Arts Amid Chaos

The COVID-19 pandemic brought many challenges to Suffield Academy, and it particularly affected the arts. Live performances became impossible in the era of social distancing, and the Performing Arts department had to figure out a way to perform with no audience. The pandemic also affected the visual arts, as various exhibitions and masterclasses became so much harder to conduct. Nevertheless, with the huge effort of faculty and students, Suffield in the pandemic did have arts.

In a normal school year, Suffield’s Performing Arts Center is packed whenever there is a show. Hundreds of people pour in through the lobby and find their seats while eating snacks and talking in anticipation of the performance. Then, when the curtain opens, a special atmosphere is created, with performers feeling the energy of the audience and therefore giving a better show than ever before in rehearsal. Being in the theater at that moment feels magical, whether you are a performer or a spectator. With the pandemic, this experience became impossible to recreate.

Instead, the smaller performances were recorded through Zoom, and the big shows, such as the fall play Clybourne Park, the Dance Show, or the spring musical Pippin, were performed on stage and live-streamed. In order to return the feeling of normal performances, the Performing Arts Department sought out every opportunity to have an audience of any size. As a result, about twenty people, mostly advisors, attended the Dance Show in February, and, by the time it was time for Pippin went up in May, each cast member had an opportunity to bring in two spectators, and many parents were able to see their child perform. The audience of about forty people was very refreshing after a year of nothing, and the show turned out great. Still, the Performing Arts department is excited to have a full audience for upcoming shows in the new school year.

The biggest event for the arts in the 2020-2021 school year was the Arts Festival held in May. Due to an inability to have a big audience indoors, the Festival was held on the Stiles, stretching from Brewster Hall to Tisch Field House and including all kinds of arts, both visual and performing. The top of Stiles was used as a stage, with spectators standing and sitting around it. The visual artists settled on both sides of the hill, each presenting their work in a separate tent. At the bottom of Stiles, there was a movie projector, showcasing the student-made films.  The Arts Festival was a huge success, and a lot of positive feedback made it clear that it might become an annual event.

There is no denying that the 2020-2021 year was a challenging year for the arts as restrictions severely affected both the abilities to create and enjoy art. Still, the Performing Arts again made a great showing at the CT Halo Award and the Sondheim Award ceremonies with many students and faculty receiving accolades [see the list below]. Additionally, it was rewarding that Suffield’s students and faculty were eager to invest in arts and do the best they could. After all, the pandemic has been a great learning opportunity, as well as a reminder for everyone to be grateful for everyday unrestricted things that are coming back to Suffield in the new academic year.

Suffield Academy 2021 CT Halo Award Winners
Best Chorus – Pippin
Fearless Award – Clybourne Park
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical – Naila Gomez ’21 as Leading Player in Pippin
Best Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Musical – Eli Wiener ’22 as Charlemagne in Pippin

Suffield Academy 2021 Stephen Sondheim Awards
Best Choreography – Ally Rocco & Caroline Bauchiero for Pippin