For months now, our casual conversations, social media posts and small talk have revolved around how we are dealing with the current pandemic and its associated new rules, guidelines, behaviors, reactions, adaptations, etc., etc., ad infinitum.

I hadn’t noticed until this week that the common thread seems to the notion that “everything is different.” Not just some things, but everything.

One aspect of life that has been different for many is the absence of live performances, of which I’m a big fan. Theatre and music groups of all sizes, all around the world, have had to cancel their seasons – or drastically reduce them.

For a while, even solo or duo musicians were stopped cold – when bars and restaurants were closed, they didn’t need live music to entertain customers.

Livestreaming became popular for many. On a given night, one could tune in to a Facebook Live performance by any number of groups or singles, singing and playing guitars. It wasn’t the same.

Gradually, things started to open up, restaurants and bars were allowed to serve, and smaller groups of patrons could listen – from a distance – to live musicians. It still wasn’t the same.

Performance venues on the other hand, have only recently been allowed to reopen. The thing is, theatres, choral groups and orchestras can’t yet offer their plays, musicals and concerts because there are still the issues of hiring actors, crew, orchestra musicians and others, then scheduling and holding rehearsals, having costumes made, executing a marketing plan, getting programs printed – there’s a long list of preparations to be made.

Two local groups, the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina and Lean Ensemble Theatre, got creative over the months and found ways to connect with their fans and patrons via the internet.

The Arts Center offered art classes for all ages, a play-reading group,  and a happy hour experience called “Quarantini With …,” in which marketing director Andrea Gannon holds a video conference call with a director or actor from a recent show at the theatre. These are fun to watch on YouTube, but it’s not the same as being in the theatre.

Lean Ensemble Theatre also has offered several video chats, called “QuaranLEAN,” with actors and friends. These jewels of theatric discussions are also posted on YouTube. Director Blake White recently met up with actor-directors George Pate and Libby Ricardo and their infant son Barrett (while son Marlowe napped upstairs).

And it was here that I heard my friend Libby make a profound statement that has stuck with me for days.

Blake and Libby were talking about a play, “Cry It Out,” that was in rehearsal when life ground to a halt. The play has been rescheduled for March 2021. Libby will reprise her role of a young mother juggling parenthood and a job – themes with which she is personally familiar.

The two were discussing how the message of the show might be different than it was when the actors were rehearsing months ago.

“It will be an entirely different story,” Libby said. “I will be an entirely different person, having lived in quarantine with my family,” she said. Further, for the audiences, she said, “I think it’s going to be a different show because we are all collectively living in a different time, and we’ll come out of it different people.”

And that was the profound part, something I hadn’t considered before. When this pandemic situation is over, and we go back to gathering, hugging, traveling and getting back to some semblance of our previous lives, it won’t be the same.

Life will be different, we will all be different – because we have lived through this unique time.

May we all be the better for it.