Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Missy Johnston, November 28, 2020

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries

 

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00:00:03 - Life before the COVID-19 pandemic

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Partial Transcript: This is Kopana Terry and I'm talking with Missy Johnston and it is November 27th--28th.--(laughs)--It's November 28th, 2020. And, uh, good morning, Missy.

Segment Synopsis: Johnston talks about the work she did at Transylvania University and in her free time before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keywords: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Costume construction; Creators; Lifestyle changes; Pandemics; Productions

Subjects: Actors.; Actresses.; COVID-19 (Disease); Costume design.; Teaching.; Theater.; Transylvania University

00:01:41 - A typical work day before COVID-19

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Partial Transcript: So take me through, uh, what was a typical day like for you? Pre-COVID?

Segment Synopsis: Johnston describes a typical work day at Transylvania University.

Keywords: Building shows; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Pandemic; Student groups

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Education.; Research.; Teaching.; Transylvania University

00:02:57 - Reactions to Transylvania University shutting down campus

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Partial Transcript: What did you--what did you thi--what was your first reaction when they were going to close down?

Segment Synopsis: Johnston talks about her reaction to Transylvania University shutting down and how it affected her classes and students. She briefly talks about how it affected performing arts everywhere.

Keywords: Broadway; Cancelling shows; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Live productions; Lockdowns; Reactions to COVID-19; Spring productions

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Education.; Musicals.; Performing arts.; Quarantine.; Students.; Theater.

00:05:02 - Performing as an actor before COVID-19

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Partial Transcript: So you said that it's been since October of 2019 since you were on the stage in a production. Um, how many shows do you normally do in a year as an actor?

Segment Synopsis: Johnston talks about how often she performs in shows outside of her work and mentions a musical she participated in before the COVID-19 pandemic. She talks about missing the theater and the human interaction it brings. She talks about how staying home has affected her mental health.

Keywords: Cabaret; Cooperative art forms; Depression; Laziness; Motivation; Productions; Rehearsal halls; Theater shows; Virtual productions

Subjects: Actors.; Actresses.; Anxiety.; Costume design.; Mental health.; Musicals.; Theater.

00:08:30 - Staying busy while in quarantine

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Partial Transcript: Yeah but y--you know, you bring up a good point about, uh, mental health and getting through this period. So, uh, what have you been doing to keep yourself together?

Segment Synopsis: Johnston talks about how the pandemic has affected her mental health and how difficult it has been to stay productive. She talks about having to adjust to teaching theater classes online and mentions some of the setbacks of virtual learning.

Keywords: Backstage; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Online workshops; Productions; Productivity; Social distancing; Streaming services; Virtual learning; Virtual teaching

Subjects: Anxiety.; COVID-19 (Disease); Costume design.; Education.; Mental health.; Teaching.; Theater.

00:12:32 - Performing without an audience

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Partial Transcript: So just before we turned the camera on, I was talking with your husband, uh, who is also, uh, uh, a musician and he and I were talking about how strange it is to try and perform without an audience. And, um, I'm wondering what that's like for you as an actor?

Segment Synopsis: Johnston talks about how the audience reacted to her performance in Cabaret and how that experience differs from virtual performances where there is no audience.

Keywords: Audience; Audience reactions; Cabaret; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Musical performances; Virtual performances

Subjects: Acting.; Actors.; Actresses.; COVID-19 (Disease); Monologues.; Musicals.

00:16:54 - How the pandemic has affected students

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Partial Transcript: So, uh, let's talk about your students for, uh, a minute. You know you're--you're a veteran of theater. How--how long have you been doing it?

Segment Synopsis: Johnston gives a brief overview of her career in theater. She talks about how students have been impacted by the pandemic, including losing internships and job opportunities.

Keywords: College graduates; Colleges; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Employment; Internships; Student experiences; Virtual performances; Virtual productions

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Education.; Theater.

00:19:44 - Virtual theatrical productions

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Partial Transcript: Well, that's a good segue into the--the virtual production that you did. So walk me through how you guys decided to do that and then how you actually pulled it off.

Segment Synopsis: Johnston talks about putting on a virtual production of the book "Railsplitter" by Maurice Manning. She talks about how they went about putting on a virtual production and how it was different from a regular theatrical production.

Keywords: Challenges; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Maurice Manning; Poems; Railsplitter (Book); Social distancing; Teaching faculty; Theatrical productions; Virtual performances; Virtual productions

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Directors; Poetry.; Radio plays.; Theater.

00:24:47 - Experiences with teaching online

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Partial Transcript: Yeah so, speaking of challenges, how hard was it for you to make the leap from teaching in person to teaching online?

Segment Synopsis: Johnston talks about having to adjust to online teaching when Transylvania University sent everyone home. She talks about how the classes had to change to accommodate the unusual circumstances.

Keywords: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Online classes; Online teaching; Pandemics; Virtual learning; Virtual teaching

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Education.; Performing arts.; Quarantine.; Teaching.; Theater.

00:29:09 - How the pandemic has affected the theater business

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Partial Transcript: Well, speaking of through January, what do you think the business is going to look like when we get on the other side of this?

Segment Synopsis: Johnston talks about how the pandemic has caused theaters to lay off workers and switch to online productions. She talks about how communities around theaters have been affected due to a lack of business in the area.

Keywords: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Employment; Finances; Income; Online productions; Theater work; Virtual productions

Subjects: Actors.; Actresses.; Auditions; COVID-19 (Disease); Theater.

00:36:18 - Life during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Partial Transcript: Well talk to me about--what's your--what's your day like now? You know, early--early on we talked about you know what was, uh, life like for Missy Johnston, a day in the life, uh, pre-COVID. What's it like during COVID?

Segment Synopsis: Johnston describes what her days look like during the COVID-19 pandemic and what keeps her busy.

Keywords: Classes; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Loneliness; Pandemics; Streaming; Teaching faculty; Virtual productions; Working from home

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Teaching.; Transylvania University

00:39:36 - Getting into costume design

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Partial Transcript: How long have you done costume design?

Segment Synopsis: Johnston talks about how she got into costume design during college. She talks about how she originally wanted to be a lighting designer but got discouraged from it early on.

Keywords: Colleges; Costume construction; Graduate schools; Set design

Subjects: Costume design.; Education; Stage lighting designers; Theater.

00:41:24 - Employment for theater workers

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Partial Transcript: Uh, have you heard about, um, you know, any of these backline people what they're doing to make ends meet, or?

Segment Synopsis: Johnston talks about how the pandemic has affected employment in theaters like the Lexington Opera House. She talks about the union that a lot of theater workers are a part of and how those workers may have been impacted.

Keywords: Arts unions; Backline people; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Employment; IATSE Local 346; International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Union; Lexington Opera House; Traveling shows

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Theater.; Unemployment.

00:45:17 - The world after COVID-19

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Partial Transcript: Well, sweetheart, um, what do you think the world's going to look like? Not just the theater world but just--just the world in general. What's it going to look like when--if we ever get out of this place?

Segment Synopsis: Johnston talks about her fears and hopes for the future after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keywords: Appreciation; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Isolation; Pandemics; Social interaction

Subjects: Anxiety.; COVID-19 (Disease); Vaccines.

00:47:32 - How artists were impacted by the pandemic

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Partial Transcript: Is there any--is there anything a--about surviving, um, in the arts during the era of COVID that we haven't talked about?

Segment Synopsis: Johnston talks about the reasons why the COVID-19 pandemic was especially hard for artists due to how difficult it was to make an income.

Keywords: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Pandemic; Solitary thinkers

Subjects: Acting.; Artists.; COVID-19 (Disease); Performing arts.; Theater.

00:49:40 - The Bats musical group

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Partial Transcript: Well, I was going to end, except I want to talk to you about The Bats.

Segment Synopsis: Johnston talks about the musical group she is a part of called The Bats. She talks about how the pandemic might cause the end of the musical group. She describes the members of the band as well as the type of songs they play. She briefly mentions how the behavior of her students has changed since switching to online classes.

Keywords: Bands; Boomers; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); Gigs; Musical acts; Rehearsals; The Bats (Artist); Venues

Subjects: COVID-19 (Disease); Musical groups; Performing arts.