Local arts leaders weigh in on pandemic

Sarah Eames | The Daily Star

The Foothills Performing Arts & Civic Center on Market Street in Oneonta is shown Friday, Nov. 27.

One business particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic has been performing arts.

The Daily Star asked industry leaders in the area to share their pandemic coping skills and talk about how they survived 2020 despite most shows being canceled, and how they are planning for 2021.

Here are the responses:

Earlville Opera House, Earlville, Chenango County:

“It definitely is a challenge to raise revenue with no onsite events,” Earlville Opera House Executive Director Michelle Connelly said , “and virtual programming is nice, but doesn’t cut it compared to live shows and the social engagement they create. We’re making the best of what we can virtually while closed and doing all we can to keep our mission and profile vital for being nicely poised when we can reopen.

“Check our website at www.earlvilleoperahouse.com to see all we have going on.”

Foothills Performing Arts Center, Oneonta, Otsego County:

“Foothills has been making efforts to adapt by shifting our focus away from event-based services and instead focusing on content creation services, such as providing audio and video recording and editing, as well as portrait photography,” Geoffrey Doyle, operations manager for Foothills said. “While we intend to continue offering the aforementioned services in the future, we look forward to returning to being the versatile event space that we once were, when the time comes.

“We have also been fortunate to have local theater, music and dance groups (Stuff of Dreams Productions, Little Delaware Youth Ensemble and Jillian’s Dance Arts) continue to utilize our facility for rehearsals, as well as a space in which to film content that they can then stream online to their audiences.”

Franklin Stage Company, Franklin, Delaware County:

“As an arts org with a dual mission, we had the opportunity to focus on the second part of our mission, which is the care and upkeep of Chapel Hall, the historic 1853 building our theater is housed in,” Patricia Buckley, a co-artistic director of the Franklin Stage Company, said. “Our donors were very generous this spring when we wrote to tell them that this would be our focus this year. We were able to replace our porch, add snow guards to our roof, restore plumbing in a kitchen and bathroom in the third floor of our building, have our ADA ramp painted, and have a building condition report completed through a generous grant from Preserve NY.

“In addition, we decided to highlight some of these building projects while social distancing by creating the Soliloquies at Chapel Hall project. We shot actors doing Shakespeare’s monologues in the parts of the building we were highlighting for renovation. We were able to shoot four of these over the summer and you can view them all on our website. Although they could not replace an in-person season, they were very popular with our audience and helped us to stay connected with them.

“In 2021, we are eager to have some kind of season, whether it be outdoor or limited in scope. Since we are an Actors Equity Association union theater, there are many steps and concerns that our union has, understandably, for actors working in this time, and there will need to be a lot of discussion and research before we know the details (or until the union grants permission for theaters to hold rehearsals and performances), but we are investigating those possibilities now and have great hopes for next year.”

The Glimmerglass Festival, Springfield Center, Otsego County:

According to its most recent newsletter, in a message to subscribers:

“Yes, we are in the planning process for the 2021 season! There is nothing we think about more than the possibilities for next summer. Though it may look a little different from previous seasons, we are looking forward to welcoming audiences back to our campus for a 2021 Festival. We have a lot to consider with New York state and CDC guidelines in regard to hosting an audience and our company members next summer. We are taking the time to be sure you and our team will be as safe as possible. Stay tuned for more information on what you can expect from us in 2021 — performances from some of your favorites in the most beautiful of settings.”

Music on the Delaware/The Walton Theatre, Walton, Delaware County:

“As far as Music on the Delaware is concerned, we initially canceled our live concerts last spring and for this fall (and probably for this spring also),” said Jim Richardson, who is the Music on the Delaware chair and Walton Theatre Preservation Association treasurer. “However, while we cancelled our in-person monthly coffeehouses, we switched over to Zoom coffeehouses from the performers’ homes. We have actually been getting comparable-sized audiences and also audience members from further away. Along those lines, two of our performers with local roots Zoomed one from Iceland and one from San Jose, California! We have now done more than two dozen of these. We are currently putting together groups to resume after the first of the year.

“While we had to cancel live concerts, we did do a live-streaming stage concert from the stage of the Walton Theatre (no live audience) several weeks ago. I’m certain that this was the first ever for the 110 year old Walton Theatre! We have several more concerts in planning, although they will not be totally from the theatre stage.

“The theatre itself has been closed for movies since the beginning of the pandemic. The staff there has done a few things to keep interest up — free popcorn on the front porch, a contest to identify famous movie lines and more.

“There will be the traditional Delaware River Stage Company holiday show, but it will be presented from the front porch and it will be shorter than the traditional shows.”

Greg Klein, staff writer, can be reached at gklein@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7218.

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