COVID halts auditions, not drive, for theatre grad
By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
One of the industries hit hardest by the global pandemic has been entertainment and the arts, with most performances canceled or postponed indefinitely. Mykhal Polite, who graduated recently from Grand Canyon University, has felt the effects firsthand, but he’s not giving up.
Not only was Polite’s Commencement ceremony postponed. He also is waiting to hear about a six-month job in Skagway, Alaska, as a re-enactor of the 1898 gold rush in one of the attraction stops for Alaskan Cruise Lines. His job, similar to work he has done at the Arizona Renaissance Festival, would be to help educate passengers about the gold rush through shows and long-form theatre interactions.
“I can’t say this has been easy, emotionally or mentally,” he said.
It’s been equally difficult coming to terms with the postponement of Commencement.
Polite plans to go wherever there’s a job, whether it be in Alaska, New York or a foreign country. In such a fast paced and at times unpredictable field, he worries whether he’ll be able to attend Commencement if it takes place later this year.
“It’s been hard,” he said of accepting the very real possibility that his pursuit of his career in the business may conflict with a future commencement date. “I’ve basically just taken it a day at a time.”
In early March, Polite participated in the New York International Film Festival, an Oscar qualifying event, for “Represent,” a short film in which he starred.
He has played several roles in Ethington Theatre productions: Charlie Clench in “One Man, Two Guvnors” and Antonio in “The Tempest.” He was in the process of directing a Second Series production of “Law and Order: Fairy Tale Unit” before it was canceled because of COVID-19.
Taking his classes online for the final four weeks of the semester gave Polite time to work on casting letters, script writing and video auditions.
One of these roles would be in a reboot of “The Power Rangers” for their 20th season, which will take place in New Zealand. If he gets the role, he could find himself in New Zealand at the end of the year.
Polite found out about the casting through a casting network and had to compose a video showcasing his acting abilities as well athleticism. He submitted it to the show’s casting department last month.
“It’s a longshot, but like all acting I kind of just send the tape out, forget about it and keep on moving toward the next thing,” he said.
For now, that next thing for Polite is to stay positive during such turbulent times.
“The biggest fear of a college student in any field is not getting a job right out of college, and I managed to do that,” He said. “It was full-time, and it was for six months, which for a performer is fantastic … and this virus kind of killed that until further notice, so for the immediate time it’s been a pretty hard hit for me.
“For the long-term future, luckily being a performer, the next gig is always something you have to strive for. It’s always something that you don’t necessarily know is there until you get it, so it luckily hasn’t affected my long-term career.”
Polite admits that the pandemic has taken a toll on his immediate happiness, but he knows this is just another obstacle to overcome.
“Knowing that I was prosperous in the past, before the virus, has helped me continue to push through that barrier of disappointment and discouragement,” he said. “My advice (to future performers) would be to just always keep your eyes open … look at the bigger picture, and when adversity does come your way, just remember that there hasn’t been a group of people more challenged in history than artists. Whether it be the prohibition of theatre, the changing of theatre for church, there have been so many obstacles for artists that we’re not alone in our present challenges.
“Whatever challenges you are going through at that current time, you will get through it, and there’s no better way to express those feelings than through art.”
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected]