Stages are empty, venues are closed, and we all missed out on eating French snacks at a reading and book signing that was originally scheduled for Thursday.
Three local artists-without-a-stage — a dancer, a writer and a musician — responded to questions about what life is like right now, about two weeks into isolation to slow the spread of COVID-19. They were also asked to submit a selfie.
Sarah White, in her fourth season with the Minnesota Ballet, was cast to dance the role of Titania in the production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” — until she was sidelined with an ankle injury. We caught her while she was on a drive with her husband.
Q: What are you bummed people won’t get to see?
SW: I’m really bummed that they’re not going to see a really great work of art. This would have been (new artistic director) Karl von Rabenau’s new piece that he’s setting — it was choreographed by Bruce Wells. Sadly, they won’t get to see the full ballet put together by Karl.
The good news is, it’s been rescheduled for Feb. 12. It will happen next year.
Q: Is there a specific moment that jumps out at you?
SW: I don’t know if there is a specific moment. The whole rehearsal process was a lot of fun. A lot of the dancers were excited to perform. (We rehearse) from January to March for the spring show — that’s a lot of buildup before a show.
Q: What point were you at when rehearsals were canceled?
SW: I believe it was last Thursday. We were still having classes for five people at a time. I ended a couple weeks earlier due to an injury. I was there until March 11.
Q: You timed your injury well.
SW: It all worked out for me. I’m very relieved I’ll get to perform it (in February).
Q: What is your isolation situation like?
SW: I live with my husband and his parents. We all live together. Right now, I’m doing a lot of homework. I’m in school full time this summer. I’m spending a lot of time with my dog. A lot of it has been really nice. It’s given us all a chance to slow down. We play board games and cook dinner together. I think it’s been really good. Our lives as dancers — dance is what our lives revolve around. Eat breakfast, work all day, come home, eat dinner, stretch and ice. We get so caught up in our dance lives that we don’t spend time in normal lives.
Q. How are you satisfying the need to make art?
SW: A lot of dancers are on Instagram and YouTube. The whole dance community has come together that we might all succeed. That’s a lot of time off for dancers to be not dancing. It’s cool that in a crisis, there is so much art flourishing.
Q. How about you? Are you posting dance videos?
SW: I’m hoping to next week — Lord willing in the next week.
Q: Are you learning any life lessons?
SW: We need to take time and realize that we have family and friends. It’s so important (to be in contact with them) to keep us grounded. Also, during these hard times, we’re a nonprofit. If people want to donate, they can find a link on the ballet’s website, minnesotaballet.org.
Margi Preus, who writes historical fiction adventure tales/mysteries/picture books and more, has recently published two new books — “The Village of Scoundrels,” which is based on a true story about French teenagers who saved thousands of Jews during WWII, and “The Littlest Voyager,” about a squirrel that joins a canoe trip from Montreal to Grand Portage. Her schedule has been cleared of book events, including one that was set for Thursday at Zenith Bookstore, and school visits. Still, she said when reached on her way to Spirit Mountain to ski, she’s busier than ever.
Q: Why so busy?
MP: I’m trying to do all kinds of things on social media, and I suck at social media. I look at these people who are so adept at twiddling with their thumbs and posting at the same time on three different platforms. I have to agonize over wording, then edit three times. Then I forgot to hashtag.
Q. What does your isolation setup look like?
MP: Much like my normal life, really. That’s what I do. If I’m not traveling and speaking or visiting schools, I’m pretty much self-isolating anyway. I have a little writing house. Nobody goes in there except me. It would be the perfect quarantine place if I had a bathroom and a kitchen. So I spend some time out there. We have a big house, which makes it easy for my husband and our oldest, who happens to be living with us at the moment. We all just dance around each other. When you’re in a family, you’re in it together.
Q. How are you feeling?
MP: Well, I feel frightened. Very concerned. I think I’m rather anxious. It helps to live in a place where it’s easy to get outside and go and forget about it on skis or walking. That helps a lot. I’d really go crazy if I had to stay indoors.
Q. Are you learning any life lessons?
MP: I think I have definitely gone the way of “don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Q. Take me through a book event. What would’ve happened?
MP: I was going to briefly talk about each one — probably more about the research for “The Village of Scoundrels.” I’d probably just read briefly out of each of them. We were going to have invisible ink and forge our own fake ID — which are some of the things they used in this village. Probably drink some French wine and eat some French food.
Rich Mattson is a full-time musician who not only plays a heavy schedule of shows, he also hosts bands for recording sessions at his home studio, Sparta Sound. Since the cancellation of live music and a shift toward isolation, he has begun posting daily videos on YouTube.
Q. What’s going on today
RM: Not a whole lot. I’ve got a dog that keeps me busy. I was walking with the dog yesterday, and I decided we should go to West Eveleth to take a walk with my mom, too. She really needed to get out. I felt good about that.
Q. How much have you had to cancel?
RM: First of all, March 7, I caught a flu. I don’t know if it was the coronavirus or what; it didn’t match up with the symptoms. I stayed home and didn’t go anywhere. I was sick for a good week. I canceled a recording session that I had lined up; I had a gig at the Gunflint Tavern that I canceled that weekend. As the whole coronavirus started getting worse and worse, I thought I should probably cancel the recording sessions for after that. Everything is getting canceled left and right. I’m looking at my April calendar. I have a lot of really good stuff I’ve been looking forward to doing. I don’t know how far it’s going to go.
Q. Anything specific that you’re bummed about missing?
RM: Well, I was going to record Breanne Marie & the Front Porch Sinners, so that’s out. Next month I’ve got a band called Gleam I’m looking forward to working with. I’ve got a thing at Lake Harriet Bandshell opening for the Belfast Cowboys, that’s going to be a pretty big show. I don’t know if that’s going to happen or what.
And then just a lot of our regular gigs.
Q. What are you doing during this time?
RM: I’m sheltering in place. We went and loaded up on what we need. Not going out. Trying to keep myself busy by making videos and uploading them to YouTube. That’s been pretty fun, keeping my mind off things.
I’ll still play music. I set up a virtual tip jar, hoping people throw some money into my tip jar.
Q. Do people throw money into the tip jar?
RM: Not a whole lot. A little here and there.
Q. What are you playing on YouTube?
RM: Originals and covers. I’m picking a theme each day and running with it. The first couple days I did all original stuff and new songs. Then I did a tribute to some of my friends’ bands. Then yesterday I did a folk song and two Ol' Yeller tunes.
There’s no shortage of tunes. I’ll just keep doing it. It’s fun, and it keeps me occupied and the response has been good.
Q. What does your isolation scene look like?
RM: We’re just at Sparta Sound, outside of Eveleth. In the woods. I’ve got a walking trail that I’ve been using for years. It goes to an abandoned ore pit. It’s just me and (musician and partner) Germaine (Gemberling), and we’ve got guitars all over the place.
The worst thing is, we don’t have cable. As far as television, we’ve got just two channels. We’re listening to MPR every day and trying to stay on top of things.
There’s a point when you have to shut it off and do something else. I’ve been doing a lot of talking to friends and messaging, checking in with people. Everybody has been keeping in touch.
Q. Any life lessons from this experience?
RM: I’ve been washing my hands a lot more — to the point where I feel like they’re getting a little chapped.