Providing Accessible Theater During the Pandemic
It’s no news that the pandemic has changed almost every aspect of theater as we knew it. Broadway theater closed its doors this past March. Additionally, the loss of funding and patrons has hit many local theaters financially. College and High School performance arts programs have had to drastically reimagine theater education. Millions of artists around the world have had to reinvent and reimagine live theater.
And that is exactly what they’re doing. Virtual play readings, and outdoor and socially distanced performances, show the resilience of theatre communities everywhere. Theater conferences on zoom have also highlighted the art’s strength during this time. Many artists created Gooroo Courses on how to write a musical, acting 101, understanding Shakespeare, slam poetry and Bollywood dance.
Organizations Continuing to Do the Work
Here in Minnesota, where I’m from, local arts and culture organizations are finding creative ways to support their communities. For example, Pangea World Theatre in partnership with Art2Action hosted the National Institute for Directing & Ensemble Creation Virtual Weekend of Conversations and Workshops. The weekend continued the Directing Institutes they’ve organized since piloting the institute in 2012, but this performance was different. All the artists connected virtually to discuss equity in ensemble and collaboration, and mentorship. By partnering with Howlround Theatre Commons, all the events were live-streamed and made accessible to theater-makers and learners worldwide.
Increasing Access to Theater Virtually
A benefit of a more and more digital theatre world is greater accessibility to the art form. Especially for those with computer and internet resources. These are not the same as a live performance. However, an often short-lived production has the potential to be experienced by a wider audience via a virtual performance. Online workshops and productions may also be a point of entry for some people who may have otherwise never walked through a theatre’s doors.
When it comes to building participation in the arts, many organizations identify several factors that influence an audience member’s attendance. These include entrance costs, timing of performances, and the physical, mental, and social accessibility of their venues. Virtual theater may eliminate some access barriers in the arts. Theater-goers can now enjoy at their own time, in the comfort of their own home, at lower costs, and with fewer intimidating interactions. What’s more, theaters experimenting with new technologies to connect with artists and audiences virtually have the capability to connect with new patrons along the way.
Theatre thrives on human connection. There is no replacement for experiencing a live performance, collaborating with someone in person, or connecting with teachers and peers face to face. It is more important than ever to support the organizations and artists creating during this time. For example, groups like Pangea World Theatre and Gooroo. For every Gooroo Courses subscription purchased one is donated to children and families who would otherwise not be able to afford it. Until we are able to meet again physically in a theatre there are an increasing number of new online theatrical resources to engage with, including Gooroo Courses, while we all do what we can to keep our communities safe.