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Cynthia Wisehart on Gatherings

In my years as a performer and then as a theme park designer I always understood that technology mattered. I was lucky to work with amazing professionals—lighting designers, sound designers, cinematographers, mixers, computer programmers, engineers. I knew our individual skill and passion created the outcome, but I can candidly say that I never completely understood just how much the gathering itself mattered—the performance, the museum, the concert, the theme park ride. I knew I was part of a team working to make magic together. But the more fundamental idea—that whatever magic we might bring, there was something bigger at work—the magic of the gathering, assembly, and group attention of people.

As I write people are together all right—they’re on top of each other working in Amazon warehouses, and grocery stores, and so many hospitals. These are the teams now and literally everything is at stake in those gathering places. Even now, in lockdown, as some of us live apart, the urgency of human life is still happening where it always happens—where people gather in groups. The irony of this haunts me.

As we go to press on April 17th, the reopening talk has started and like everything else in this experience, I can’t know how it will unfold. I know that our industry is important now—supporting working and learning from home; people are having to learn fast to use skills and tools that have actually been available for a long time. (They were always the tools and workflows we would get to when we had time, and that time turned out to be now.) I hope this is our bootcamp to be able to use these things with creativity in a better time.

When more of us re-enter the world, our industry will be important also. We will help bring back fun in some cases, we will help with safety, and we will also help with inclusion. Not everyone will want to go back to everything at the same pace. Some people will have fewer choices and where we can support those situations we will be helping. Other people will have more choice on when and how to re-engage, but some will want or need to be more cautious than others. Again, we can help. We are uniquely positioned to provide more access points for connection for people who must wait a while longer to be with crowds or to travel. In some cases, there have always been people with those limitations whether through circumstances or physical differences. Maybe now we understand them better and will include them more. Maybe when we regroup we will not go back, but we will get to be part of going forward.

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