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Dec. 6, 2021 | Monday
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Life in the Pandemic: Some silver linings
Shaw actor Kelly Wong, with his wife Cosette Derome and their daughter Amelia. Photo by Andrew Broderick

Editor's Note: Life since COVID-19 has changed things for all of us. We’ve experienced hardships, heartaches, and challenges, but also new and sometimes unexpected reasons to be thankful. This new Lake Report series will share some of the stories of NOTL residents as we all reflect on our experience of life in a pandemic.

 

Rewind to early March 2020.

Rehearsals for the musical “Gypsy” were in full swing and the show was moving into the Shaw’s Festival Theatre.

It was just the beginning of what was sure to be a very busy season for actor Kelly Wong, a longtime member of the Shaw company.

Casting his mind back, he recalls his reaction when the word came for everyone to stay home, as the lockdown began.

“I was anxious. It all snowballed in my head. We didn’t have the information we do now and everything was a threat. We were on red alert.”

Quickly, the troupe shifted to online rehearsals. 

“At first we wondered if we’d be back into production in a week or two,” he remembers, admitting, “we were a bit naive.”

Reality began to sink in, though, when the Shaw pulled the plug on the first part of the season.  

Wong decided to pitch a project through a program that provided government funding for creative endeavours. His pitch, for a project called Sherlock Holmes and the Deathly Clock Tower, was successful, so Wong shifted gears. 

“From my role as an actor in 'Gypsy,' I did a 180-degree turn, to become a digital content creator, along with a team of 12,” he explains.

Not where he expected to be in the summer of 2020, but Wong says, “It sparked an inspiration in us to create new work and it was very fulfilling.”

Wong has gone on to create a range of digital content for the Shaw, including videos for schools and sponsors. He says “it’s opened my eyes to a whole new activity in this weird year.” 

The disruption of Wong's plans for a heavy workload on stage last season had a second silver lining. 

“Our daughter was 10 months old when the pandemic started and once things changed for me, I was able to be much more hands-on and present with her.”

Wong recalls with evident delight, the joys of being able to spend more time with her. 

“She was changing so quickly. She started walking on her birthday and she said “Dada” for the first time on MY birthday! Her personality is developing so fast. She has a wonderful sense of humour, and she makes us laugh, consciously, which is amazing.”

Alongside that appreciation, is a sense of loss associated with pandemic precautions.

“I have to have my guard up all the time when we go out with our daughter. I miss being able to go to the playground and not having to worry. I do miss those more care-free moments.”

Even as the second lockdown pushes into the winter of 2021, Wong has his eye on the next season. 

“We’re planning for the best and I’m confident the Shaw is putting a lot of thought into making sure when we can perform again, and it will be safe for us and for the audience.”

With the vaccine becoming gradually available, Wong feels “there’s hope now, a light at the end of the tunnel.”

He reflects, “there’s so much we’ve taken for granted, the power of storytelling and sharing in person, whether it’s theatre or with friends and family. That’s been taken away, but we’ll appreciate it even more when we get it back.”

 

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