Interview with NYU Professor Chris Jaehnig
The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic created a host of problems for workers around the world. Many people felt uncertain about how their work would go on during a time where in-person activities were highly limited. NYU Tisch Professor Chris Jaehnig was no different. As both a worker in the theater industry and a teacher, Chris had to navigate the complexities of carrying out teaching and theater making in a virtual setting.
Chris shares the types of conversations he and the rest of NYU’s staff had in order to bring quality education to their students in a pandemic. This is hard to carry out in a virtual setting as the defining trait of theater is the human connection made possible by having everyone in the same room. However, art persisted. There was a lull in full-scale productions for a short period but NYU came back in full force with their production of Urinetown. This production was marked with the constraints of working in a pandemic. With some actors virtual and others in-person, the show did not look like a typical musical. But this did not take away the impact of the production and the hard work NYU students and faculty poured into it.
While working under pandemic conditions was difficult, it was not without its rewards. Chris discusses his excitement that NYU shows were now more accessible than ever. People did not have to travel to New York and pay for a hotel to view a Tisch production. Now, shows are streamed into homes across the world. While it is unlikely this practice will remain, it did awaken a consideration of accessibility in Chris’s mind. He recognizes that theater can often be an expensive experience and wonders how to reconcile dropping ticket prices with the need for that revenue to cover show costs. The pandemic did not stop the theater industry. Rather, it challenged theater workers and professors to question how to continue this ancient art form and bring it to people locked in their homes.