By Randy Fiedler
To cap off a spring semester at Baylor like no other (because of how the COVID-19 virus quarantine forced all classes and most other interaction to go online), members of the University’s theatre arts department came up with a wonderful way to safely enjoy a bit of fellowship between faculty, staff and students — and to say goodbye to graduating theatre arts majors.
Here’s how Dr. DeAnna Toten Beard, chair and professor of theatre arts, described the idea for the department’s special event:
We have a tradition of a spring banquet after classes are over, so we kept that tradition this year by holding a Zoom gathering the evening of May 4 with more than 100 theatre majors, plus many faculty and staff. At this annual event, we always hand out honorary “lifetime passes” to Baylor Theatre to each of our graduating students with their names on them, to remind them to come back to campus and be a patron for years to come. This year, we physically mailed out the personalized lifetime passes in advance of the “virtual banquet” to all graduates, and then used the Zoom meeting time to recognize them each and cheer for them. We also acknowledged graduating students with a slide show featuring a baby picture and their senior portrait (made by the leaders in our student organization). It was very special and clearly meant a lot to our whole department community.
At the beginning of the Zoom session, Dr. Toten Beard made these opening remarks:
Oh, how I wish we were all at some Waco ballroom together tonight. I wish I could see all your awesome outfits. I wish you were taking pictures together and signing cards for each other. I wish you were singing and laughing. I wish I could hug you all. But that’s not the cards any of us were dealt. We are not alone, of course. All over the country and the world, university students have had to grapple with being separated from their classmates and mentors. All college and high school graduates this year are missing out on a proper spring graduation. But it is hard to feel too much comfort in that tonight, isn’t it, when we just want our friends and our celebration? All I can say is that we will be okay. We will see each other again. We will see our graduates in person and hug them. We will have parties and do shows and go to class. This is not the end of our story together. So be brave! Persevere! We love you!
What a great way for our theatre arts faculty, staff and students to end a historic year at Baylor. And — if you’re wondering just what that Zoom get-together looked like — here’s three screenshots that show the participants (click on each for a larger view):