By: Gabriella Dunn

Since the start of lockdowns back in March 2020, people in the performing arts have faced many challenges while dealing with COVID-19. I wanted to learn more about these challenges after hearing a close friend of mine was still participating in productions during this time. 

I met Shania Lehmann in Grade Seven. In our Junior High homeroom, I was drawn to her eccentric personality and her positive outlook towards life.

She carries that charisma through every production I’ve seen her in. I may not have the exact words to describe Shania’s personality entirely. Still, whenever my friends and I want to describe her, we wave our arms around like mannequins outside a car dealership. From being in Junior High and High School productions with her to watching her study performing arts in university, I’ve seen Shania’s personality and talent grow. 

Shania began her interest in acting when she was 12. Describing the influence theatre has had on her, she states, “the community makes me feel alive, so many enjoyable memories creating theatre and watching performances.”

Acting has impacted her life significantly, giving her confidence to be herself. She attributes her love for acting as her inspiration to pursue a BA/BEd degree to become a drama teacher.

Wanting to know more about Shania’s experience with acting during COVID-19, I connected with my friend through email in order to compile with social distancing protocols. She describes the past two online semesters as, while necessary, “Isolating, draining, and exhaustive.” She is a very extroverted person who thrives in social interactions. 

“A year without theatre felt like I had missed out and gone backwards in my work.”

When talking about her current acting performances, Shania mentions the unconventional ways theatre has had to adapt to since COVID-19. Acting out intimate scenes from six feet apart to wearing masks throughout a performance, Shania refers to these methods as a “new energy” to incorporate into her acting.

“It doesn’t throw me off to see a kiss done by two actors now facing outwards instead of facing each other.”  

Looking at the positives, COVID-19 has enhanced Shania’s work in a variety of ways. Mentioning the need for projection, emphasizing body language, and the use of unusual spaces has really pushed Shania’s performance as an actor.

“It requires creative solutions,” Shania states. “When we need to ‘touch’ each other for example, dancing in a scene now becomes a beautifully abstracted dance with a cloth between two actors, or being intentional with hand placement to show where there is touch, but still having distance.” 

“Time is precious, and to share space is something I’m so grateful for.”

COVID-19 has been a learning curve for us all. Shania defines her experience by continually referring to the perception of time as “precious”.

“We learn how to pour ourselves into everything when we are together since we know to make it worthwhile in the time we have.”

Since the first COVID-19 lockdown, Shania has been in a variety of work, from voicing in a student’s video game to gaining more background knowledge in theatre production and film.

We both find ourselves fascinated by how theatre has been adopted during this time and hope to see it thrive despite the challenges. While COVID-19 has resulted in an emotionally and physically demanding time, Shania has broadened her acting skills and still manages to see the symbolic ‘light at the end of the tunnel.’

Concluding our interview, she adds, “All in all, I’d rather come in person and create theatre than not at all.” 

Shania Lahmann is currently finishing up her third year at the University of Alberta getting a Bachelor of Arts and Education degree, she is very excited for when we can all safely return to campus.