Sunday, May 24, 2020

Quarantine Q/A: JT ZIERVOGEL

JT Ziervogel
by Gil Benbrook

Our series of "Quarantine" interviews, which focus on individuals involved in the Phoenix theatre community and their reaction to Arizona's stay at home mandate, continues today with a conversation with Valley actor and ASU student, JT Ziervogel. 

COVID-19 has affected us all in many ways. The theatre community has been harshly impacted with show closures and postponements. We hope this series of daily interviews will be a way to provide some personal insight to what people are doing during this period of time while highlighting familiar individuals from the theatre community in town.

Was there a show you were in or involved with or preparing for when the stay at home order started?

Ziervogel: "I was! I was just staring rehearsals for ASU’s production of 9 to 5! I was supposed to play Franklin Hart Jr. I was really sad that it got postponed because I was really excited to explore a villain character because I haven’t had the chance to do that yet. Especially one that I feel is so real and prominent in this day an age."

How have you been personally impacted by our current situation?

"You mean besides gaining the quarantine 15? This whole event made a lot of things a little more difficult in my life just like it has in everyone else’s lives. For starters all of my classes at ASU had to be changed over to online or ZOOM University as we like to call it. That means all of my acting, dancing and singing instructions had to be done online, which was a real tough situation to adapt to. I am definitely not an online student so it was hard for me to adjust to that style of receiving training. Thankfully though ASU has some world class faculty and they were able to adjust a lot of their curriculum to fit us students best, and they where completely understanding of everything we were going through personally, it was a great example of empathy that I will remember for years to come. 

I also ended up being furloughed by my job at Medieval Times where I work as a bartender so I had to file for unemployment. I really miss the interactions with all of my fellow surfs, wenches, knights, and royalty."

How has your daily routine changed?

"As I stated earlier, ASU moved everything online and my castle had to close for the foreseeable future. So instead of being gone from 8:30 in the morning to 10pm sometimes 12 am during the week. I am now at home with my roommates 24/7. Thankfully they have been my best friends since junior high so we were already used to spending every waking moment together. I had to figure how I was going to make the best use of my space for school though. With everything being online I had to make a lot of performance videos for class and I still wanted to challenge myself the same way I would have at school. So, there was a lot rearranging of furniture that happened around the household."

What do you feel will be different when theater restarts?

"I think for one it will take a while for theaters to reach full capacity shows. I’m hoping we start slowly coming back into social gatherings instead of all at once. I think theater artist’s are also going to come out of this with a new sense of appreciation that our art form, in that it really can be taken away in the blink of an eye. Yes, we still have online platforms but nothing really beats live - in person - performances. I’m also hoping shows that where in rehearsal and canceled end up being added to the upcoming seasons because I think those performers and everyone working on those projects should get to show what they were working on. I know Hale has already done that for a couple of their shows and ASU might do that as well so that’s very exciting!"

When do you think that’ll happen?

"It’s hard for me to really guess when it will happen. But I know it SHOULD happen when the CDC and WHO decide that it is safe for everyone to get back to their normal routine. Not before, no matter how dire the economy is getting. If we are able to save some people by prolonging the stay at home orders then I think it’s worth it."

JT Ziervogel (right) and Jared Kitch
Young Frankenstein - Mesa Community College PAC
photo by Nick Woodward-Shaw

What have you been doing to stay creative during this time?

"With all of these video assignments that I’ve had to do for ASU it has really opened my mind on being as creative as possible with them. There's also a group of ASU students who just created a Facebook group for us to create weekly challenges for each other that will make us think out of the box constantly and I think that is going to be super beneficial for us! I’ve also started reading again! It’s been awhile since I’ve set aside time for myself to read so it’s been nice to do that and lay outside on my hammock and delve into some self learning books. I just finished The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide by the office star Jenna Fischer and I’m about to dive into the very well known Audition by the famed Hollywood and Broadway casting director Michael Shurtleff. I’ve also been a part of a lovely Facebook group called Virtual Theatre of Arizona that holds virtual read throughs of plays and musicals! I haven’t been able to do as many as I've wanted to because of school but I plan on diving head first into it now that’s schools done."

Any binge tv shows you’ve watched?

"There’s a lovely Canadian comedy show called LetterKenny on Hulu that my roommates and I watch all the time! I’ve also rewatched the entirety of New Girl which is on Netflix with my girlfriend. Amazon has a really cool show called Hunters starring Al Pacino all about Nazi hunting, which I could never get tired of. HBO also recently reimagined Watchman and that show is to DIE for."

Any new hobbies you’ve taken on?

"I have! Fender put out a promotion for 3 free months of free lessons that my girlfriend showed me. So I’m currently learning how to play guitar! I also went out and got materials to make myself a Tap board, so I plan on taking PT’s Summer of Dance Tap Classes from home!"

How has this experience changed you?

"This experience has made more reliant on my self honestly. It helped me get a glimpse of what it would be like once I’m out of school and on my own. I’ve had to figure out how to better myself on my own and in my own ways instead of relying on opportunities at school or the theater community. Which I think is really important. I had been telling myself I need a break from everything because I've been going steady for the past two and a half years, and the world kind of game it to me. So it was up to me to figure out what to do. One of my favorite instructors, Toby Yatso told me during a conversation we had last semester, that  true artists become great during the downtime when they are in between projects because of how they decide to better themselves. So I’ve tried to take that to heart and try and make myself as great as I can with the forced break."

What is the one thing you’re most looking forward to not that the stay at home order has been lifted and some businesses have started to reopen?

"I am extremely excited to connect with all of my theatre families in person! There’s a ton of people that I miss dearly and I can’t wait to be in the presence of their energies. I am also really excited to get to make live theatre again and also watch all of my friends doing what they love."

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