Local actors struggle with isolation

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Brian Farnham was on a roll, but like most Greater Lansing actors, the pandemic put the brakes on his career.

Farnham has been a prolific actor, director — and sometimes choreographer — for a string of local plays, including “You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown,” “Catch Me If You Can” and “Jekyll and Hyde.” Farnham directed “Boy Gets Girl,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and “The Great American Trailer Park Musical.”

He acted in Starlight Dinner Theatre’s “The Lion in Winter,” though school closings shut down the stage for the play’s second weekend. Whether it will return is increasingly uncertain.

Now, of course, because of the coronavirus pandemic, Farnham only performs at home. Practicing Zumba helps. “I’m mostly just trying to not go stir crazy, as I’m very extroverted,” he said. “As a social butterfly, the isolation is a major downer.”

Farnham hoped to audition for Owosso’s June musical “The Producers.” He was scheduled to direct “Urinetown” this summer. Everything is on hold. He’s aware of the cancellation impact on theater companies. “As a Riverwalk board member, I know full well the financial strain,” Farnham said.

Taylor Rupp was also in “Lion.” She is known for standout performances in shows such as “Catch Me,” “These Shining Lives,” “Hairspray” and “Heathers.”

“I am quarantining at home,” Rupp said. She is practicing ukulele and following YouTube broadcasts of “Stars In The House,” by the Actors Fund. “I am seeing such love coming from many actors, as they try to share their craft in new and creative ways,” Rupp said.

“We actors really are people who need other people,” she said. Rupp expects the isolation to be “very difficult for a lot of folks in the theater community.”

Rupp found some respite connecting with other thespians. “It’s really comforting knowing we’re all going through it together,” she said. “The show must go on, and we will do whatever it takes to make that happen.”

Gordon Clark has appeared in over 40 community plays since 2017, including “Equus,” “Icarus Falling” and “Heathers.” He was supposed to be in “A Hotel on Marvin Gardens,” but it was canceled.

“Other than losing seven performances of a show I’ve worked on for over two months, no other opportunities have been lost,” Clark said.

Clark participated in a Facebook monologue challenge, and he did a karaoke tribute to Kenny Rogers. Except for “quick visits to the store and dog walks,” the recently retired Clark stays home and looks for ways to help.

Laura Croff has been more than 100 productions in Michigan. Some personal favorites are “Charlotte’s Web,” “Heathers” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” She won a Pulsar last year for her role in “The Elephant Man.”

Croff is fine with the show cancellations. “I believe that people are way more important than a single performance,” Croff said. She was in the axed “Cost of Living.” “It’s not a risk I’m willing to take for a few hours of artistic release,” she said.

Janet Colson directed “Cost of Living.” She has acted in plays such as “Buried Child,” “Indecent” and “Boy Gets Girl.”

“It was heartbreaking that we didn’t get to open,” Colson said. “It was such a good show.”

The final dress rehearsal was taped but the publisher who holds the rights hasn’t decided about allowing streaming. “The performances were wonderful,” Colson said.

She understands how all the closures can be “especially challenging” for people who thrive on social interaction.

Colson submitted a play for a marathon playwriting contest called “Quarantine Bake Off.” Grad students in the Guthrie Theater Program put it together. “They weren’t even expecting 100 submissions and they got 2,391,” Colson said.

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