FLCC’s ‘Voices in Isolation’ a tapestry of perspectives

Staff reports
The Chronicle Express

CANANDAIGUA — Early in the pandemic, Beth Johnson knew her theatre students at Finger Lakes Community College might not be able to present their annual production before a live audience. But she saw an opportunity to try something different while also telling the story of our time.

The result is a recorded show titled “Voices in Isolation: Pandemic and Protest” that will debut online at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19. Offered free to all on the FLCC Visual and Performing Arts Department YouTube channel, it will be followed by a live talk-back session with the creative team of writers and performers. The YouTube link can be found at events.flcc.edu.

Penn Yan Theatre Co. member Daniel Jackson, of Naples, records a selection written by Jim Rose, of Canandaigua, as video technician Jeff Kidd ‘05 operates the camera in the FLCC TV studio at the main campus.

“We felt it was important to provide the students a way to engage and interact with each other, especially one that allowed them the opportunity to voice their experiences and grapple with the issues our country is facing in an artistic and collaborative way,” said Johnson, professor of speech and theatre and director of the production. “While it would have been much easier to avoid offering a theatrical production this year, it would have been a huge disservice to the students for them to have missed out on a fall show.”

“Voices in Isolation” is written and performed by members of the community, students, alumni, and current and retired faculty and staff. The show contains original music, monologues, and stories exploring the impact of quarantine and issues of racial justice. Some are real-life experiences, while others are fictionalized.

Each piece was recorded separately, some by the contributors themselves, others by FLCC Video Technician Jeff Kidd ’05 of Stanley. Kidd and Production Manager Jim Perri of Canandaigua have spent the past few weeks editing and weaving together the recordings.

“It’s a tapestry of experiences from different perspectives,” said Perri, who contributed two fictional pieces he wrote based on his own and others’ experiences.

One of them, “Down the Tube” a/k/a “No Man is an Island Except THIS Guy,” is told by “a middle-aged guy who lives alone and watches TV,” said Jim. “He loves TV shows and, with the quarantine, has been watching a lot more, especially old shows, thinking they will provide an escape. Instead, he finds that all these old shows feature episodes with epidemics and quarantines.”

Perri’s 10-year-old daughter, Lainie, submitted a piece she wrote in which she laments her losses but is conscious of the need for this timeout in order to protect others. Eventually, she questions whether some adults should be placed in “timeout” for not following rules.

Barb Murphy, FLCC professor emeritus of humanities, wrote a piece told from the perspective of a retired horticulture student. Music Prof. David McGuire offered a collaboration in music and dance with faculty and students from Hobart William Smith College in Geneva.

And, Maureen Maas-Feary, FLCC professor of humanities, submitted a monologue based on the announcement she made to students before and during the college’s shift to remote instruction. “I called it ‘Keep Teaching’ after the plans that all faculty were required to submit during this period,” she said “The title became a mantra: no matter what happens, keep teaching.”

At Johnson’s urging, Maas-Feary interspersed the reflections of two students within “Keep Teaching.” “You hear my voice, encouraging and imploring, while the students express their feelings about the problems they’re attempting to deal with while staying in school,” she said. “These include family members testing positive for COVID, loss of job, loss of home, and stressful relationships with family members and friends.”

After the debut on Nov. 19, “Voices” will remain on YouTube through Nov. 25 for on-demand viewing. For more information, contact Beth Johnson at 585-785-1242 or by email at beth.johnson@flcc.edu.