Imogen Usherwood (Editor) introduces a new project for First Night in a period of uncertainty.

As I write this, I am still in Durham, but it has changed perceptibly in the last few days – the streets are quiet, libraries and classrooms are shut, and most students who haven’t left already are making plans to do so. You don’t need me to tell you the reason but, even though there is no confirmed case of COVID-19 in Durham City as of yet, it has nevertheless made its presence felt. More specifically for my interests as Editor of First Night, Durham Student Theatre has taken a hit – all shows scheduled for Week Ten and over the Easter vacation have been cancelled.

No performances is not only a sad state of affairs for the DST community, but it also means no reviews, not directors’ notes – in short, it means no First Night. This publication exists for the sake of DST, and if DST falls silent then, in theory, so should this website.

Of course, though, DST is not going to fall silent – as I write there are ideas in the pipeline for self-isolating alternatives to student theatre. And in the meantime, First Night will keep going, too. Over the coming weeks or months, we will be producing content from across the DST community, with people writing about what matters to them in the worlds of arts and theatre in the wake of current circumstances.

Writing is so important, not just to record what is going on at this scary and uncertain time, but also because it helps us to make sense of everything. Even after writing these 500 words, I feel a little calmer about being alone in my flat right now. For all its many faults, the internet is wonderful because we can stay connected at a time like this; we will all retreat for a while, but in that time we can read books and watch films and learn facts and play games and write words, and we will return with a new energy and enthusiasm for life. As such, this is a call for anyone in the DST community to get in touch, and share whatever it is they have to say.

Hopefully, it will stand the test of time as a record of how a group of theatre kids felt when their favourite thing came under threat. Theatres all over the country are taking the tough decision to close, but there are still performers and writers and creatives, sitting at home, working on things that matter to them. At Durham, I have the pleasure to count myself among some of these people, and I can’t wait to see what we come up with.

So for now, watch this space – First Night isn’t going anywhere. It’s been my pleasure to edit it, and hopefully it will continue to be until June.

If you would like to contribute to First Night, please email [email protected], either with something you have already written, or with some ideas of what you would like to write – anything and everything is welcomed, but ideally with a DST or theatrical-based element to it.

Image: Durham University