The rise of COVID-19 in the United States has led to mass closures in the entertainment industry. While Broadway originally planned to reopen by the fall, the continued devastation brought on by COVID-19 has pushed theatres to remain closed until summer of 2021. With these closures and postponements, theatre students and actors have struggled to find a way to explore their creativity and express themselves in a safe environment.
These closures have led many to wonder what this means for the future of art and theatre, as many regional theaters and companies have had to face massive and irreparable economic hardship. Despite this hardship and panic, Peter Sham, associate professor of theatre at Southern Utah University, has found hope for new methods of theatre.
“I think the whole world is an improv right now, it is theatre right now. We’re all kind of creating,” said Sham.
According to Sham, it is those involved in theatre who are best able to adjust to the fear and panic brought on by COVID-19.
“What we’re supposed to do is invent and create from scratch,” he said. “We’re supposed to come up with new ideas. We’re problem solvers, we’re critical thinkers. This is actually, in some strange, weird, alternate universe, a great way for us to figure out how to say, okay, here’s the script. How do we adapt to it?”
Sham’s experience with COVID has led him to try new forms of theatre, including an online theatre festival run by SUU students and alumni. Throughout the fall semester, Sham has adjusted his teaching style for both acting and directing students to help facilitate learning how to create new art in this new age of theater.
Sham is known nationally and internationally for his work as bookwriter/lyricist for "Lend Me A Tenor The Musical" (Brad Carroll, composer), which celebrated a successful run at the Gielgud Theatre on London’s West End. A veteran regional and off-Broadway actor for over 35 years, he was a principal member of the Tony Award-winning Utah Shakespeare Festival for 12 seasons, and has directed over 85 productions throughout the Eastern United States and Utah and has served as artistic director of the Eichelberger Performing Arts Center in Hanover, Pennsylvania and Bristol Valley Playhouse in Naples, New York.
Peter Sham Professor of Theatre Arts
Specializing in Suzuki movement, directing and producing musical theatre, and character development for actors