Jump by Charly Evon Simpson

Preserving Art Through a Pandemic

By Airielle Vincent

Professor William Flood

This week, we’re shining the spotlight on a professor at Tennessee State University transforming how college students do theatre during a pandemic. Professor William Flood is a dynamic artist and dedicated educator with experience in practice and theory. He’s taught acting to everyone from children to adults, and toured the United States in musical productions in leading roles. Now he, along with his colleagues, is bringing theatre to life through zoom.

The TSU faculty and students put on the play Jump by Charly Evon Simpson for the fall 2020 academic year. Simpson’s work of art highlights Black voices. “This play deals with all of these issues that affect black people in the Nashville community, seeing yourself being represented. So I feel like we have this impact using local Nashville actors creating this work together at this HBCU and giving a platform to this beautiful story written by a black woman,” explains Professor William Flood. Jump investigates Black families while looking at mental health issues and partner violence.

This work of art came with a few bumps along the way. Faculty members had to navigate costumes for students in different states, rehearsal times, lighting and the internet. Professor Flood explains how different bandwidth speeds affected different scenes. “In acting, you want a quick response when someone gives a line. Well, with Zoom, you have to learn how to anticipate as we’re all learning as professors.” Luckily, everyone is tackling Zoom, Google Meet or WebEx calls together and are understanding during these times.

Professor Flood explained why it is so important to preserve art during these times. “I am thankful through grace that we have been able to find a way to create art in this time, because to every war, through every plague, it is the art that survives. What are people doing right now to get through the pandemic? They’re binging Netflix and looking at Hulu. They’re reading books, listening to music, making TikTok videos and using art to get through this pandemic. So it is always the art that survives,” says Flood. The theatre department at TSU is up for the Young-Howze Theatre award.