Wednesday, 15 July 2020

The Corona Diaries: Jessica-Elizabeth Nelson



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!

Jessica-Elizabeth Nelson is currently a Swing and cover Pearl, Dinah, Carrie & Coco in Starlight Express in Bochum, Germany. Her other credits include Alternate Millie & Ensemble in Thoroughly Modern Millie (UK Tour); Billie Bendix in Nice Work if You Can Get It (Upstairs at the Gatehouse) and Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie (Canada). 

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 had just returned from performing in Starlight Express in Germany, as we had to close early due to coronavirus getting worse. When lockdown began and I heard that The Society of London Theatre was to close all London Theatres and at first I thought it was to keep us all safe. But it wasn't until recent months that I realised the true loss for our Theatres and business and the struggle we have yet to face. But if I know anything, showbiz always shines through, and though we have one hell of a fight, we will get through it together. 

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

Since being home, I have used this time to be with my family and fiancé that I would not usually be able to appreciate whilst working and travelling. Recently I have been planning my up-coming wedding for 2021 and buying my first house with my partner, Edward. Which has been a true blessing in disguise. I have also had to figure out different ways to stay fit and healthy during the lockdown. I regularly burst into song whilst running or skating to keep my pipes happy in which the sheep in the fields find very odd. But for now, I am keeping a healthy mindset and seeing a positive outlook on our future as performers. For whilst even when we hit rock bottom, the only way to go is UP!

There’s so much important information and messages being spread on social media but sometimes it can be quite mentally draining and consume a lot of your time, how have you been looking after your mental state whilst using these platforms? 

I find that staying off social media has helped me keep a healthy positive mindset. You don't need social media to get through your everyday life. Find something you're passionate about and build on that. Choreograph routines, find new songs for your repertoire, work on technique, workout. Being creative and inspired will help you get through your everyday life. I have found that yoga and baking has become my way to zen out but may not have necessarily helped my waistline!

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

I like to watch musicals online that offer ways to fund theatres across the UK. I recently watched The Grinning Man, which I originally saw in London 2018, but this was performed and filmed at the Bristol Old Vic and it is truly incredible. The performers are just on another level of inspiring, with puppetry and lead vocal abilities that is pure heaven to your ears. But my point being is these videos share links where you help donate to the National Theatres to help keep them funded. 

And above anything, I would say keep the love and peace going. Our business and showbiz families need it more than ever right now with all the negative press, social media and slow commotion. If we can keep the love and positivity spreading, that will keep our community on a positive road until the day we can finally open our theatre doors once again. 

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

During the lockdown, I have been reading a book called "Skating the Starlight Express" written by my Starlight skate coach, Michel Fraley, who is one of the most incredible, inspirational people I have ever had the privilege to know and work with. It tells the story of how Starlight Express began from his point of view and how it became the phenomenal musical it is today. I also recently watched an inspiring four-part series on Netflix about the first female millionaire, Madame C.J.Walker played by the incredible Octavia Spencer. She creates a line of feminine hair products whilst living in poverty and becomes an incredible success, but not without its flaws along the way. Definitely recommend! 

In these times of Social Distancing and isolation, how have you been trying to connect with Friends and Family?

If it wasn't for Facetime or Zoom, I have no idea how we would get through this time without seeing our family and friends. We had to buy my 90-year-old Nan an Alexa so that if she ever felt alone, ill or needed anything, she could easily drop into our house and give us a call. If we didn't have these incredible ways of contact, I have no idea how we would have gotten through. I weekly Zoom my agent, BBA Management, with the rest of our BBA team and clients to keep up to date on latest Theatre matters, COVID-19 updates and personal lives. I find this helpful and supportive to have close contact with my agents during this pandemic as what you read online isn't always the correct information. But truly, I am counting my blessings daily to have this time with my family and fiancĂ© as I know as a performer time means everything, so use it wisely. 

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

I am mostly looking forward to performing again and meeting new creatives and performers that will be as hungry as I am to start our next adventure. The best part about working in this business is the passion that we share for what we do and after this pandemic is over, I can only imagine how exciting it's going to be to feel that energy shared on stage once again. 

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

For more information please visit GOV.UK and NHS.co.uk

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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