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BWW Feature: Back To Live

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I caught up with some of the lucky few to explore their experience getting back to work.

BWW Feature: Back To Live

One by one, members of the live performance community have been going back to work. It's a nervous time, even a scary one, but these artists not only realize the need that the public has for live entertainment and the society of other people, their art is so important to them that they are willing to take risks to live inside of that art, once more. Five months have passed since the New York City lockdown happened, and though all four phases are in effect, live entertainment remains a grey area of the reopening process. Though food and beverage organizations are serving the public with limited restrictions, it can be a difficult sell to get people in for a concert.

There are those, though, who have jumped through every hoop to begin bringing live performance back to society, and the singers who have been a part of that process are delirious with the joy, relieved by the release as they unleash their voices to the sky and to appreciative audiences, once more.

I caught up with some of the lucky few to explore their experience getting back to work, and though the details are different for all of them, one thing remains the same: they are all over the moon with elation.

BWW Feature: Back To Live


Ari Axelrod

Name: Ari Axelrod
Website or Social Media: www.ariaxelrod.com Insta: @ariaxelrod
Venue: The Encore Musical Theatre Company
Number of Performances: Two

How was your maiden voyage back into the world of live performing?

Absolutely surreal and incredibly emotional.

How many performers were you able to accommodate?

Two. Myself and my music director.

What precautions were taken to keep the performance Coronavirus safe?

Everyone was seated 6 feet apart, the theatre included a picture of the seating arrangement in every email blast and marketing effort so that the audience knew exactly what the arrangement would be, masks were required to be worn at all times, there was a strict "no touching" rule for me at the meet and greet after the show, there was hand sanitizer throughout the space.

How many people were in the audience?

60 with some standing room in the back (again at a social distance)

What was their response to the evening's entertainment in the given surroundings?
They loved it. There was some ambient noise from neighbors playing music. Other than that, they loved it. No one complained about wearing masks or socially distancing. I believe they were happy to be in the presence of live music/performance again.

Describe your thoughts and feelings of the experience, please.

Absolutely surreal and incredibly emotional. Being able to do what I love to do again after not being able to do it for nearly 5 months was like waking up from a creative coma. Also, performing outside to an audience of mask covered faces made certain lyrics/songs land very differently both for me as well as for the audience. It was such a gift being able to perform again. I knew I missed it, but I didn't realize how much I had missed it until I looked into the audience from the stage and felt that connection with the audience. Out of all the times I've done this show, this is one I will never forget as long as I live.

As one of the first artists to return to live performing, what words of advice or encouragement can you offer to other artists and to audience members?

To performers: Savor every single moment, and remember that what you're doing is such a gift for not only the audience but for humanity. You are filling our broken world with music and art. Don't let the moment pass you by. And remember, just because you can't see smiles behind the masks doesn't mean the smiles aren't happening :)

To the audiences: Thank you. You are putting your health, safety, and livelihoods potentially at risk by entrusting artists to protect you for the sake of live performance. There are no words to express what that selfless generosity means. This art form could not happen without you. Everything we as cabaret artists do is of service to you, now more than ever. Keep showing up!

Would you do it again?

IN A HEARTBEAT

How can people book you for a gig?

PLEASE! YES! Just say when :)

See a portion of Ari's socially distanced show HERE

BWW Feature: Back To Live

Edmund Bagnell

Name: Edmund Bagnell
Website or Social Media:
Insta: edmund_bagnell
YouTube: Edmund Bagnell
Venue: The Crown & Anchor Provincetown
onlyatthecrown.com
Number of Performances: 5

How was your maiden voyage back into the world of live performing?

It was thrilling! And completely different than other shows to date. The Crown has set up this amazing outdoor stage right on Cape Cod Bay, and I performed while the sun was setting. The audience was about 25 feet away from the stage, and were seated in parties of individuals who came together as a group with at least 6 feet distance between each group. So everything was very carefully thought out and orderly. Each type of venue can change the style in which you perform - a cabaret theater suggests a more intimate performance versus a performing arts center which can change the scale of the performance. So I really enjoyed formatting my performance to this new setting; outdoors, with the beautiful natural light of the sunset, and the audience in plain view the whole time.

How many performers were you able to accommodate?

There's just the two of us, me and my pianist. I *believe* Provincetown is limiting the number of performers on stage to just two at a time.

What precautions were taken to keep the performance Coronavirus safe?

Again, the venue was very thorough in keeping the different groups of people separate before, during, and after the performance.

How many people were in the audience?

We maxed out at 70 people last night. The venue can hold a few more people than that, but again that depends on the size of each party of individuals that by tickets together, since the venue is very diligent about making sure to space each group at an appropriate distance from each other.

What was their response to the evening's entertainment in the given surroundings?

Performing in this type of environment was obviously new to me and also to the audience as well. But in a way, it spoke to that shared communal experience of live theater that I love so much. Here we all were together observing these precautions in a slightly different performance format than we're all used to, and yet it showed that we could all collectively come together to make an evening of live performance possible. From what I could tell, I think everyone was on board with the setting given the circumstances.

Describe your thoughts and feelings of the experience, please.

I loved it. I was so happy to perform live again, and to be able to see my audience. It's usually not my style to make a lot of eye contact with audience members, but after months of virtual performances (which I also love doing) I was so grateful to see a live audience in front of me last night, I think I made eye contact with every single person there! It was awesome to feel that connection with an audience again. I loved every single second of it, and I can't wait to do my next four shows.

As one of the first artists to return to live performing, what words of advice or encouragement can you offer to other artists and to audience members?

You know it's funny, I'm so grateful for these 5 shows I get to do this month, but after August, it's still up in the air as to when I'll perform live again. It took a very unique set of circumstances for these performances to happen. To performers, I'd say that given the opportunity, audiences are still there and excited to see live performance. And to audiences, I'd say that theaters and venues take the responsibility of the safety of their performers and audience members very seriously, so if a venue does open to live performance, you can be rest assured that the upmost precautions are being taken.

Would you do it again?

Absolutely!

How can people book you for a gig?

You can contact my manager, Mark Cortale at markcortalepresents.com

Thanks so much for chatting with me!

BWW Feature: Back To Live

Allyson Briggs and Fleur Seule

Name: Fleur Seule

Website or Social Media: www.fleurseule.com

Venue: Online and Swing 46

Number of Performances: Ongoing

How was your maiden voyage back into the world of live performing?

Complicated! There was a steep learning curve with all the technology and a lot of innovation required to keep safe yet musical, but we are doing it!

How many performers were you able to accommodate?

I do either solo live shows or 3-4 of us to do in person performances. We are also recording two albums with more people and getting very creative with how we do that.

What precautions were taken to keep the performance Coronavirus safe?

We ensure there is enough space and the musicians who can, wear their masks while performing. While recording, we have a complex setup we have worked out with our studio that involves people playing in closets, kitchens, and all over!

How many people were in the audience?

Luckily, I can have several hundred friends join me online, and for the in person shows at Swing 46 in Times Square, we usually have about 15-20 people safely outside on the patio.

What was their response to the evening's entertainment in the given surroundings?

They were so thrilled to experience live music in person again! Everyone was so relieved and enjoying singing along together from afar.

Describe your thoughts and feelings of the experience, please.

It was such a relief for us as well. We musicians need to perform FOR you, it doesn't mean anything to just play for ourselves! We are energized by your response and love to see you there with us. We have missed you so much.

As one of the first artists to return to live performing, what words of advice or encouragement can you offer to other artists and to audience members?

Keep going, it is SO hard to stay motivated and decipher what to do next. And it is okay to have days when you don't know what to do or just don't feel it. That's okay. But remind yourself that we cannot give up the music that fuels us. We can also look at this as an opportunity to grow, to use the time to do things we wanted to get to, and to explore new things artistically.

Would you do it again?

Yes! We have ongoing Saturday shows at Swing 46 from 5:30-7:30pm and Live shows online Wednesdays at 6PM and Fridays at 7PM.

How can people book you for a gig?

They can visit my website! www.fleurseule.com or any of my social media pages.

Instagram @fleurseule

Facebook - Fleur Seule

See Fleur Seule's outdoor performance at Swing 46 HERE

BWW Feature: Back To Live

Dawn Derow

Name: Dawn Derow & FRIENDS
Website or Social Media: www.dawnderow.com / follow me on INSTAGRAM/FACEBOOK & YOUTUBE - under Dawn Derow
Venue: Monday Night Concert Series - at the Eastham Windmill Green - Eastham, Cape Cod MA. July 20th, 2020
Number of Performances: One Night


How was your maiden voyage back into the world of live performing?

It was a blast, I so sorely missed performing these last 4 months. You know, how you get the "Show's over-blues"? Well, I do. But after having 320+ people in front of me, it really hit hard the following week. For days, I was a Moody... Mopey... Mess! Then I figured out why - I just sang for a ton of people and then they were gone in a flash. It was an hour of music, the audience was well spaced out in their lawn chairs, all wearing masks. It was an honor! We rocked it and the audience responded brilliantly.

How many performers were you able to accommodate?

I was the headliner with a trio of my local musician friends: Guitar, Bass & Drums.
Featuring my best friend from NY, Jason Reiff.
We had exactly an hour to fill and I made sure we kept the ball rolling. Musically speaking.

What precautions were taken to keep the performance Coronavirus safe?

In order to keep this concert series going the town of Eastham had sectioned off boxed areas for the audience to sit in, wearing masks. The Fire Department set this up.


On the "stage" which was a Gazebo - we were spaced out from each other about 6 ft.

How many people were in the audience?

My boyfriend counted about 280 - to about 32 and there were more people behind the Windmill as well.

What was their response to the evening's entertainment in the given surroundings?

They loved it. Bonnie Nuendel ran the whole event, she has artists booked every Monday evening till Labor Day. A huge thanks to her.


It was a huge joy to be there in person! We also LIVE STREAMED it on FACEBOOK and the entire concert is up on my youtube channel - Check it out! HERE

Describe your thoughts and feelings of the experience, please.

It was amazing on many levels... For a country in the Midst of Chaotic times ~ It was very healing for all of us! The theme of the night was MUSIC IS HEALING. I know, my local musicians were "WICKED" stoked cause 80% of their gigs also canceled. For guys like that, it sucks - I feel for them- They have a short season to make all their money. So the night was healing on many levels.

I'd say the only thing I'd change (if I were God) is for a little more of a summer breeze - it was about 90 degrees and all humidity on July 20th... we were afraid it was going to keep people from coming, but they CAME!!

On a personal note, it was a very special gig, singing back in my hometown. Which by the way I haven't performed a full show there since 1997. It was nostalgic. I had a dozen other gigs that were canceled for the summer this was the ONLY ONE that DID NOT! So we made a full event out of it.

One of my favorite moment was song Number #2 I sang "ORPHEUS" by Sara Bareilles - if you know this song, you get it... cause it's really an anthem for this year and everything we are going through. We must continue to support and love each other and say "We will not give up on love today" it was my political moment for sure - I told the audience to GO VOTE and I tried to bring back the PEACE SIGN.

As one of the first artists to return to live performing, what words of advice or encouragement can you offer to other artists and to audience members?

Wear your mask, keep 6 ft away, bring sanitizer, wash your hands.. you know! Be smart.


Oh and use the "PEACE SIGN" - LOL. Stay healthy! All you have to do is NOT GET SICK! That's my mantra anyway.

Would you do it again?

TOMORROW... But actually we are planning an event up here in North Salem, NY in our backyard mid September... Still putting the pieces together but it will be outdoors on our lawn, and will be a 2-3 hour musical event during the day. Featuring special artists! Limited tickets.

How can people book you for a gig?

Call me. I'm open to a variety of musical endeavors.

Photos of Dawn Derow by Michael Lee Stever.

BWW Feature: Back To Live

Nicolas King

Name: Nicolas King
Website or Social Media: @itsnicolasking Website HERE
Venues: Villa Roma, Forestburgh Playhouse (1 show each so far)

How was your maiden voyage back into the world of live performing?

Believe it or not, my voice was a bit shaky on the first few numbers. I think you could call it nerves, mixed with excitement. Would my voice be there for me the way it always has been in the past? Would the audience still like me? I immediately felt like an unsure 14 year old boy again, but thankfully the doubts disappeared by the third song, and the energy between me and the audience was back.

How many performers were you able to accommodate?

I was the only performer at both venues.

What precautions were taken to keep the performance Coronavirus safe?

Everybody was socially distant, 12 feet apart, and food and drinks were ordered and paid for ahead of time so as to eliminate money contact. I felt very safe, as did the audience.

How many people were in the audience?

Between 100-250! Spread out of course

What was their response to the evening's entertainment in the given surroundings?

My Forestburgh audience was one for the books. They're lovers of the performing arts, so they got into the groove immediately. They laughed and cried at the right parts, you could tell they were ready for it. My Villa Roma audience was slightly different, mainly there to party, and for both audiences it felt like in the confines of our performance space nothing was wrong in the world, and that life was marvelous.

Describe your thoughts and feelings of the experience, please.

I miss performing, not just to pay my rent, but to simply connect with other humans. If I can move you in some way, ive done my job. My audiences this past week have shown me not just how much I missed doing that, but also how much we as humans crave this art form. We need it.

As one of the first artists to return to live performing, what words of advice or encouragement can you offer to other artists and to audience members?

Relax and enjoy it. We don't know how many of these jobs we're going to get. Being outdoors is swell in the summer, but come the winter we'll be back to selling ourselves on the computers again. Relish every moment, and thank the audience for being there and being safe, smart and brave.

Would you do it again?

Is tomorrow good?

How can people book you for a gig?
Visit my website www.thenicolasking.com or drop an email!

BWW Feature: Back To Live

Corinna Sowers-Adler

Name: Corinna Sowers Adler
Website or Social Media: Corinnasings www.nicoristudios.com
Venue: Oakeside Bloomfield Cultural Center/NiCori Studios & Productions
Number of Performances: 5 (and hopefully more!)

How was your maiden voyage back into the world of live performing?

We launched "Music at the Mansion: Porch Performances" with my show SONGS FROM THE HEART. We used my show as a sort of test run for the rest of the series and then just this weekend had a very successful show with Lisa Viggiano in INVITED TO STAY. Coming up this week is Stearns Matthews in SING!, followed by Broadway's Liz McCartney in ROSEMARY AND TIME, then Eric Yves Garcia in CROONIN' ON A SUMMER BREEZE, and we close out the first round of shows with Danny Bacher in AN EVENING WITH Danny Bacher. Each show ticket includes dinner by our in house caterer Frungillo Catering and the show.

How many performers were you able to accommodate?

We can accommodate 25-40 performers depending on the size of each party. We will not seat people together who are not in the same party so, for example, if a table is take by a party of two, it remains a party of two and we eliminate the other seats.

What precautions were taken to keep the performance Coronavirus safe?

We had beautiful rolling plexiglass walls made to separate the performer and the pianist from each other and from the audience. We moved the series outside to the porch. The food is served in containers on the tables that are separated at least six feet apart (I measured them myself) on the porch, the porte cochere, and the lawn of the beautiful Oakeside Mansion, our studio home.

How many people were in the audience?

The first show had 27 and the second had 38.

What was their response to the evening's entertainment in the given surroundings?

The response has been overwhelmingly positive. The comments we have received from audience and performers alike has been filled with gratitude and joy. It has been a lot of work to put this together in a safe, sustainable, and socially distanced way while still being able to fulfill our studio mission to educate, inspire, an entertain and put something beautiful in the world and it has thus far truly been so humbling to see how it has brought so much happiness to people. Nick and I are overwhelmed with gratitude for the support we have received.

Describe your thoughts and feelings of the experience, please.

It's funny...Music at the Mansion has been around for 12 years and this is truly a lovely new version of it, that, frankly, we are thinking about adopting aspects of more permanently. Time will tell. But I am overjoyed at making something beautiful.

As one of the first artists to return to live performing, what words of advice or encouragement can you offer to other artists and to audience members?

Follow the rules and stick to them. There are creative ways to go about making art even in these times. You need to see the beauty in this new reality. It's not the same, but it has it's own set of gifts. Find them and hold tight.

Would you do it again?

We plan to continue as long as we are able.

How can people book you for a gig?


Email me at info@nicoristudios.com for more info.

BWW Feature: Back To Live

Lisa Viggiano

Name: Lisa Viggiano
Website or Social Media: www.lisaviggiano.com
Venue: Music at the Mansion, Porch Performances
Number of Performances: 1 magical evening

How was your maiden voyage back into the world of live performing?

Sublime. Magical. Real. Deeper and sweeter than ever.

How many performers were you able to accommodate?

We were able to have one musician to accompany on a keyboard. The uber talented and joyful Jon Weber was the MD and created an orchestra with his hands and soul.

What precautions were taken to keep the performance Coronavirus safe?

NiCori provided plexiglass "walls" on wheels for Jon and myself to physical distance while being close enough to see each other to make real music together. Tables were spaced apart, and masks were to be worn when people were not seated at their tables eating. Everyone's temperature was taken at check in.

How many people were in the audience?

45-50 between the porch and the lawn

What was their response to the evening's entertainment in the given surroundings?

The audience was incredibly receptive and they expressed great appreciation. Many of them said that it was their first night out in over 5 months. The joy and love of connection and coming together was palpable.

Describe your thoughts and feelings of the experience, please.

Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude. Oh, and more gratitude. Also, hope.
Beyond that, I cannot find words that are eloquent enough to describe the glorious experience of connecting with the audience and making live-and-in-person-unmasked music with Jon.

As one of the first artists to return to live performing, what words of advice or encouragement can you offer to other artists and to audience members?

Keep working on your artistry at home!! You never know when the universe will offer an opportunity like this one. Jon and I had a month to put together a brand new show (which I am referring to as my "pandemic playlist". Luckily, he and I had been working casually via FaceTime on our upcoming John Raitt/Bonnie Raitt show that we had begun discussing last year, so we were able to draw from that show as a "sneak peek". Plus, I had been singing alone in my living room and in the shower to keep my sanity during Covid, so thankfully, it was natural to pull it together with ease.

Would you do it again?

Beyond the shadow of a doubt.

How can people book you for a gig?

Email: lisavigg@gmail.com, visit www.lisaviggiano.com

Photo of Lisa Viggiano by Susan Ciliento Corcoran


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From This Author Stephen Mosher