Skip to main content Skip to footer site map
Regional Spotlight
Click Here for More Articles on Regional Spotlight

Regional Spotlight: How ArtsEmerson is Working Through The Global Health Crisis


Regional Spotlight: How ArtsEmerson is Working Through The Global Health Crisis

Now more than ever it is important to support theater and do our part to keep the art form that we love so much alive and as thriving as it can be during these unprecedented times. While the global health crisis has temporarily put the theater world on hold, pausing all live performances and large gatherings to help stop the spread of COVID-19, theaters around the country have taken a hit. During this time of adjusting to our temporary new normal, theaters are figuring out how to take care of their team, and discovering the best ways to virtually bring theater to audiences.

Through our regional theater interview series, we are checking in with theaters all around the country, talking to them about how they are handling these difficult circumstances, learning what they are doing to move forward, and discovering the best way for people to help regional theaters during this time.

Today, we're checking in with Boston, MA's ArtsEmerson, with Wayne McWorter, Senior Director Marketing, Communications & Audience Services.

1. What do the days look like right now for those who work at ArtsEmerson?

All staff members are now working from home. It was Thursday, March 12 when all staff were notified that our regular work-from-home policy, which allows each staff member to do this one day per week, was being opened up for unlimited use as needed to support safety, and all team members were encouraged strongly to work from home rather than coming into the office - although the office would remain available for those who need it. By the end of March, all departments successfully had transitioned all operations so that no on-site staffing was needed. While days look different for each member of the team, everyone is certainly much more skilled in Zoom meetings than we used to be!

2. I want to check in on the health and wellbeing of everyone at ArtsEmerson. How is everyone doing during this difficult time?

Fortunately, for now, the health of our staff falls into the category of good news, in that we do not have any reported cases of COVID-19 in our team. Wellbeing is somewhat less measurable, as it goes to the state of mind of our staff. We have worked hard as an entire team to recognize and speak truth; this is not normal, and no one should live in the expectation that workflow can be the same as it is was. We have, in full voice, emphasized the importance for each team member to practice self-care that reflects individual needs. We have weekly Thursday Town Hall meetings, where our roughly 50 full time staff members gather in the familiar "Brady Bunch Boxes" pattern of Zoom; we use these to make sure everyone is up-to-date on information; we listen to one another and we support one another. We've also created randomly-assigned "buddies," which pair off staff members, and these pairs find ways to support one another 1-on-1.

3. How much planning is going on both short term and long term for the theater?

Like most non-profit arts organizations, there are teams that are spending a great deal of time in planning mode. The phrase, "Man plans, and God laughs," has been top-of-mind for me a lot over the past two months. Our team has taken best information available and has made a decision to cancel or postpone events for a certain period of time. And then three days later, there's new best information available, and the cycle begins again. We've already cancelled the remainder of our 19/20 Season. Our next scheduled show is a Summer Special Engagement, two weeks of Step Afrika!'s Drumfolk, which is slated to begin performances July 22nd and run for two weeks. We have closely monitored all health organization information, and we are now weighing whether we may be better advised to move this show later, perhaps moving it into our 20/21 Season. That takes us a little farther into the future: What we should be presenting next season? What does that return look like? When will people be ready to think about gathering? Since we began cancelling public gatherings, we've put a complete halt to any sort of blatant sales messaging, as that isn't what we feel is of service to our audiences at this time. We had originally planned to announce that new season in early May, and with current considerations, we are reviewing plans to finalize the lineup, and we are tentatively planning to announce at the beginning of June. But as with everything else in these unusual times, that's completely subject to change. When we do come back, we know that things will be different. We all, as individuals, will be changed. Our way of serving our audiences may be changed. But what will not change is our mission and vision.

4. Do you have plans to bring any previously filmed productions/upcoming events/classes etc. online?

ArtsEmerson has launched its newest digital initiative, Together Apart: Explore New Worlds from Your Home, a curated series of performances previously presented by the organization in Boston, as well as new video conversations with bold and imaginative artists associated with those creations. The digital series will offer regularly posted content via, an opportunity for audiences to view past ArtsEmerson performances at home. ArtsEmerson is asking interested participants to register for the series here so that they will receive updated access links and viewing reminders for all online events.

5. What is the best way for people to help ArtsEmerson right now?

Keep your practice of social distancing, and don't become complacent in that practice. This is the #1, #2 & #3 priority to help ArtsEmerson right now, so that we - and our neighborhoods and nations will be able to get back to theatres as soon as possible. Beyond that, we encourage everyone to keep the arts a part of your lives, and encourage those you love to do the same. Consume challenging and bold content online, the kind of work that prompts questions about who we are, and our role in society. Then connect in conversation with others to talk about those questions, to grapple with hard truths, and to imagine how you - and all of us - can act and react differently in our world to make it a more just, inclusive and equitable world.

For more information about ArtsEmerson, visit Learn more about their Together Apart series here.

Donate to the theater HERE!

Related Articles

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes & More

From This Author Stephi Wild