What can theatre artisans do when there are no props to make, sets to build, or costumes to sew? In a somewhat unique set-up among professional theatres, almost all of our stage elements are created on-site at our Malvern campus. Our resident production team—the talented craftspeople who make theatre magic—are integral to the fabric of People’s Light. When we cancelled the remainder of our season due to COVID-19, the shops emptied along with our offices and stages.
With theatre-making at a standstill, some of our production team was briefly furloughed while we awaited a Paycheck Protection Program loan that would allow us to reinstate employment. As we thought through various projects that our artisans could do from home when they returned to work, mask-making was front of mind. (As it turns out, a few people were already making masks for friends and family!) We worked our contacts to find out if any nearby health centers were in need of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). A few email introductions later, we had partnered with Main Line Health on behalf of Bryn Mawr Rehab (which is now taking overflow patients from Bryn Mawr and Lankenau hospitals) and Paoli Hospital.
Our makers assembled: Assistant Props Master Abbie Cain, Scenic Charge Kate Coots, Cutter/Draper Leigh Paradise, Costume Shop Manager Jenn Povish, Wardrobe Manager Jean Swalm, and Costume Shop Assistant Megan Wieder. Following instructions released by the CDC and guidelines provided by Main Line Health, this intrepid team went to work with a goal of making 480 masks a week.
"Making masks has been a great way for me to continue working and contribute my efforts to those fighting on the front lines of the pandemic. I come from a family of healthcare workers, so I've heard just how necessary and appreciated these efforts are. It's also been a great time for me multitasking—mask making and Downton Abbey go well together!" - Megan W.
"I’m still waiting on some supplies, particularly elastic, which are hard to come by because of demand. But I’m making it work with ribbon and leftover fabrics I’ve had around the house for years. It all feels very theater-y. I have a tendency to save things in case I need them later, which I heavily associate with working in theatre generally, and props specifically. Turns out, it’s not so bad a habit." - Kate C.
"The driving force behind much of what I do is wanting to be of use. On furlough, I had been slowly making masks on my own and donating them. It can be emotionally taxing because I can’t always separate the task from what’s going on in the world. I had stopped for a bit to focus on schooling my son, cooking, and far too much internet scrolling. Now that it’s part of my job, I still can’t always separate the task from the reason, but now I am motivated by a concrete reason. The schooling and cooking continue, so I’m online a lot less (which is honestly a good thing)." - Leigh P.
"When the pandemic started to pick up momentum and our work stopped, I spent a week feeling hopeless and without purpose, in addition to wanting to support our frontline workers. I was so excited when we were asked to do this. It’s given my days more direction and meaning. It’s such a simple way to give back to those keeping us safe." - Abbie C.
To read more about the impacts of COVID-19's at People’s Light, and what we’re doing to give back, click here.
For information on how to prevent the spread of illness, refer to the World Health Organization’s advice for the public. If you are a Pennsylvania resident and are experiencing symptoms or believe you have been exposed to the virus, call 1-877-PA-HEALTH.