UNF keeps the performing arts alive through COVID-19


Kayla Chouinard

UNF student Madeline Aquino, a co-founder and president of the school’s Swoop Troupe theater club, has always fed off the energy she gets from the audience while she’s on stage. She’s hoping she can feel the same energy through a computer screen, which is how people might attend the upcoming musical “The Addams Family.”

All of academia has been struggling to adapt to the new COVID-19 reality, but the performing arts study programs have faced a special challenge. Most of these programs depend heavily on in-person interactions. UNF has been no exception. The Swoop Troupe is planning its 2021 musical performance, while the School of Music has decided on a virtual performance involving every student in the department. 

Swoop Troupe was founded under the name “Musical Theater Club” in 2016 and was one of the first clubs of its kind at UNF. Now the club has grown, with more students participating in the club and the auditions for the musical. However, with the added excitement for the club, it also added confusion to how its 2021 musical will be performed.

“We have plans for everything, and with that comes a lot more work and a fair share of uncertainty,” said Aquino. 

According to the show’s choreographer and music director, some rehearsals will be conducted virtually, and others in person, with actors socially distanced and wearing masks at all times. 

The performance itself is going to remain flexible, with the possibility of show dates changing, venues shifting or the show possibly having to perform virtually. However, according to director Kathleen Powell, safety of their performers, and everyone involved, is their top priority.  

Even with the shift in routine for the musical and the possibility for change with any aspect of the show, the enthusiasm and excitement to be performing is still there. 

“Like everything else, COVID has changed a lot of our plans and ideas, but we’re not letting that stop us. Watch out for Swoop Troupe,” Powell said.

Faculty at UNF who teach performing arts courses have witnessed firsthand the impact of COVID-19 on the structure of their classes and student performances. 

Dr. John Daugherty is a first-year faculty member at UNF this fall. He’s a program director and the main course he teaches and directs is Opera Ensemble. The course involves rehearsing and preparing for an opera performance at the end of the semester. 

COVID-19 has changed the structure of the course, but UNF will still give students the opportunity to perform for their school.

“The truth is most schools around the country have given up on putting together a show completely. UNF is not going to do that,” Daugherty said.

The Opera Ensemble will be performing a virtual performance later this term involving all of the students in the School of Music. Likewise, rehearsals will be socially distanced and following CDC safety guidelines. 

“A lot of theaters are on the verge of going under or have already,” Daugherty said about the impact of COVID-19 on the performing arts industry. 

The performing arts as a whole is struggling to survive through COVID-19. Broadway is remaining closed until 2021 and some shows aren’t returning next season, like Broadway’s “FROZEN” the musical. 

“As of July 13, 2020, the coronavirus has had a devastating $9.1 billion economic impact on America’s arts sector with a 67% unemployment rate among artists and gig workers,” according to the Americans for the Arts organization. 

Daugherty believes during difficult times in history, the arts were always there, and COVID-19 is one of those difficult times during which the arts are needed more than ever. 

Even with the performing arts facing challenges, UNF is allowing the arts to continue in a safe environment. According to faculty and students, in the end, the safety of everyone involved is what’s important.

 “COVID should not be a limitation as much as it is an opportunity,” Daugherty said. 


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