Go online to support local performing artsAug 05, 2020 02:50PM ● By Sarah Morton Taggart
Midvale residents act out a scene with puppets in the Midvale Arts Council’s online presentation of “Macbeth.” (Screenshot via Midvale Arts Council)
By Sarah Morton Taggart | [email protected]
Months into a pandemic, when it’s best to limit large gatherings, what are performing arts organizations to do? For the Midvale Arts Council, Quick Wits and the Midvale Main Street Theatre it means creating online content and engaging with audiences in creative ways.
“We were given notice that there were guidelines for how to open up, but I just didn’t feel comfortable doing so,” said Tammy Ross, owner of Midvale Main Street Theatre.
The Midvale Main Street Theatre had cast one production and was about to begin performances of another when the pandemic reached Utah in March. Both productions, “Company” and “Next to Normal” have been postponed until 2021. In the meantime, to bring in revenue and keep actors engaged, the theatre is preparing to stage its first online production.
“We’re trying to figure out how to make it work,” Ross said. “Rehearsing over Zoom calls is quite the adventure. Especially when someone needs to sing harmony, because there’s often a lag.”
“Disenchanted! The Stay at Home Version” is about traditional fairytale princesses who aren’t happy with how they are portrayed in their Disney movies.
“It’s funny, it’s a little sassy,” Ross said. “Sleeping Beauty will be hosting her show, and all the sudden Belle will come on and sing her frustration with having to talk to inanimate objects.”
“Disenchanted!” was first performed by the Midvale Main Street Theatre in 2019. The three main actors are reprising their roles, though the script has been modified by the playwright, Dennis P. Giacino to fit the online format.
The 60-minute performance will be prerecorded and streamed on Aug. 21 and 22 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased online at midvalemainstreettheatre.com.
The Midvale Main Street Theatre is also taking donations.
“As a for-profit company, a lot of arts grants aren’t available to us,” Ross said. “We’re holding on by our fingernails for the moment. If we wait for the right time, things will work out and we’ll get through this.”
The Midvale Arts Council’s programming has also gone online until further notice.
“The Midvale Arts Council Board of Directors has had numerous conversations with the Midvale City Council, staff, and mayor centered around keeping our patrons, community, and participants safe,” said Stephanie Johnson, treasurer of the board. “As such, the Midvale Arts facilities and programs won't be opening back up until the green phase of reopening for Midvale City. It was a decision that we did not come to lightly but ultimately was the easiest hard decision we have ever made.”
Instead, the council has been busy producing a slew of content to entertain anyone in need of a smile. A unique standout is a production of “Macbeth” where volunteers were given a scene to produce in any style they wanted. Some scenes were filmed with actors, while others use toys, puppets and even text messaging to convey Shakespeare’s famous play.
The council’s summer concert series is also available to anyone with an internet connection.
“Melanie Beardall was bound and determined to still make something happen,” said Wade Walker. “So she organized a series of virtual concerts—one a month for the summer. While the concerts haven't burned down the internet with viewers, we hope that it's still a way for the Arts Council to keep people engaged in the arts during the pandemic.”
Walker, who is currently serving as president of the Midvale Arts Council Board of Directors, will perform with his brothers, Verdon and Kevin, on Friday, Aug. 7.
Normally part of Harvest Days, this year the concert will take place at the Performing Arts Center and the only person in the audience will be operating a webcam.
“There's not a theme per se other than the general idea of let's forget about the pandemic and think of simpler times,” said Walker. “So we're doing a medley of old TV theme songs (in honor of all the binge watching people are doing during the pandemic) and singing some of our other standard oldies that people seem to like.”
The concert will also include patriotic songs.
“We love the freedoms we have here in the U.S. but recognize that not everyone in the country feels the same freedoms we've felt,” Walker said. “One of the lyrics we sing from Barry Manilow's song ‘Let Freedom Ring’ is about passing the dream of freedom along to others until no one's denied its song. That lyric seems particularly applicable and poignant right now in our country.”
The Walker Brothers have experimented with prerecorded and live streaming events since the pandemic began.
“The biggest con is that we don't have an audience to engage with,” Walker said. “Sing along songs are a little harder to do virtually than in person. One of the pros, however, is that we won't have to watch our families roll their eyes at us when we share a corny joke.”
Quick Wits, Midvale’s professional comedy troupe, has also been providing entertainment on computer screens for audiences at home. Anyone can watch videos of the “2020 Virtual Summer of Fun” for free on the Quick Wits Facebook page. For the experience of watching a live performance, log on at 9 p.m. on Saturdays.
“Right now with the pandemic we have been so grateful that even though we can't be together physically, that our community is doing so much to help lift one another emotionally,” said Johnson. “We need to do what we can to take care of each other, especially right now.”