Thursday, 2 July 2020

The Corona Diaries: Tom Hier



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*Some information mentioned in this article may be out of date due to the progress of the current situation.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* 

Tom Hier is the Co-Director of Musical Theatre Virtual. His credits include Prince Charming/Policeman in CinderELLA: The Musical (Nuffield Southampton); Jack in The Dreamers (Abbey Road Studios); Matt in Bare: A Pop Opera (The Vaults, London); Miss Saigon (UK Tour); Chuck Cranston in Footloose (UK Tour) and 1st cover Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (UK tour).

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 in my flat in London and at that point, my reaction was, "Wow, really? I can't believe that". It felt like early days in the whole pandemic then, and I guess in a selfish way, until then it seemed like an issue that I was (thankfully) disconnected from. Not that I wasn't already taking precautions, because as a household we were, but I guess it was the first moment where I realised "Hm, this is going to be worse than we thought".

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

I've actually been very productive. Aside from my acting career, I've always loved teaching. For the last three years in between and during jobs, I've been coaching prospective drama school students and aspiring actors; facilitating them on their path of becoming an actor. Thankfully, I was already doing a lot of this coaching online, so the shift to online format was a relatively smooth one. 

A couple of weeks into lockdown, things were getting busy, and I decided to merge companies with a great friend of mine, Ryan O'Gorman, to form 'Musical Theatre Virtual' (insta, facebook, twitter, website, check us out!). Since then it's been all-consuming, in a good way. I've learnt so much & it's given me a schedule to work around - something I'm really thankful. We've got a long way to go, but we want to become the ultimate facilitator for aspiring actors on their journeys, and I think we'll get there! 

Aside from 'business', I've actually been really creative - I bought some studio recording equipment and I've used it every week for various collaborations and projects - That's another thing that I think has been great for me during this time - collaborating. New talents however, hm, I don't think so, there were a few things I wanted to achieve during this time but the teaching business has swamped it! - but, I do make a VERY decent coffee!

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?

Time OFF. Away from phone and social media. Week two of lockdown I stopped watching the news daily because I felt it was starting to dictate my mood for the day. Meditation - headspace & calm are fantastic. I'm not a spiritual person, but they help me. Time OFF for me is also going outside, exercising, playing video games, chatting to friends, it can be anything. As a generation, I think we find it difficult to concentrate on one task at a time. For example, we are so used to checking our emails, whilst making a cuppa, whilst having a chat to someone in the room, whilst thinking about what you need to do that day, with the radio on in the background. There aren't many activities that you have to give your full attention to and do not work with distractions. I find these sorts of activities encourage the most efficient time completely OFF. As I said, video games, reading, playing an instrument are things that really help me 'lose' myself sometimes. 

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

Keep spirits up. We will be back stronger than ever. In the meantime, there's loads of great stuff happening online at the moment, and it's pretty easy to stay up to date with your favourite shows/artists. 

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

There's loads of free streams of some stellar theatrical productions. National, RSC and of course, Disney Plus.

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

Without exaggeration, In fourteen weeks, I think I've had 25+ Zoom calls, 50+ facetimes/video calls, weekly family zooms and several phone calls. Early on I made it a priority to reach out to friends and family. I slowly became the instigator of this in most of my close relationships, it's great, but it's also tiring - but to be honest, I'm usually like that in normal life anyway! 

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

Honestly, at this stage I just can't wait to be able to see and hug my best friends and family - for me, that's the most important thing. When we get back, the industry will be different and it'll most probably be harder than ever to get a contract, but I'm still excited at the prospect of being back on a stage with a packed audience once more. I think we need to put it all into our own perspectives - there is only so much we can control ourselves, so just focus on that, and not on the stuff we can't control. 

We'd like to thank Tom 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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