EPISODE 12: THE STORY ABOUT

Surviving Quarantine

with the Arts

with Evan Fagin

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Every time I’m feeling anxious or anytime I’m feeling “okay, I don’t know if I could take this anymore, might go a little nuts,” I write down everything I am feeling, and I read it back. And then I just realize it’s just a moment. It’s just a passing moment, and we’re gonna be fine.

Jamie
As important as ever in these trying times, The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM remains committed to sharing the stories of teachers, artists and leaders through the Teaching Trailblazers podcast. I’m Jamie Hipp and today we spend time with Evan Fagin, a performer on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas, a ship currently quarantined in Southeast Asia. Evan is a veteran performer whose numerous contracts include roles for Norwegian and Disney Cruise Lines, Universal Studios in both Florida and Japan, the national tour of 12 Irish Tenors with Debbie Reynolds, Sandi Patti and Michael W. Smith, and countless roles in New York and regional theaters nationwide. Evan, we’re so thankful for you giving us a few moments of your day during this very uncertain time.

Evan
Jamie, thank you so much for having me on today. It’s an honor to be here and talk to you guys.

Jamie
Prior to the global pandemic of Coronavirus and subsequent COVID-19 infection, you were in the middle of a grueling cruise ship performance schedule. Can you share a little bit about your onboard life and responsibilities prior to the pandemic?

Evan
Yes, Before the pandemic came about, we were doing 4 and 5 day cruises out of Singapore. Um, it switched every cruise where we went, out of Singapore we’d go to Malaysia, and then another cruise would go to Thailand. Um, and in those 4 and 5 day cruises, we have two shows that happen every cruise. Each show is done twice. Um, so in the morning before your show, you would have a tech run. So we were always doing rehearsals prior to our show. Um, and then at night we would do two shows for the guests. Besides that, our responsibilities are safety duties, you do packs drill – you know, when guests go on the ship, the day they get on, they have to go to their emergency stations to find out where they would go in case anything ever happened. So the cast is involved in that. My other responsibilities is I’m the vocal captain for this cast. So my job is when we’re not doing shows to maintain the shows. I watch the videos of the previous performances and give the singer’s notes on each performance what to improve on, things that might have changed since, you know, we’ve installed the show and with the directors. So that is, that is my job as well to keep up the integrity of the shows. So that was our schedule, Um, you know, until everything came about.

Jamie
Wow. I’m sure much has changed in the past several weeks. We know you’re quarantined on a ship with no audiences to perform to. So how are you spending your days now?

Evan
Oh, yes. Life is very different now. Um, we have been without guests since February 15th. Um, and now I think today is our 42nd day of no guests and unable to go to any ports. So we have just been quarantined on the ship. Just crew. Life now is very different. Um, you have to keep yourself busy. Um, I know I went home for a medical issue and got back on February 15th and because I flew to Singapore, I had to be quarantined in my cabin. Um, just to make sure that, you know, I didn’t have it and to spread it to anyone on the ship. So being quarantined in my cabin by myself for seven days, I… you know, I had to keep busy. I had to make my schedule. “Okay, I’m still gonna get up early. I’m still gonna work out. Even though my room is small, I’m gonna do hit workouts.” You know, you can google anything like prison workouts, and you have a little floor. I, you know, used a box of filled water bottles, and I would use that to lift weights. Um, I would, um, practice singing, obviously um, and I also started doing a course by Julia Cameron called The Artist’s Way. It’s an amazing course, I’ve never done it before, but I decided “Hey, I have free time. I’m gonna do it. Everyone has told me about it.” Um and no, she has not paid me to promote this, but I’m just saying it’s literally – I’m on week 4 now, and it’s a 12 week course. You could just buy the book on iTunes, and as an artist or anyone of you know, you’re not artist. It’s amazing. It opens up your mind, gets you out of your little funk or your space. So that has really helped me out a lot. It’s extremely funny how it’s, the book is so parallel to what I’m going through. Um, but yeah, life is just very different now, but if you don’t keep busy, you will go crazy. But you just have to keep a normal routine. Definitely. Like once I was out of my room and able to go around the ship, which I’ve been able to do for the last, uh, 30 something days. Um, you know, you go to the gym, make sure you go to the gym, make sure you go outside, get some fresh air. Um, what I – sometimes when I get into my head and I need to let things out, I write everything down on a piece of paper because if you keep it in, it just goes crazy. So what I do is every time I’m feeling anxious or anytime I’m feeling “okay, I don’t know if I could take this anymore, I might go a little nuts” I write down everything I am feeling, and I read it back. And then I just realize it’s just a moment. It’s just a passing moment and we’re gonna be fine.

Jamie
I’m just so glad you found The Artist’s  Way. And my goodness, such a contrast to life before Coronavirus. What do you find yourself missing the most about performing?

Evan
What I’m missing the most about performing is I’m missing my outlet. I’m missing, I guess as performers, we sometimes forget that where we live is on stage. That is our, that’s our being. That’s what we strive for. Like for me personally, if I can go on stage and impact someone through my voice or through anything I do onstage, that’s what I live for. And right now, you don’t have people that we could do that for. We were lucky enough to do a few crew shows for the crew who don’t normally get to see the shows when the guests are here. And that was great to do, um, but now that they’ve seen both shows, you know we haven’t done it. Um, so, yeah, you definitely miss the, the giving of yourself to help people. That’s what I view performing. You are giving a part of yourself to the audience. And when you don’t do that, sometimes you can feel like you don’t have a purpose. Sometimes you can feel lost. Um, which is why you have to rehearse. Which is why you need to stay busy, like record stuff. If you’re a singer, write stuff down if you can write lyrics. Um, you know, you can go on, um, Garageband and create beats. I love doing that on my off time. Um ah, lot of the dancers will, you know, we’ll go on the stage and they’ll film dance reels or create dances. Um, so at least that is keeping us performing, but we definitely still miss it.

Jamie
Earlier, you said, this is day 42 of quarantine, and at the time this episode is streaming, it will be even longer, unfortunately. Have you seen the arts lift the spirits of other crew members on board during this difficult time?

Evan
100%. I have seen the arts lift the spirits of everyone on this cruise or on this cruise ship, I should say. Um, all the crew members, like… if you could just see their faces when we came and we did our crew show for them, or even the bands playing in some of the venues, just to give the crew an outlet to go to it, express themselves to go dance, to watch a show, to escape life for a second. It totally brings up morale. It totally brings up people’s joy and their spirits. People go to watch a show or listen to music to escape life. So yeah, it’s definitely, definitely one of the positives. If you’re gonna be stuck quarantine on a cruise ship, thank God you’re stuck with entertainers and people who love the arts because you will not be bored. We will uplift your spirits.

Jamie
From tenors singing on balconies during Italy’s quarantine to the many museums offering virtual tours, right now, it seems that we need the arts now more than ever. We at the Institute have been compiling online arts resources in our Facebook group titled Arts Integration and Steam Think Tank, but I know our listeners would love to hear a couple of performing arts ideas for their own time in quarantine. If you don’t mind sharing.

Evan
Oh, some things that we’re doing. Um, it’s funny. We are quarantined with a whole bunch of entertainers and performers. But not only are people, singers and dancers and musicians, everyone has a hobby. So it’s amazing that I am here with people who, you know, people are photographers. Um, people are here, they want to do photo shoots. Um, you know, I’m in the process of recording some music, and there’s a guy here who is great with the camera and he makes films. So we’re doing music videos. And with the dancers here, you know, I’m having them gonna come and be in the music videos. And so it’s you… like, the possibilities of what you can do in quarantine, think outside the box. Don’t just think I’m stuck in my house or I’m stuck on this cruise ship or I’m stuck in my cabin in my room. Um, I’m not with my friends. If you’re not with your friends, grab a phone. Record yourself singing, record yourself doing a dance, post it on social media. Express yourself. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by creative people and to do all of these projects, and it’s like a… It’s a time in life where everything is paused and we can work on things that are gonna better us. So you can either better yourself or you, you won’t better yourself and you’ll just be depressed and you won’t be thriving. You’ll just be stuck in this, “Okay, we’re quarantine and everything is… you know, this stinks right now.”  Yes, it does. It’s an awful situation. But you have to make the best of every situation because if not, you will drive yourself crazy.

Jamie
Thanks for sharing. And you mentioned numerous creatives in your answer. The photographers, the dancers, the singers. I’m sure it’s been on all of your minds. And truly it should be on our minds as well: how can we help the arts community survive during this time?

Evan
Jamie, a way to help the arts right now would be… Everyone is affected by this, and a lot of people have been laid off. A lot of people have lost their jobs, not only in entertainment-wise around the world, but just everyone around the world. Um, what people can do is if you had, you know, tickets to a show, feel free if you can, if you can donate the money to the theater or to the artist, please do that. Please try not to ask for a refund unless you really need it. Because a lot of artists, a lot of performers, we are independent contractors. This is our life. This is our livelihood. A lot of my friends back home, um, a lot of their gigs have been canceled. A lot of their shows. So right now there is no income, and sometimes because you are a contractor and your contract is supposed to end, um, sometimes you can’t file for unemployment because, well, you know, you’re a contractor, so it’s over. Um, so a lot of artists are dealing with that right now. I know the world is, but for me, my world is the arts, and that’s what I know. So a lot of the artists are dealing with being unemployed, being laid off and not knowing how long it is until they’re gonna get paid again for a gig. That’s like me. I don’t know when the cruise ship companies are gonna come back into play. No one knows when the world is gonna come back and, you know, be normal again. Um, so, yeah, if people can donate money to artists that they know, if there’s any fundraisers that they see online, please look into that. Don’t forget about the arts. Don’t forget about the performers. Because in everyday life, what do people do? They watch TV, They they listen to music. They go to the theaters. They… art entertains everyone all the time. That’s how we get through life. Without us, what would you do?

Jamie
Evan, those are such amazing ideas. And we cannot imagine how difficult it must be for you to be so far away from home during this time. We will continue to send you healthy thoughts and positive vibes for your eventual return to performer life. In the meantime, where can our listeners learn more about you and your work?

Evan
Jamie, I want to thank you for having me on today. Like, honestly, it’s been great to talk to you guys. Um, anyone can find me on YouTube, Instagram Facebook. Just search Evan Fagin. And the last name is F A G I N. Um, just search that, my name will come up and I just want to say yes, we’re stuck on a cruise ship and every but everyone is healthy. Everyone is safe. We are good. We are just waiting for a report so we could dock and we could eventually get home. Um, I pray that everyone on land, anyone who’s listening to this, you guys are safe. Um, stay home. A lot of people are not listening to the stay home or think that it’s silly. Um, please stay home because it’s affecting everyone else. It’s affecting people like me who are stuck on a ship and can’t get to a port because countries are closed. So, really, just if you can, as much as you can stay home, stay away from people, wash your hands. This is gonna pass. We will come out of this. But just right now, what we have to do is take care of each other. And the only thing we have to do by taking care of each other is to stay in our houses.

Jamie
Teaching Trailblazers is a production of The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM. And I’ve been your host, Jamie Hipp. This podcast is produced, edited and mixed by Jaime Patterson.