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'Reimagine: Life, Loss, and Love, A Virtual Festival' Emerges in Response to the Pandemic

'Reimagine: Life, Loss, and Love, A Virtual Festival' Emerges in Response to the Pandemic

 

A comedian who survived a COVID-19 ICU, a dancer and registered nurse using the arts to help healthcare workers cope during the pandemic, and acclaimed musicians whose work has been inspired by the loss of loved ones are among those headlining Reimagine: Life, Loss, and Love, a virtual festival dedicated to reimagining new ways of facing death, embracing life, and loving fully during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

The festival is organized by Reimagine, a nonprofit which aims to transform the experience of life and death through virtual and physical community events. It had planned to host its second citywide festival in New York City from June 8 - 14, 2020, but transformed into a virtual festival in response to the pandemic. The festival will continue through July 9th, the six-month anniversary of the first COVID-19 death.

"This is a challenging moment, filled with death," said Brad Wolfe, founder of Reimagine, and also a singer-songwriter whose grandparents endured Auschwitz. "But in facing death, we begin to live fully. We need to come together--and stay together--so we won't need another pandemic, a 9/11, a mass shooting, or the death of a loved one to remind us what matters most. Reimagine's goal is to both improve the experience of serious illness, dying, and grief, and also to inspire people to celebrate life and each other while we can."

Festival highlights include:

Former nun and comic Kelli Dunham hosts Queer Memoir in partnership with Queens Public Library (June 13): Dunham, who chronicled her experience in an ICU with COVID-19 for HuffPost, hosts an edition of this series in which queer people share how they honor families of choice, create rituals to honor the dead, and render grief into political action.

 

Intergenerational Dance Gathering (June 13): Led by dancer, choreographer, and Jacob's Pillow artist-educator Liv Schaffer, this workshop for all bodies and all ages incorporates follow-along and improvisational movement punctuated with moments of reflection on mortality.

 

Where There's Smoke (June 11, 14): Filmmaker Lance Weiler (The Last Broadcast) will stage the world premiere of a virtual performance adapted from his acclaimed immersive storytelling installation about his father's battle with cancer that premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.

 

Performance artist Annie Lanzillotto: Whaddywanna Live Forever? and Prepare to Die (June 18, 25): An immunocompromised, two-time cancer survivor, Lanzillotto shares new monologues, songs, and comedic rants about both her three months in isolation and death readiness. Co-hosted by City Lore.

 

Father's Day Performance and Conversation with Cloud Cult's Craig Minowa (June 21): Palliative Care Dr and KALW-FM host Dawn Gross will interview Cloud Cult lead singer Craig Minowa, whose art was transformed after the death of his two-year-old son.

 

Resiliency Moments: Multidisciplinary artist and registered nurse Tara Rynders will premiere Resiliency Moments, which pairs healthcare workers with artists for one-on-one experiences designed to make workers feel seen, heard, and cared for. Via Zoom, they will take a canoe ride, write a song together, write and mail a letter, and create a happy mourning dance. Rynders will share her insights on the experience during a live discussion in late June.

 

Fireside chat with StoryCorps founder David Isay, Dr. Ira Byock, and 1,000 healthcare workers (June 15): Isay and Byock, founder and chief medical officer of Providence Institute for Human Caring, will talk with nurses and doctors and staff from across Providence's 51 hospitals about the power of storytelling to promote human connection during the new-normal of social distancing.

 

The Abnormality of Death (June 1): The first woman to lead St. Matthew's Baptist Church of Harlem in its 95-year history, Rev. Dr. Lisa Jenkins lost her life partner to COVID-19 related complications. She will tap into her own experience to minister to others in this interfaith event.

My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me (June 17): Author Jason Rosenthal, best known for his late wife's New York Times essay "You May Want to Marry My Husband," will speak at a book event presented by the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan and What Matters. In his new memoir, Rosenthal describes the publication of his wife's quasi-personal ad intended for him to find happiness after her death.

People can experience past programs on Reimagine's Vimeo page including: a Virtual Candlelight Vigil co-led by world-famous Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield; a talk with CNN's resident epidemiologist Larry Brilliant' an exploration of collective grief with bestselling author Claire Bidwell Smith and actress and author Tembi Locke; a Rattlestick Playwrights Theater salon with actor Keith Randolph Smith, Dr. Lisa D. Jenkins, and more on end-of-life care during COVID-19; and a concert by Ba Ban Chinese Music Society of New York.

As with its physical festivals, which take place where people live, work, worship, and play, Reimagine: Life, Loss, and Love will connect with audiences where they are: in virtual spaces like Zoom, Facebook Live, podcast listening groups, and in the debut of Reimagine Topia, a 24/7 lounge where people can wander around a meaningful and "more human than Zoom" virtual world, meet fellow festival-goers, and remember those that have gone before us by leaving a flower in their name. Reimagine also offers a repository of free resources featuring tools to support people through the hardest parts of life, including the early June launch of Virtual Memorial Guide, a free toolkit with templates to easily create and host beautiful virtual memorial services for those that can't be together after a death.

All festival events are centered around four key themes: Wonder--exploring big questions about life and death, illness, loss, and grief; Preparation--planning and managing of serious illness, dying, and death; Remembrance--creating space for grief, honoring, and commemorating; and Living Fully-- embracing life, family, friends, community, and the planet.
'Reimagine: Life, Loss, and Love, A Virtual Festival' Emerges in Response to the Pandemic

 


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