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Teens Share Pandemic Perspectives In Cleveland Public Theatre Production

Moth Teets and Easton Sumlin as seen in a Zoom rehearsal with Cleveland Public Theatre. [Cleveland Public Theatre]
Moth Teets and Easton Sumlin as seen in a Zoom rehearsal with Cleveland Public Theatre. [Cleveland Public Theatre]

With much of daily life taking place on screens, Cleveland Public Theatre’s Student Theatre Enrichment Program, STEP, only attracted a couple of young actors for the latest virtual session.

Cleveland School of the Arts freshman Moth Teets admits they were skeptical at first about creating and performing theater over Zoom.

“It's definitely not the same as being on stage,” Teets said.

Since trying it, however, Teets is glad to participate.

“I love theater," Teets said. “And even if it's not going to be the exact same as it was, I still want to do theater.”

Teets and Easton Sumlin, a sophomore at Univeristy School, developed their own production, “A Pandemic Point of View.” The two perform in front of computer screens in their respective homes, appearing side by side in Zoom video boxes. The production raises a variety of important issues in their lives, including mental health. 

“I think at a lot of schools, it's not talked about a lot,” Teets said. “And mental health is a big, big issue, especially with teenagers with depression and anxiety.”

The two young actors explore anxiety in a scene set in an elevator where something goes wrong.

“My character is chill with it at first, but then slowly spirals down into a panic state,” Sumlin said.

Comparing that scene to anxiety felt during the pandemic, Sumlin said he can relate to feeling fairly calm when COVID-19 first hit. But that changed with time.

“When it started to get close to summer, I was like, ‘OK, when's this going to be over?’ And now I'm at the point where it's just like, just let it end,” Sumlin said. “I want to go outside with my friends. I want to go to theme parks. I want to travel without quarantining.”

In addition to exploring feelings around the pandemic that can be hard to express, the teens also demonstrate relief in the production through dance.

“There are certain things that all of us have done to give us a bit of balm in the midst of Gilead,” said Ed Blunt, their director.

He has found joy and energy working with the teens through the STEP program, which started in the ‘90s as both an opportunity for acting experience and paid job training.

“There's a level of courage that they exhibit in their everyday lives, because they're contending with a set of circumstances that my generation just didn't have to deal with,” Blunt said. “I find them to be very inspiring in just how they move through life.”

“A Pandemic Point of View” streams online today and Saturday via Zoom.


Carrie Wise is the deputy editor of arts and culture at Ideastream Public Media.