I miss the audience: a French performer's life in COVID lockdown

PARIS (Reuters) - On the stage at the Hebertot theatre in Paris, Trinidad Garcia is re-enacting a scene from her one-woman show, “For you to keep loving yourself,” to an audience of zero.

The show premiered in September and was meant to run at the theatre until December, before COVID-19 intervened. A nationwide lockdown has forced the closure of the theatre, and the cancellation of the shows.

“There are days when, what weighs on me in this solitude, is the lack of contact with the public,” said the 55-year-old, who goes by the stage name Trinidad.

“I do the play for the people, do be with people, I’ve always done that,” she said, reprising for Reuters a performance that she last gave to a live audience of 8 people on Oct. 29, the day before the lockdown came into force.

Nearly a year into the global pandemic, many workplaces have found a way to keep ticking over, but live performance is struggling. The industry’s business model, packing spectators into a confined space, does not sit well with social distancing.

Trinidad receives a stipend from a government insurance scheme for out of work people in the performing arts, of 1,500 euros ($1,780) a month.

“At the moment what I get is just enough to pay my rent and my taxes, and my phone. I’ll need to make sacrifices on everything to do with food and other things,” she said in her studio apartment in Paris which she shares with a cat called Beau Gosse.

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Trinidad writes her own material, and her work focuses on themes of female empowerment.

She is working on ideas for a new play, about life for women in lockdown, but she is not sure when she will be able to perform it live.

People are scared to gather together, they have little spare cash, and the financial eco-system of theatre has been disrupted by COVID-19, she said.

“So yes, indeed, how are we going to start all that back up again?”

Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Giles Elgood