Thursday, 2 April 2020

The Corona Diaries: Jennifer Tierney

These recent times have been some of the hardest challenges we've faced and as a community, it hit us pretty hard. However during these difficult times, here at Pocket Size Theatre, we wanted to spread a little positivity and share some peoples experiences because we are all in this together. Each day we'll be speaking to our friends in the industry to share their experiences with you all so take a read and see how people are getting through these hard times. 

Let's stick together, share the love and get through this as a community! 

*Some information mentioned in this article may be out of date due to the progress of the current situation. Please keep that in mind when reading*

Jennifer Tierney is currently in the London company of Come From Away, having been part of the original West End cast. Her other credits include Shrek the Musical (UK & Ireland); Wicked (Apollo Victoria); Mamma Mia! (International Tour & RCL); Jerry Springer the Opera (National Tour); Saturday Night Fever (RCL); Chess (Oslo Spektrum); Carousel (Royal Festival Hall); Godspell (Chichester Festival Theatre) and Lord of the Rings – The Musical (Theatre Royal Drury Lane).

On Monday 16th March 2020, The Society of London Theatre announced the closure of all Theatres in London. This followed suit with regional venues. Where were you when you found out and what was your initial reaction? 

I was at the Phoenix theatre just heading down to warm up for our Monday night show - we got a call to the stage by our Company Manager and the whole company stood with our producer John Brant who gave an emotional speech explaining that the show had to close with no certainty of what was ahead. As you can imagine it was an incredibly sad moment and I think we were all in shock. I don't think anyone really expected it to happen that abruptly even though there were rumblings of the industry closing down as Broadway had a few days beforehand. But when it actually became a reality it was really hard to take it in. To be honest, it still doesn’t feel real. We all decided to get drinks from our dressing room and all came down to the stage and had a couple of hours together and then those of us that were left - did Welcome to the rock with the drum - all the FOH team came into the upper circle and it was a real feeling of unity. We all truly believed it wouldn’t be the last time we sang that song and it was our way of saying we will be back stronger than ever as soon as we are allowed.

Can you tell us anything productive you’ve been doing? 

After a couple of days I realised how bored I was going to be and so I had a mad panic to find things to keep me occupied! I bought paints, a jigsaw, songs online to learn, dug out books. I haven’t painted since I was a kid but it seemed like something I could do that would pass time. The latest thing I bought was a giant canvas of a map which is paint by numbers - so that's going to take some time and ill have something to show for my time at the end of all this! I've also signed up to a 21-day monologue/self-tape challenge. Every 24 hours you get a monologue, learn it and work on it - self-tape it and then upload it to a website with other actors - so that will be a challenge for me and so far removed from my comfort zone. I’ve also signed up to a course at Yale University which was free called The Science of Wellbeing. I've yet to start that but its 8 weeks of study that will hopefully teach me how to be a better version of myself. I think this period of time, even though it's been forced on us, will allow people time to stop and reflect. I have moments where I feel scared and anxious for how long it will last and really miss working and seeing my friends, but if we can find a positive to come out of it, it's using the time that's been given to us to try new things. I'm going to try my best to do that at least. To make the most of it even when I miss my ’normality’. 

Whenever you log onto social media there is so much negativity circulating. How have you been trying to keep a positive mental attitude during these times? 

I found myself watching the news all day and scrolling through social media leading up to the closures and I realised pretty quickly that it was eating me up. All the anxiety and confusion was really affecting me. The realism of what was happening in the world. So now I limit myself to the 5pm speech from the government each day and try to stay off social media. I think managing time is important and not allowing yourself to get sucked further into a downward spiral - trying to stay occupied with other things and finding a balance of understanding the situation is important but also keeping your mind on positive things however simple is vital. And the main thing, staying connected with people. We are lucky to live in an age of FaceTime and house party - and I have honestly never facetimed as much as I have in the past couple of weeks!

With the Arts temporarily shut down, how would you advise people to continue to support the Arts industries? 

There are lots of things growing each day using online platforms. Live streaming of gigs, classes to take online, workshops and masterclasses. I think we need to find a way to keep the arts alive and find ways to look forward to when we are thriving in the theatres again! I guess when things become more definite and the worst has passed we can all start channelling our energy in to moving forward and getting past all this so that we can start telling our stories again! Theatre will be so important when we are back! I think especially Come From Aways message - of how we unite in humanity when being challenged. I think our story will resonate with people more than ever when we come through this!

Have you discovered anything that you’d like to recommend to our viewers? 

It depends on what you need as an individual. I think finding something that will inspire you and fill a void in some way can only be a good thing. Finding something that educates you or something to keep creative juices flowing. Projects to make you tick. Something to look back on this time and feel like you made the best of a bad situation.

In these times of Social Distancing and isolation, how have you been trying to connect with Friends and Family? Any fun quizzes or games?! 

YES! As I mentioned I FaceTime one or two friends a day and speak to my family every day. I wanted to go back to Scotland but it was too risky so I make sure to speak to my folks every day. My friend is doing a quiz live online every Sunday night at 8pm! Samuel Holmes - you should check him out! It's a great fun distraction for an hour!

And finally, looking to the future, what are you most looking forward to when all of this is over? 

I am so looking forward to being able to get back to normal. I miss being able to see friends, I miss having a routine of going to the theatre every day, I miss being on stage, I miss dressing room banter; so much of what was normal. I can't wait to be able to breathe a sigh of relief knowing it's over and we can all get back to living and making memories whatever they may be - but for sure - I intend to make the most of every single second and appreciate it all.

We'd like to thank Jennifer and all the other performers who have given up their time to contribute to this feature. 

For more information please visit GOV.UK and

Other useful links for anyone needing further help: 

Acting For Others - Charity that provides financial & emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need. 
Help Musicians - An independent Charity that helps all forms of Musicians through times of need. 
Industry Minds - Mental Health Support for the creative arts. 
Theatre Helpline - a free, independent and confidential phone and email service that provides support to people working in the theatre industry.
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