Before the theatre shutdown, actress Jennifer Tierney was a standby on hit musical Come From Away, having also performed in shows such as Shrek the musical and Wicked. I was fortunate enough to talk to Jennifer about how she is adapting to a life in lockdown and her hopes for the future of the industry when the theatres are eventually allowed to reopen.
First of all, how are you feeling about the whole lockdown situation?
The first couple of weeks were honestly really tough. It felt like everything had been taken away in a second and amongst all the confusion of the personal affects of it all personally and professionally, I was trying to navigate the severity of the bigger picture and what it all meant for not just me and the people close to me but for the world. Honestly, I initially panicked a bit and I wanted to go back to Scotland, but my family are high risk so I couldnâ€™t. So coming to terms with staying put in London and going through it away from my family seemed like the biggest challenge. However, now that we are five weeks into Lockdown I have learned to cope with the new reality that we all find ourselves in and take it one day at a time and try to make the best of it by finding new projects to try and hopefully better myself by coming out of this period with something to show for it!
How have you been keeping yourself occupied during the lockdown?
I started out with buying a jigsaw, paints, a journal, signing up to courses! It was all a bit panicked for fear of getting bored and not achieving something. I tried all of those and they were great and it was a challenge to try something new! However, I run a workshop company and teach alongside by career as a performer and so I have decided to try and strengthen my skills to support that. I am learning to play the piano and teaching lessons online to students who canâ€™t attend their regular classes. I have always loved teaching and miss it when I canâ€™t do it regularly! So I am looking forward to spending the time working with students who will be coming in to the industry in a couple of years as well as younger students who are early in their training!
What you most looking forward to doing once lockdown is over?
I cannot WAIT to hug my family and friends! As soon as we are allowed to, I will drive up to Scotland and see my parents! I live near lots of good friends in London so I canâ€™t wait for us all to get together again! Plenty of BBQâ€™s and catch ups all being well!!!
Is there anything we, as theatre fans, can do to help the arts industry in these trying times?
I think that the main thing is knowing that you will all be there when the theatres open again! We are all so grateful for your support and constant messages of support! It really means so much that you continue to think of us. But doing all that you can to spread the word when we are all up and running again and hopefully we can all do our bit to help the industry thrive again!
What is your favourite thing about the theatre industry as a whole?
So many things! The people! I love coming into the building everyday and hearing about everyoneâ€™s day and congregating at warm up before a show! Especially Come From Away, the feeling that you are a part of something unique and special. I love the feeling that you can let an audience escape from the real life for a few hours. And after all this, I think that human beings will need it more than ever!
With the theatres closed and so much being moved online, do you think that we are seeing a big change in how the industry works?
I think that it is amazing how everyone has adapted so well and utilised technology to keep the industry alive. Online gigs, teaching, Q&Aâ€™s, videos, theatre screenings etcâ€¦ I have seen all sorts and it is amazing!! I do wonder if this has taught us more about how we can build the industry online! But honestly, I donâ€™t think that anything can beat live theatre!!!! But whilst we are in lockdown, itâ€™s really amazing that everyone is trying to make the most of the online platforms!
How have you been managing day to day life in quarantine? Do you have a routine, or do you just go with the flow?
I havenâ€™t given myself a routine although maybe I should! I have been working a lot of my online sessions so I wake up first thing and do admin, lesson prep etcâ€¦ I get out for a walk, do some exercise. And I have never facetimed as much as I have recently! Thank goodness for technology! ðŸ™‚ I am so grateful that we can use technology to communicate with family and friends.
Do you have any advice for people who are perhaps finding lockdown hard to manage?
I think acknowledge the feelings you are having. I read an article that really helped me to understand and name was I was feeling and it really enabled me to cope. Take it one day at a time. Donâ€™t pressure yourself into achieving things â€“ but if you are motivated to do something new or old that is unfinished then go for it! Talk to friends and family and reach out if you need company. We are all in it together and can help each other through it. And the main thing â€“ remember that it will pass!
Do you think that it is important to talk about mental health in these challenging times?
Absolutely!!! We are, of course, deeply concerned about the physical and medical challenges but we can not forget about the mental and emotional challenges that we are faced with. I have realised that everyone copes in different ways and I think that the best thing we can do for each other is to listen and take the time to check in on someone. Even if you think that they are OK. It will no doubt mean an awful lot to a person that someone has thought of them and made the effort just to say hello and ask how they are.
I would like to thank Jennifer for her time and her answers to this interview, as well as wish her the very best for the future. Stay safe