BWW Feature: Isolating Singing Actresses Find Inspiration And Joy In Baking And Form the Quarantine Dessert Company
As gig workers around the globe observe their own districts' various shelter in place orders, many performers have found themselves with an over-abundance of time and an under-abundance of income. Singers and musicians have taken to the airwaves, performing online concerts during which viewers can tip them, sometimes charging an entry fee right upfront. Both of these systems are absolutely essential because when there is a crisis, performing artists are the first to be asked to play a benefit, and they are the first to volunteer; now the artists are in need and it is important for patrons of their work to help them keep their heads above water during the extended period of unemployment. Those are the club singers, though. What are the film and stage actors doing? Those people who aren't used to putting together a solo club act are in need, too. Some of those actors are teaching online courses at greatly affordable rates. Other performers with a background in health and fitness are conducting exercise classes via ZOOM or Facebook Live. Broadway actors are on CAMEO, providing personalized video greetings to your loved ones (at reasonable rates, unlike some of the Hollywood actors asking for hundreds of dollars). This is a time of necessity which, as they say, is a mother...
For two actresses in Florida, a mutual personal passion for baking has turned into an excellent source of supplementary income for them and a source of joy and delight for others.
New Jersey native and Wagner College alumnus, Kristen Sheola met Michelle Knight, of Orlando and the University of Central Florida last year while appearing in Wild Party (the Lippa one) in central Florida. Knight was a veteran of the New York cabaret stage, while Sheola was known for regional theater, and it turned out that both actresses worked in the Disney and Universal theme parks. Both women also love to bake, Sheola being well-known for her crazy cake creations and Knight famous for her salted chocolate chip cookies. These actresses had earned fans of their culinary skills by regularly bringing their creations to work with them, whether Michelle gave the cookies as first-night gifts or Kristen brought cupcakes to rehearsals. In mid-March, after learning that the state of Florida was going into a mandatory Stay At Home order, the galpals were having one last dinner with their significant others and, after more than one glass of wine, decided that the best way to stay busy and financially flush might be a combining of their wooden spoons and aprons - and the Quarantine Dessert Company was created.
The Quarantine Dessert Company is a distance delivery dessert service that is able to operate due to Florida's cottage law, which allows certain baked goods to be created in home kitchens and sold to the community. There are certain restrictions that limit the ability of food service providers to work from home but the cottage law has provided Misses. Knight and Sheola with an opportunity and they have seized it. At first, the mission statement of their bakery and delivery service was little more than a wish to bring smiles and sweets to friends who were, understandably, upset and nervous about being out of work and away from their passion for performing. "We hoped that we could brighten some days, and keep our spirits up too. We had NO idea how big this was going to be!" offered Ms. Sheola during an online chat. "Week one we had hundreds of cookies and cupcakes ordered, fulfilled, and delivered. We gave our products cheeky names, all themed around social distancing and self-quarantine. People were asking what we were going to bake next week so we conference called each other and decided to do it again. A cult following started from there, friends shared photos of their treats, and the theatre critic (the wonderful Matt Palm) from the Orlando Sentinel heard about it. He published our story on the front page of the paper and we have been fielding quadruple our original orders since then!"
As actors with no idea when they will be able to return to the stage, the result of their new venture has proven to be tri-fold: their days are occupied, they have income, and they are making people happy. Sheola confesses that the time has been an emotional roller coaster, as both women miss performing terribly, and the uncertainty of that work causes them some worry, but that "We are so fortunate to have found a new way to make people happy in this interim - and we give some killer performances on our customers' Smart Doorbell." Until the health crisis subsides and the world goes forward in some kind of normalcy again, though, both performing (and culinary) artists are grateful for the opportunity that has presented itself, and for the stroke of genius that provided this chance. "It's been such a wonderful way to still be creative, lift up the community, and give ourselves some joy as well!"
Follow the Quarantine Dessert Company on Facebook and Instagram @quarantinedessertcompany