Since the coronavirus has forced schools in the DMV area into closure, GDS clubs have tried to keep some sort of routine and normalcy. Through online meetings, students remain connected over common interests and passions.
For many GDS students, clubs are engaging, social spaces that offer support and a sense of community. This sentiment was echoed by both senior Natasha Zimmermann and Performing Arts Department Chair Laura Rosberg.
“In my experience,” Zimmermann said, “clubs have been a big part of my life at GDS. They are fun and engaging and build a sense of community.”
Rosberg added to this idea when speaking about theater. “It’s really about that social time. They [members of the theater club] are all schmoozing while they are sewing costumes and having a good time and meeting together,” she said.
However, club time has changed since quarantine. Many of the rituals that build a sense of comradery among GDS students are postponed because they rely on being in the same space. For example, the spring musical, Matilda, has been put on hold until next fall. There will be no warm-up routines before the shows, ritualized dances, jokes after shows or late-night brainstorming sessions.
Rosberg said, “It’s those rituals and the wild energy that can’t be replicated, which is really sad and disappointing.”
Other performance and conference-based events also face dramatic changes. For example, the D.C. a capella performance AC in DC was canceled, which was quite disappointing for singers.
Zimmermann, a head of the a capella group Notified, said, “I’m really sad” the a capella concert was canceled. “We spent so much time practicing and preparing.”
Despite the cancellation of performances and conferences, many clubs are trying or hoping to maintain some sort of routine during these uncertain times. For example, Model UN, the Jewish Student Coalition (JSC), the theater program, Academic Committee, Fata Morgana and more all tried to either continue meeting online in order to host elections for next year or to continue some of the club’s work. For some clubs, such as the Student Staff Counsel (SSC), the quarantine has led to increased attendance at recent club Zoom meetings.
SSC President senior Gigi Silla said, “I also have noticed that more people attended last week’s meeting than usual since we are no longer competing with sports and theater rehearsals.”
Likewise, senior Emily Axelrod saw a higher turnout at Student Voices, a current events and politics discussion club, and a lot of new faces at JSC. “I think people are seeking and finding community among affinity groups and clubs, which is a silver lining,” Axelrod said.
Zimmermann said that the Academic Committee has had some of its most thorough meetings yet. Attendees had in-depth discussions about GDS’ grading and testing policies during distance learning.
The cast of the spring musical has also met over Zoom and planned to create a mini concert that will be recorded and posted on the GDS website through the use of recorded orchestrations and mixers. In addition, theater designers will be able to share some of their work online. Rosberg said, “They actually will be able to demonstrate a huge amount via shared screens.”
Fata Morgana plans to have a similar virtual mini-show that will be ready for release by mid-May. Even though Fata over Zoom is not nearly as engaging as regular in-person meetings or performances, according to junior McKenzie Jameson, the Fata heads plan on being creative in order to make virtual Fata happen. “Distance dancing is not nearly as fun,” she said. “But these unique times require us to think outside the box a bit.”
Although Zoom is helpful, GDS students have noticed limitations with club meetings over live video platforms. According to Silla, meetings over Zoom seemed to diminish some people’s willingness to participate in the conversation.
Axlerod also commented on the challenges of online meetings for large clubs such as Model UN. “It’s harder to have the same kind of dialogue as when you are in a room together,” she said.
Although online club meetings aren’t perfect, GDS students and faculty are working to create online spaces where students can support one another and, during these uncertain, stressful times, feel connected.