Regional Spotlight: How Asolo Repertory Theatre 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 Asolo Rep!
First of all, I want to check in on the health and well being of everyone at Asolo Rep. How is everyone doing during this difficult time?
The staff at Asolo Rep is like a family, people find a home here and in some cases have worked here for decades. That's because we strive to do everything we can to support each other, not only with hearing each other's ideas and encouraging the best artistic work possible, but financially and emotionally as well. As the Payroll Protection Plan under the CARES Act comes to a conclusion, we've had to make some heart-breaking decisions to ensure the long term viability of the organization, but we look forward to doing everything in our power to help our employees and our community through this incredibly difficult time even as we make plans to come back stronger than before. We are endlessly grateful for the continued good health of everyone in the organization.
What do the days look like right now for those who work at Asolo Rep?
Like people across a lot of industries, our days are filled with zoom meetings and phone calls. While not unique to us, for an industry that is built on connection, collaboration, and gathering to share, it feels particularly challenging. The traditional work day, already a bit different in theater, has continued to morph and expand. We miss being able to pop into each other's offices to discuss the latest idea, but in a lot of ways the current reality has added new dimensions to our communication and given us tools to connect with each other - and with our supporters - we might not have found otherwise. For example, we've vastly increased the resources dedicated to engaging patrons online and even created a podcast.
How much planning is going on both short term and long term for the theater?
We are currently producing our Ground Floor: Making Musicals series, which showcases fifteen-minute samples of four new, full length musicals. The work is done entirely remotely and in isolation and presented with a virtual happy hour and post-show discussion with the writers of each piece. We're asking our audiences to vote on their favorites to help us determine which pieces should receive full staged readings when we are able to safely gather in our new black box space once more. We are also exploring the idea of performing outdoors in various venues in the relatively near future and partnering with other community organizations to make it happen. Additionally, we are nearly ready to announce a new commission for an African American playwright exploring the life of a local hero. In the long-term, we have various calendars laid out to respond to the continuously updated CDC recommendations on when, in what numbers, and under what conditions we may gather so that we can be confident about providing our patrons a safe and enjoyable experience back in our building.
Do you have plans to bring any previously filmed productions/upcoming events/classes etc. online?
In concert with LORT and all the relevant unions we are exploring several options for streaming including works from our past such as Evita. We are also taking a close look at our ability to capture and stream future productions so patrons who are unable or would prefer not to join us in the building will still be able to access the work we make in a thrilling and high quality way. We are also excited to think about how our programs like the Education Tour, which reaches thousands of students every year across the state of Florida, can be born digitally in the coming year, exploring ways to tap into the interactivity being online unleashes for students and educators. Regarding classes, we have transitioned projects that were already underway such as Kaleidoscope, which celebrates the creativity and makes space for the voices of those with special needs, to an online format. We have also recently begun classes online for students and adults that will take place throughout the summer.
What is the best way for people to help Asolo Rep right now?
We'd first like to send a heartfelt thank you to those patrons that have already stepped up to help. We are overwhelmed by the generosity of those who were able to convert their tickets into donations and to the more than 3,000 patrons who have demonstrated their support and commitment by renewing their season subscriptions. With their support, we are ensuring a bright future in which Asolo Rep can serve our community with captivating stories created by talented artists who also call this community home. In addition, two local foundations have doubled their support in response to the pandemic. The Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation gave an additional $100,000 and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation gave an additional $70,000 to mitigate the losses of Asolo Rep's truncated season. However, the financial impact of this necessary action to safeguard the health of our patrons, staff, artists, and volunteers is far reaching and we are particularly grateful to the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation which is matching every dollar donated to Asolo Rep's COVID-19 Assistance Fund up to $50,000 as well as to Judith and Andrew Economos who will match new and increased gifts to the 2020-21 Season, up to $50,000, beginning immediately. We welcome any patrons who are able to participate in this challenge with us. You can donate to our Covid19 fund by visiting AsoloRepCovid19.givesmart.com OR by texting AsoloRepCovid19 to 76278.