Walking back from dinner break, I was “quick-blessed” by a stressed-out Tibetan Monk as I walked down 45th Street back to the theatre. He knew what was coming. I think of him often.
Ah, 2020. The year started off with a bang for me, as I was making my Broadway debut in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? understudying the role of Honey. Like so many others, this blip of success was a result of many years of blood, sweat, and tears trying to “make it” in this business. I was arriving at a payoff moment, where my belief in myself and all that work had finally led to a great step forward in my career. And then, upon arriving at the Booth Theatre for a preview performance on March 12th, I was told to gather my things and head back home for a “temporary pause”. The pandemic had arrived in NYC.
I grew up in an old farmhouse in Upstate New York, with my Mom and older sister. When they became exasperated trying to fix something around the house, they would eventually call on their last hope, a 7 year old girl with tiny fingers. “Andrea!” I knew immediately what the chain of events would be. I’d tinker with whatever it was for a bit, trying a little of this, a little of that. They’d look on, with hope. Then, voilà! It was fixed. Problem solved. Their eyes would grow big - astonished and happy. And I would feel that warmth in my bones, the pride, the approval, the accomplishment. I thought I was - with my small hands and big determination - very possibly…magical.
I could be whatever I wanted! An engineer! A diplomat! An actor! I want to be all of those things! Well...actors can be anything. No matter what I end up doing or being someday...I want to be undeniable. I am undeniable.
How have I survived the live theatre shutdown of 2020? How have most of us? I’m willing to bet - nine times out of ten - that we have the same answer. By being willing to pivot.
At some point within the last 10 months, with no acting work in sight, I made the conscious decision to teach myself a new technical skill set. Armed with my laptop and a cursory knowledge of web development, I set out on a new path. Four months later, I put all my new skills to work and started a new company. Now I’ve got a whole new set of options. It can be my main gig or my side hustle. And - bonus! It is work that I am actually super passionate about. I love solving problems with my technical and creative skills, and best of all, I don’t need to ask permission - or rely on the cooperation of mysterious forces, to create.
No longer waiting for someone to “please pick me!” in an industry that seems more and more beholden to who you know and how many followers you have, is quite freeing. I am now finally creating and producing my own work, and others’ work, and it is exhilarating. It is fulfilling. I am producing, directing, remote filming, editing, writing, and acting in virtual theatre productions, which are essentially a hybrid of theatre and film. I’m getting hired to do this for the many arts organizations who need it right now. I am helping artists get their work out there, and I am helping struggling arts organizations raise funds. Sure, this may be a “pandemic specialty career” that will only exist as long as we are in this mess, but I have a feeling that there will be some overlap, a life beyond the pandemic for this new art form, and for the new skills I am personally developing. Now, that magical feeling of solving a problem, or even, creating something seemingly out of nothing during these dire times, has brought me, and I hope some others, a lot of meaningful fulfillment.
The Monk's spontaneous blessing is frozen in my memory. What might have been perceived as just another "New York moment" holds great meaning to me now. It symbolizes hope, protection, and a love of humanity. I hold onto it as a ray of light in dark times. It is undeniable.
Andrea Lynn Green is an actor, writer, director, website designer, and a creator of virtual theatre.