Life under lockdown

Published 2:49 pm Saturday, March 28, 2020

Anna Heffington adjusts to New York City in the days of COVID-19

NEW YORK

A little over 1-1/2 years ago, actress Anna Heffington, at age 18, traded the rural, small-town life she had known on her parents’ farm in Windsor for the chance to pursue her dream of a career in musical theatre in New York City.

Anna Heffington

She had just returned this month from a six-month nationwide tour with George Street Playhouse – where she had played the lead in “Anytown,” a new musical about the opioid addiction crisis – and was in the process of trying to find her next gig when she got the news: COVID-19 had come to the city.

According to The New York Times, New York state authorities announced the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the NYC region on Sunday, March 1. Now, the city and its suburbs have become an epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, accounting for roughly 5 percent of confirmed cases worldwide as of Sunday, March 22.

Sunday, March 22 was also the date New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “New York State on PAUSE” executive order took effect, which mandated all non-essential businesses statewide be closed, all non-essential gatherings of any size or any reason be cancelled or postponed, and all residents stay home “to the maximum extent possible.”

“Here in New York, we have watched it go from being told to take the necessary precautions to remain healthy to the governor putting a shelter in place order for the city in just a matter of weeks,” Heffington said.

The impact on Heffington’s career was equally swift. As an actress, she had been relying on day jobs to financially support herself when not employed in full-time productions. She had also been training with some of the city’s top voice and acting coaches, and interning at Steps On Broadway, one of the biggest dance studios in New York City.

“Suddenly, this work has ground to a halt,” Heffington said. “Although I am not able to work and I can’t attend my usual classes, I have found a number of ways to continue growing and learning as an artist. It’s definitely the biggest challenge I’ve faced in my career so far, but I’m hoping that we are all able to resume the flow of our lives sooner rather than later. In the mean time, I am staying self-quarantined in the city with my boyfriend, who is also an actor.”

When not performing, Heffington had been working as a nanny. While she is technically still allowed to work during the PAUSE order, as childcare is considered an essential business, “parents are not as keen on hiring me right now because of the risk,” she said. “So I’m not working at all as of now.”

She has, however, been reading books on acting and listening to podcasts and Ted Talks, which she said have helped inspire and motivate her to “keep moving ahead even in these crazy times.”

The governor’s order also includes a 90-day moratorium on any residential or commercial evictions. As for keeping up with other bills while unemployed, Heffington said she’s “taking it one day at a time.”

“During this time where we are required to stay indoors aside from grocery shopping and fresh air, I’ve been doing a lot of song writing and playing my keyboard,” Heffington said. “I also have a YouTube channel where I’ve been posting covers of songs and taking requests from my followers. My boyfriend and I have done a few songs together as well.”

She’s also been continuing her voice lessons digitally, and practicing dance warm-ups and combos that some of her instructors have recorded for her and other students to learn at home.

As for grocery shopping, while streets remain nearly deserted, grocery stores in New York still have “never not been mobbed with people,” Heffington said. Store employees are, however, monitoring the number of people they will allow inside at one time, and are requiring all shoppers to stand in line six feet apart. So far, she hasn’t had trouble finding what she needs to buy.

“We have braved the insanity that is grocery stores a couple times to stock up on food and household items, but for the health and safety of everyone, we are staying indoors or outside as much as we possibly can,” she said.

Her YouTube channel can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRgPg_YPkeT1oxksbKVoymQ.