Creativity in a Time of Crisis

Theatre artists are channelling their energy into other mediums while live entertainment is on hiatus.

Everyone has been forced to make adjustments over the past few months. How are live theatre artists adapting? Well, as the creative human beings they are, they are channelling their energy into all sorts of incredible mediums. From macramé to meringue, tarot reading to clay treasures, these artists are still putting their talents to good use to spread joy and light.


While most of these new endeavors for these artists began as a result of quarantine, Tony Lawton has been baking for years, bringing home-baked pies to cast gatherings and delivering the occasional special event pie to friends. Since the pandemic, however, he’s made baking his full-time job, delivering 30-40 pies each week. He says, “I lost the gig I was doing at People’s Light, and the next 2 gigs I had.  I soon realized there’d probably be no more theatre work till fall of 2021 I thought, ‘I’d better get a job.”


Bailey Roper, a local performer and educator, also got creative when they found themselves out of work. When not acting or teaching performing arts, Bailey is a yoga instructor. Obviously, those opportunities were sidelined with the arrival of the pandemic as well. They say “I really firmly believe everyone deserves a space to practice movement in a way that feels excellent and I hate the idea that that space needs to be a gym or fitness center.” What better time to experiment with digital fitness than during lockdown? Thus, Dude, Sweet Moves was born: a free, inclusive video fitness platform.


Noelle Diane Johnson, a Philadelphia Artist, Theatre Professional, and Energy Healer , chose to use the hiatus of live arts as a chance to share her gifts of clairvoyance, clairsentience, and clairaudience by offering Energy Healing and Chakra Alignment services. She also focuses on create liberated spaces for BIPOC, POC, LGBTQ+, disabled and femme-identifying folx. Personal development, growth, and working through trauma is certainly something all of us could benefit from in these trying times.


In fact, both Sam Tower’s macramé plant hangers and Grayce Hoffman and Paige Zubel’s jewelry making started as coping mechanisms for these theatre artists. Grayce and Paige have had regular Zoom crafting sessions since March which eventually turned out so much material, they started selling to friends and family out of necessity. They now have shipped handmade earrings and pins to people all across the country.


Ultimately, the most beautiful thing about what each of these artists is doing is that, much like theatre, the “product” is really about bringing joy and catharsis to their audiences.


Sam Tower says, “Caring for houseplants is bringing people joy during the pandemic, and these macramé plant hangers are like little hugs for the plants in your life. I feel a lot of love when people bring my creations into their home, and it’s allowing me to raise funds to donate to causes I care about, give gifts to friends, and ultimately, practice something soothing for my mind, body, and heart.”

Check out their wares for yourself:

Tony Lawton Pies:

Sam Tower Macramé:

Instagram @macramebymonday

Grapeseed Crafts:

Instagram: @grapeseedcrafts

Noelle Diane Johnson, Energy Healing and Tarot Reading:

Instagram: @warmweathernoelle

Dude, Sweet Moves : Instagram @dudesweetmoves


About the Artists


Noelle Diane Johnson (she/her) was born in DC, raised in Maryland, and cultivated in Philadelphia. She is a Philadelphia-based Artist, Theatre professional, DEI Consultant, Storyteller, Energy Healer, Intuitive Channel, Tarot Card Reader, Activist, and Advocate. Her favorite color is yellow, although she has fondness for many. She loves to laugh, spends as much time outdoors as possible, loves going to the beach and Sunflowers are her favorite. She aims to find Love and Light, first within herself always, and joyfully share it with others!


Grayce Hoffman (she/her, Grapeseed Crafts Co-Founder) is the Director of Communications at 11th Hour Theatre Company, and a co-founding member of Paper Doll Ensemble. She is a PR consultant, performer, and producer. A Pennsylvania native and West Philly resident, she is a UPenn alum (C’16) who has worked with many companies in the city including the Going Viral Festival, Coffee and a Play, Shakespeare in Clark Park, ZoomDance, Bryan Buttler Media Relations, InterAct Theater Co., Juniper Productions, and more. Recent performing roles include “Frog,” “Universe,” and others (CORNUCOPIA, ArcheDream for Humankind) and “Julie” in Marry, Marry, Quite Contrary (Paper Doll Ensemble).


Tony Lawton (he/him, Tony Lawton Pies) is originally from Fullerton, CA,. He got his undergraduate degree in Great Books at Notre Dame, then an MFA in Acting at Temple University.  Lawton has been acting professionally for 28 years.  Favorite roles include George in Of Mice and Men (Walnut), Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet (Arden), Don Adriano de Armado in Love’s Labor’s Lost (Pennsylvania Shakespeare), Coleman in Lonesome West and Storyteller in A Christmas Carol (Lantern), and Fire Chief in 24-Hour Bald Soprano (Brat).  In 2005, he wrote The Foocy, which garnered 5 Barrymore nominations for its production at the Lantern.  In 2015, he wrote book and lyrics for The Light Princess, which received 8 Barrymore nominations for its production at Arden (winning for Best Original Music and Best Supporting Actor).  He also has a 16 year-old son, and 2 cats named Knuckle Sandwich and Brian.


Bailey Roper (they/them, Dude, Sweet Moves) is a non-binary actor and educator from Dallas, Texas living in Philadelphia for the past 8 years.  As an actor they’ve worked with The Arden, People’s Light, Philadelphia Young Playwrights, Theatre Exile, Plant Me Here, Shakespeare in Clark Park, The WP Theater, InterAct Theatre, and Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival.  They’re currently the Engagement Associate for IPAY (International Performing Arts for Youth).  They’ve worked as a theatre/movement educator with Wolf Performing Arts Center, Theatre Horizon, Philly Improv Theatre, ZOOM Dance, and Philly InMovement.  Their favorite quarantine new album releases have been by Charli XCX, Waxahatchee, The Chicks, and Fiona Apple.


Sam Tower’s (she/her, Macramé by Monday) macramé creations are inspired by the natural world, her Lebanese and Irish heritage, pastels, antiques, cozy sweaters and colorful florals. She lives with her partner in a South Philly row home filled with house plants, their chihuahua Juhni, and two kitties named Loki and Monday who love to wrestle with the macramé cords. She works passionately as a performance creator and cultural producer with Ninth Planet, a company that creates opportunities for people of color, women, queer and trans* people in Philadelphia to participate in the making, performing, and producing of community-powered performance. She believes everyone has the capacity to create, and that when people come together to collaboratively make something, they are building a culture of sharing, healing, and collective caregiving.


Paige Zubel (she/they, Grapeseed Crafts Co-Founder) is a Philadelphia-based playwright, dramaturg, and producer. Her plays have been developed and produced internationally with over 50 companies including Berridge Conservatory (In the Stars, France), Normal Ave Productions (Dead Meat, NYC), and What If? Productions (A String Between Man and the World, NC). Her plays and prose have been published through Smith & Kraus, One Act Play Depot, Every Day Fiction, and Hashtag Queer. Her first screenwriting project, the film adaptation of her play In Full Bloom produced with RPR Studios and Productions, is set to hit Amazon Prime in late 2019. She is the Artistic Associate of Shakespeare in Clark Park, National New Play Network Producer in Residence at InterAct Theatre Company, and a member of the Foundry, an emerging playwrights’ lab partnered with PlayPenn. She holds a BFA in Playwriting and Dramaturgy from the University of Houston.

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