Access to Theater meets Zoom

ATT students on Zoom

PYD’s Access to Theater (ATT) program has met for over 25 years of fun, connection, and mutual appreciation of theater.

In 2020, the connection part looks a little different – the group meets over Zoom. Deep Chinappa, Artistic Director of ATT acknowledges the challenge of connectivity issues, but also highlights the program’s success despite the situation.

“The artists teaching the program are doing a fantastic job keeping the participants engaged and creative. The enthusiastic participants have transitioned and are enjoying the program.”

When the weekly ATT session began on December 2nd, about 20 smiling faces popped up on the Zoom screen one-by-one, each person excited for another meeting. Moe Finnerty, PYD’s Movement Director lead the group through a few warm-up exercises. “Move like you’re excited!” and “Move like you’re angry!” got participants to bust out their acting chops and loosen up.

After the warm-up comes the true fun started when Moe and Tammy, ATT teaching artists, share the activity of the day: Having the group invent their own holidays, imagine how they’d celebrate them, and then act them out.

Participants share their ideas one-by-one. Miranda kicks things off with her epic holiday idea, Chocolate Chip Cookie Day. On this day, Miranda explains people would celebrate by eating as many chocolate chip cookies as they can. The group endorses her idea and acts out how they would celebrate. Chewing and chomping, dunking into milk, and patting bellies ensue. One participant, Lizzy, even decides to take on the role of a cookie, hilariously pleading with the others to stop eating her.

As the ideas continue, another great holiday concept comes from Cindy, who proposes a Togetherness Day. Cindy explains Togetherness Day would be a dedicated holiday for people who love each other to spend some time together. She thoughtfully notes that the holiday should start in April of next year, because by then, “people could actually get together!”

Next, Nadine, who likes to skate, says her holiday would be National Skating Day. Moe asks for clarification on which type of skating this would encompass – roller skating, ice skating, skateboarding? Nadine thinks for a moment before saying that it should be whatever kind of skating makes people happiest.

The group then acts out National Skating Day, and the Zoom screen fills with animated faces pretending to skate. Talented skaters emerge, and a handful of participants add realism to their performances with well-acted “oh no’s” to accompany their inevitable falls. Still, each of them gets back up to skate on.

At the end of the session, the group reflects on things they are and aren’t enjoying during this difficult time, dubbing the good their “roses” and the bad their “thorns.” The most common thorn shared was that COVID is preventing them from seeing people in person. But the roses were much more plentiful – and the most common rose? Getting to see and connect with each other virtually through ATT.

This article was written by PYD volunteer Lizzy Wimberly.