San Diego’s Joey Landwehr said he once read a study that found watching a live theatre performance “can synchronize your heartbeat with other people in the audience, regardless of if you know them or not.”
Because of the heightened, extraordinary nature of theatre, people experiencing it can overcome group differences and produce a communal audience experience,” said Landwehr, who has worked in theatre for three decades.
For that reason, Landwehr, artistic director for the JCompany Youth Theatre, believes art will guide the world through the pandemic.
“It is the artist that will create the story and tell our history to the world,” said Landwehr, who lives in Mission Hills with his husband of nearly 20 years. “It is the artist who brings us out of this pandemic with humor and honesty and compassion and will guide us, through empathy and wisdom to the other side.”
That belief is what’s driving Landwehr to continue his mission of teaching the next generation of artists despite the challenges that have risen with the pandemic. Landwehr, who has worked with the JCompany Youth Theatre for roughly 15 years, said he was forced to take his classes and plays digital as a result of the stay-at-home order that was announced in mid-March.
“The pandemic has created so many challenges, but at the same time, challenges bring opportunities,” Landwehr said. “I will say I am so very grateful to work for a parent organization, the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, that gets it. They understand the importance of engaging young people in the arts, especially now, because these young people are the voices that need to be heard and that will lead us into the future.”
For that reason, the JCompany Youth Theatre is planning to build an outdoor stage to host live performances again. On that stage, Landwehr said they will be hosting William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” in mid-October and Bess Welden’s “Magic In the Attic” in November, among other events.
Being able to drive a love of the arts among young people is what keeps Landwehr going through these rough weeks.
“Watching these young artists grow and thrive and learn through the arts, teaching them about different cultures and philosophies and opening their mind up to grand possibilities they never knew existed (is what I’m most proud of),” Landwehr said. “When you see that light come into their eyes, there is no better feeling.”
For more information about the JCompany Youth Theatre, go to sdcjc.org/jc/.
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