This week we talked with Audrey Grant, a senior at Hazen Union High School, to learn more about how the pandemic is affecting emerging artists. Audrey has been a stage manager for every performance at Hazen since she was in 8th grade, and has also worked with HCA, Hardwick Town House and Lamoille County Players. You might also recognize her from her time as a barista at Front Seat Coffee in Hardwick. From her dedication to live theater to her new endeavor broadcasting a weekly radio show, Audrey has enriched the cultural landscape of her community. In the fall she will be attending Simmons University, majoring in political science and working toward employment in the public sector.
HCA: What has been your creative outlet during this period of isolation?
AG: My art is traditionally technical theater, so lighting or sound design. I’m also in Hazen’s band and chorus, and do sculpture and painting for fun. While I can’t necessarily do technical theater in the same sense, I have been using a lot of the sound design skills to create my weekly radio show on WGDR 91.1 and 91.7. I’m also co-hosting a series called “Community and the Pandemic,” about how the local Vermont community is reacting and responding to the virus. It has been nice to use my skills to make something important and meaningful. I’ve also been painting little planters, and even built a garden bed out of an old couch frame. I traded my homemade chocolate custard pie for some compost and dirt from a coworker, something I had never attempted before the isolation. The Hardwick Area Neighbors to Neighbors group asked for volunteers for mask making, so I’ve also learned how to use a sewing machine and am making masks at a very slow rate. I also started the Hazen Seniors Instagram page, which celebrates every Senior from Hazen as graduation is still unknown. So I have been doing media and graphic design as well. I was so busy before the pandemic I couldn’t focus on a creative outlet as much, and now I’m gardening! Who knew I’d love to garden – certainly not me.
HCA: The arts have been an important part of your high school career. Do you have words of encouragement for incoming high schoolers to get involved in the creative process?
AG: To be artistic and especially to show off your art you have to be vulnerable, and that is the hardest part. I hated acting publicly or anything that involved people watching me. While I don’t regret my choice to focus more on tech theater, I wish I had taken more chances. Our senior year ended too quickly, and I regret everything I lost. And you will never meet a funnier, creative, proud and understanding group of kids than in the arts, and specifically theater. I have truly found a home in the Hazen Drama Club. Wherever we perform, whatever show we’re doing, we are a family and I will miss them all so much.
HCA: Do you have a favorite memory from your high school experience with drama and music that you would like to share?
AG: My favorite part of any show is how fluid it gets. By the second or third time you put a show on, you know every step well enough to stop worrying. I absolutely adored Newsies because that fluidity came so naturally, as the cast and crew were all incredibly proud of their art. I remember Marc Considine and I being the ones to move the scaffolding on wheels, carrying three kids each, during Brooklyn’s Here. We’d run on stage and hide under the platforms, the kids literally stomping above us. I’d make sure the wheels were unlocked. Then our cue came and we’d push the scaffolding to its next position, lock the wheels, and run off. I had friends ask me after the show how we moved them, if someone was under it the whole time. It’s good when a techie isn’t seen, as it means the show was keeping their attention. In Newsies, we had very little blackouts and the scenes kept moving, and that kept the show exciting and wouldn’t drag. Now, that may not be the best or most exciting memory, but it’s the one I treasure most. When the entire cast is having fun, and the show is almost electric, and your audience is responding well, you know it’s a good show. It felt the same with Blithe Spirit, and so many other shows. That’s what I love about smaller community and high school theater: everyone wants to be there and is taking it seriously, and yet having the best time on stage.
HCA: Graduation is right around the corner. What are your plans for next year?
AG: I’m going to Simmons University in Boston, majoring in Political Science. I hope to get my Masters in public policy, and work at a government or non governmental organization. I may defer depending on how things go, especially being at a school in a city. When in Boston, I may try to work for their local stage hands union as an over hire, and possibly get my union Card. While I don’t want to pursue technical theater as a career, or any sort of performance or studio art, I still recognize their impacts on my growth. I really hope I can work on theater shows in college, especially doing lighting design. I’ll miss Vermont’s community- driven culture, and hope to come back later and feel right at home.