Restrictions in gatherings hits fine arts; theatre unable to compete at nationals

Every year near the middle of March, students all across the country have come together to compete at the national level against some of the best competitors across the U.S in individual acting events. It’s a cutthroat competition that takes place over the span of three days. And as difficult as it is to even qualify for the event, making it to the final rounds are even more challenging. 

Due to the level of intensity, the Judson Theater Productions team prepared throughout the school year. But all their hard work came to a halt on March 12, when the Executive Committee of the NIETOC [National Individual Events Tournament of Champions] voted to cancel the competition due to the rapidly growing COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We started in August and worked until February,” Theater Director Mr. Larry Bailey said. “[It was] a big let down. The kids were very upset. They had put so much work into it.” 

The journey to the national competition was not easy and came with many trials and tribulations, but the Theater Productions team was able to work through and give it their all despite the challenges. 

“When we entered the last competition, we had actually resigned to the fact that we were not going to State and NIETOC,” senior Serenity Gonzalez said. She had competed in multiple competitions alongside her duet partner, sophomore Amanda Perez. “We were actually entered as a filler duet to help our other teammates get their points, it was a welcomed surprise when we got [first place] and were able to qualify,” Gonzalez said. 

In recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic has been sweeping the world. The virus had first begun striking hard in China, but its impacts are now been felt across the globe. Due to the fact that the virus is easily contracted and poses a great danger to individuals with weak immune systems, international governments, companies, and committees all across the world have deemed it necessary to limit large gatherings. This includes work functions, on-campus classes, and as of now, large gatherings of any kind. 

“I was definitely thrown for a minute. It was such a huge event, so hearing [about it] being canceled was so unbelievable. All the hard work put into nothing,” junior Joshuah Mayo said. He was set to compete in Program Oral Interpretation as well as returning to compete in Duo, an event he and his previous partner had won third place in at the last NIETOC Tournament. “I especially felt bad for the seniors because they don’t have that opportunity anymore.” 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many events planned for the spring semester of the school year have either been postponed or canceled: sports seasons, band competitions, class trips, school musicals, and national tournaments. This is especially hard-hitting for seniors who may never get the chance to participate in these events again after they graduate. 

“I feel like it affected me slightly harsher. But at the end of the day, this is something that got taken from all of us [that] we all worked really hard for,” senior Llailan Bennett said. “My first reaction was disappointment, but it’s for the best and I know this isn’t my only opportunity because when one door shuts, you just have to open another.” 

Despite losing their chance at nationals for the remainder of their high school career, seniors are optimistic about their future, as are their teammates and coach who wish them well and hope for the best in the next chapter of their lives. 

“I hope they continue in college and have a chance to go again at that level,” Bailey said. “This puts into perspective to appreciate the time you have because it’s over so quickly and you don’t always get to do it again.” 

The NIETOC Executive Committee has made no further remarks regarding whether or not the qualifications earned this competition season will be rolled over into next year, but they do intend on holding their tournament next year as scheduled.


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