• Amy Laskowski

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    Amy Laskowski

    Amy Laskowski graduated from Syracuse University in 2007 with a degree in English, and earned a master’s in journalism at the College of Communication in 2015. She helps edit the work of BU Today’s interns and is always hunting for interesting, quirky stories around BU. Profile

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There are 3 comments on When Life Gives You a Pandemic, Make a Sitcom

  1. Julian had to leave Madrid in mid-March, in the middle of a chaotic pandemic. We managed to continue all classes online, and he wrote a wonderful paper for my History class about the 17th century Spanish theater and what he was trying to do with his new show. The 17th century crisis inspired him, and he wrote: “I personally get it!” I have asked Julian to share some paragraphs that illustrate so well what he has done with “The Social Distance”. Congratulations Julian! Beautiful paragraphs below:

    My Own Quick Thoughts by Julian Shapiro-Barnum
    (Optional Epilogue)

    2020 in many ways feels like 1700s Spain. They had economic collapse, mass unemployment, and war. We have economic collapse, mass unemployment, war, and the big bad coronavirus.

    Living through the present is explaining to me the way the Spanish Golden Age playwrights felt in a way that reading every primary source and history book could never do. I personally get it. I understand how they were generating such a mass number of texts. It is this feverish and terrible discomfort, an internal buzz, that comes from the world being off balance. For many, the way through this is to dive headfirst into work. I can empathize with this fully but could never execute this method. My mind is moving too fast, sitting still hurts, and organizing my thoughts is like trying to touch a feeling. Others are pinching their noses shut and back diving into nothing. This nothing is taking the form of Netflix, hulu, amazon prime, hbo go, and good ‘ol fashioned wall staring accompanied by a lukewarm sippy cup of bourbon. I understand this too, but like the previous, am unable to do it. The third option is the option that I see many artists doing online all over the world. Making! Making silly things, beautiful things, and profound things. I am making! Somehow my creating has taken the form of a bizarre talk show. Although it may seem unimpactful from the outside it is all-consuming and incredibly important from within. It is all I can think about, it is one of the few things that is making me happy right now, and it is keeping me calm and sane. This is me. This is my coping process. This is how I am making this reality work: jokes. My work is not pointless though. Of the three thousand people who have seen it, some of them seem to be finding genuine joy in it during these dark times. My videos are also about COVID-19 which is topically cathartic.

    On a small scale I am doing what the great Spanish Golden Age playwrights did. I am creating distracting beauty/joy and I am also showing hard truths. I, like them, am making something that is incredibly concerned with the now. Lope de Vega, Tirso De Molina, and Juan De Encina (to name a few) wrote their plays, more often than not, about small scale domestic issues or stories derived from personal war experience. Although greater chaos and strife was happening I find it fascinating how interpersonal dramas reigned thematically in the public’s eye. Calderon’s Life is A Dream is about honor and humanity not economic decline and De Vega’s Fuenteovejuna is about intra class struggles instead of brutal war. These artists found universal themes that were topical and poignant. I too am trying to do that too. It is hard to think about the past when the present is so impending.

    Many famous artists before me have made their reality work through the same ways. A pattern has emerged. This pattern is that, during hard times, the best art is made. The BBC, NPR, LA Times, and New York Times are all aware of this and have written lengthy articles about it (just look up “hard times make good art” on google and have a field day). We have wartime authors like Orwell, Hemingway, Witman, Salinger, and Vonnegut. Shakspeare wrote some of his best work during the plague. Look at West Berlin during the Cold War! Somehow all of these artists too found themselves in a position where the only way out was through, and their way through was with what they could do: art as a shield, a drill, and a tab of LSD. Escape.

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