Living in 'a State of Trust,' Joan Hess is Crushin It!

By Kimberly Dijkstra

Joan Hess describes herself as a very positive person. As an actress with credits in theater, on stage with symphonies, and on television, Hess is used to living life “in a state of trust” – trusting the future despite not knowing exactly what job will be waiting down the road. Though the pandemic may have altered her plans slightly, it hasn’t taken her optimistic spirit.

Hess was in the middle of workshopping a new musical based around the opioid crisis called “The Jury” when the pandemic forced the production to call it quits.

“Even though we had to let it go, we recognize that it goes into the ether and it will have a life later on down the road,” she said.

Living with her boyfriend in Weehawken, NJ, Hess is used to self-directing her days, which routinely includes meditation, yoga, and working out in the room of the house with the best light. Staying busy creatively this past year, she has participated in several online readings and benefits for regional theaters, as well as taken up a little painting, doing more reading than usual, putting pen to paper, taking classes online, and connecting with friends and family virtually.

In other words, “we’ve just tried to live in the silver linings of it all,” Hess said. “I feel like it’s a really important moment for the history of our country and for the feeding of good things to come.”

A butterflies-emerging-from-their-cocoons metaphor is apt.

“It takes a struggle to get out of the chrysalis, but that is how you build the strength of your wings,” Hess said. “There will be a renaissance in the arts world. There has been light shone on so many shadows in our culture and I think that’s a very positive thing. By all means, a lot of things were broken that we weren’t paying attention to because we were all so busy.”

The time away will make us appreciate the return all the more.

“The first time we get to perform live or just be in a live theater – think of how electric that will feel, she said. “The rest of our lives feels like something we will cherish all the more for having had to lay it down for a minute.”

Like the giddy feeling she and her boyfriend felt the first time eating at a restaurant after months of eating every meal at home, Hess expects everyone to feel excited for those communal experiences once theater reopens at full capacity. She truly believes that live theater is not only transportive, but transformative, with the power to change hearts and minds. In fact, a recent study found that live theater improves empathy and has the potential to shape people far beyond simple entertainment value.

“I have always known the power of the arts, but it’s great to see it studied and printed and have people recognize it,” Hess said.

Hess sees a surge of creativity in our future, and she is always looking for “the gifts” in life. The pandemic has already generated numerous new and interesting ideas, there is no telling what’s next.

“There are gifts in every situation and I knew this was going to present some really good opportunities for new things,” she said. “It will be very exciting to see the renaissance and to participate.”

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