Growing a baby (and a Festival) in a pandemic

In June 2020, I found myself pregnant with my second child. I rolled my eyes at becoming a part of the now famous “Covid-baby club.” It’s a popular club for a reason and I was now a happy member. We had just recently and successfully hosted our 8th annual SkirtsAfire Festival in March, about a week before the lockdowns began. I remember enjoying the spring and the start of summer, feeling optimistic that in a month or two, things would return to normal and we would all get back to our festival city as planned. Then slowly but surely, things started getting postponed, then canceled, and our case numbers took a sharp turn for the worse. Through it all, as I grew this baby mostly isolated to my home, we planned for SkirtsAfire 2021: a return to indoor in-person performances in a safe way.

Having a baby in a pandemic is different. This baby will be welcomed into the world with masks and the strong scent of hand sanitizer and the rough touch of overly-washed chapped hands. No gatherings of friends and family to hold and kiss the fresh being that just entered the world. Instead, there will be more screen time than I’d like to admit my newborn will have, more time spent with me on my phone texting and emailing pictures and updates, more time spent alone, just our small family. I think of my friends who have had babies in 2020 who have no family in the city, most out of the country even, who have had no relatives allowed to visit and have no known date in the future they’ll get to meet the new addition. My sisters live in Hong Kong and I don’t know when they will get to meet their new nephew. Things I never thought I’d need to feel sad about before.

As I write this, I have 2 weeks until my due date and 5 weeks until the festival launches, and I squeeze my kegel muscles tight in hopes that this little boy does not arrive early. I have too much work to do. Trying to plan a festival during a pandemic has been a rollercoaster to say the least. A bit like the stages of grief, the stages of event planning goes a bit like this: Hope – there’s a whole year for us to get this Covid thing under control. Denial – there’s no way we could still be in isolation in March. More Hope – Ah look, theatres are open again! Disappointment – Crap, Alberta is not handling this well. Hope again, and a LOT of planning and replanning. And eventually acceptance – We’ll do what we can with what we can! 

While I am overwhelmed with how we’re going to pull off whatever we end up pulling off, I’m more overwhelmed by the love the festival has received from our supporters, old and new. Our Sponsors are right alongside us ready to jump on a different track if need be, our donors are generously donating, our artists are excited, and our audience is ready to watch – in a theatre or from home.

An update: Well, there’s less than a week until SkirtsAfire Reimagined begins and my son has officially been welcomed on the outside for two weeks now. He arrived right on time on his due date just as I hoped – at least one thing went according to my plans this year. I have him breastfeeding on my left boob as I type. He must be used to the tap-tapping of my keyboard by now and the glow of my laptop. With a week to go until SkirtsAfire, there are still many things to do. Am I exhausted? Yes. But I’m also excited and thankful and hopeful for what we’ve been able to do with so many unknowns and limitations. SkirtsAfire will be a beautiful, engaging, inspiring 10 days of online and outdoor performances. And when it’s all over… I’ll have a well-deserved nap.

Brianne Jang is the Managing Director of SkirtsAfire and a (fresh) mother of two. SkirtsAfire Reimagined is happening online and outdoors LIVE in Old Strathcona March 4-14. Head to skirtsafire.com for a full list of programming!

 

Photo credit April MacDonald Killins (@april_mac_killins) as photographer. 
Official Title of Show: “Makings of a Voice” by Dana Wylie
The performer in the photos: Dana Wylie  (@danawyliemusic)
Artistic Team:
Directed by Vanessa Sabourin (@vsabs)
Set, Props, Costume Design & Projection Co-Design by Elise CM Jason (@elise.dwg)
Lighting Design & Projection Co-Design by T. Erin Gruber (@tegruber)

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1 Comment

  • SHELLEY JANG

    What a wonderful letter Bri. You put into words what so many people are feeling at this time plus your own experience having a baby and planning a festival. I see so much on Facebook and watched the opening ceremonies. I wish I could be there to see you but as you said , screen time will have to do for now.

    March 5, 2021 at 10:18 pm Reply
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