College: College of Arts Media & Design
Major(s): Theatre
Student Type: Undergraduate
Graduation Date: 2022
Additional Authors: Kaitlyn Fiery
Award Winner Category: Lux, Veritas, Virtus

On March 11, 2020, in-person classes at Northeastern University were cancelled. Three days later, students were evacuated from their dorms. Boston went into lockdown. The global pandemic has since altered our realities. In search of a day beyond Blursday, we set out to listen, learn, and connect with our peers in response to this surreal moment. We conducted interviews and group storytelling workshops with undergraduates and graduates at Northeastern to examine 2020’s impacts on our lives; those transcripts became this digital interactive play. While the stories shared detailed experiences of struggle, the most powerful throughline was the incredible resiliency of each person. We asked: what kept you going? Commonalities arose such as playing games, listening to music, hobbies, and remaining connected to loved ones. Each individual’s coping mechanisms became the crux of the play. As writers, our goal was to act as facilitators and sculpture artists, shaping and giving structure to words that were generously shared with us. We created a space organized by students, for students, to connect with students. We realized that digital theatre was missing the same level of community that comes with sharing a physical space and sought to recapture that intimacy in the digital realm. Ultimately, the chat served as a commons for actors and audience members to process this live experience together and an essential aspect of the show. Through the aesthetic of gaming, HOW TO SURVIVE A PANDEMIC celebrates human resilience, asking who and what keeps us afloat in times of crisis.