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BWW Previews: HERSHEY FELDER AS DEBUSSY at Florence, Italy

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BWW Previews: HERSHEY FELDER AS DEBUSSY at Florence, Italy

BWW Previews: Hershey Felder AS DEBUSSY at Florence, Italy.

Hershey Felder's latest livestream - one of his most deeply personal - airs this Sunday, November 22nd, 2020 at 5pm Pacific | 7pm Central | 8pm Eastern. As he prepares for the livestream, he took a few moments to talk with about the show and the state of theater during the pandemic.

BWW: As we enter yet another period of "lock-down" how are you surviving artistically?

Surviving? (? Sic.) One foot in front of the other. One idea at a time. Worried. Feeling unstable on unstable ground.... How else can one feel in these times? I feel frightened for many of my colleagues, wondering how they are going to make do in the coming months, and maybe years. I've been worried about the generation that was just at the point where they were perfecting their craft. Suddenly, the opportunities are gone, - just to develop in front of a live audience, as the "collective" is the best teacher of all. The interpersonal exchange, the human exchange between artist and student now happens in cyberspace... we'll know when we are all back together what the result of all this is, especially for the young artist. I hope that maybe the "alone time" will have led to much self-reflection, rather than just being stimulated by everything around. Perhaps this will lead to more inventive personalized art. From my end, the programs I have designed for broadcast, are my day-to-day method of artistic survival (besides the daily piano practice, writing, painting, and so on...) - but there is a much larger purpose, being that I have been using them as ways to raise funds for struggling artists and theatres. I've been using a small percentage of the funds to sustain the artists involved in creating the pieces, and then giving away the entire rest. It's but a tiny drop in the bucket, but with each drop, the buckets gets that bit harder to kick.

As more and more performing arts organizations are become reliant upon streaming during the pandemic, are the theaters you work with more or less enthusiastic about livestreaming?

Enthusiastic (? Sic, again. Answering a question with a question, and the same word no less reminds me that I am much like the man who sits on a train kvetching to his neighbor. "Oy, am I thirsty! AM I THIRSTY!" After half an hour of this, the neighbor sitting next to him, fed up with the kvetching, buys the fellow a bottle of water. He drinks and immediately says ... "Oy! Was I thirsty. WAS I THIRSTY!!") So. Enthusiastic? ENTHUSIASTIC? Two very different media. Right now, there is a rush to fill a void, to keep theatre audiences engaged, to somehow figure out how we all can survive. I think most everyone is still in shock, but slowly theatres and arts orgs are beginning to figure out what is possible and what works. But above all, I do know that everyone is awaiting the good news of vaccine success and vaccine delivery. As human beings we need to be together. Sure, for many years already the "community aspect" of in-home viewing existed, sometimes friends even watching together over the telephone, and recently of course texting during a broadcast... "Can you BELIEVE what just happened???" Or the next day people discussing the prior night's viewing at the office, at lunch, or then at a weekend gathering... but now there is no gathering. So even discussing the "community event" is discussed only via technology. It is not as if friends might have seen one another during the day and then communicate via text at night. It's all technology. But the fact is, 1918 was devastating for the entire world, but the 20's didn't roar for nothing. Hopefully we'll be hearing the audience roar together again soon enough.

BWW Previews: HERSHEY FELDER AS DEBUSSY at Florence, Italy

Debussy and his music are very personal to you - aren't they?

I live in a bit of a dreamworld myself, so Debussy's music feels warmly familiar to me - it allows me to "run away" and "imagine," or live in my imagination so to speak. I "met" Debussy's music at a very difficult time in my young life. My mother had been diagnosed with a terminal form of breast cancer in the days where it was said, that "if the disease doesn't kill you, the treatment just might." Debussy's music became an escape. I was twelve years old.

Debussy's music is deceptively difficult, do you find it especially tricky playing his music and acting at the same time?

The whole concept of acting and playing at the same time is nuts to begin with. The muscles are entirely different. Acting, even of the most intimate kind is still extroverted so to speak. To play well, properly, with a beautiful tone, structure, and all else that is required, everything must be focused on the instrument with muscles loose, the right ones taut, razor-sharp concentration... of course this is the same for acting, but the muscles used are different. The idea of going back and forth at lightning speed, but giving the impression to the audience that the crafts are seamless has been the goal, and lifetime study. As for Debussy's music - there is so much in it that is there to discover. This too a lifetime of work.

How is this show different than your previous live streams?

Each live presentation is created around the essence of the character, for Berlin we created his Manhattan home where he was most comfortable sharing his songs and stories, For Beethoven, we created a bit of Vienna. Gershwin takes place in an empty theatre and for that we had Gershwin in one of the great European historic theatres in Florence, with all the other 365 years of ghosts that reside there as well in the great Teatro Della Pergola in Florence. Here, Debussy is a ghost in Paris. And the story is extremely personal. What you hear about in this one, actually happened to me. It's the only time I do this kind of thing in performance. So that makes this one very different.

BWW Previews: HERSHEY FELDER AS DEBUSSY at Florence, Italy

The theaters in America have been working hard to stay afloat - and performers like yourself have really gone to the mat to help, but what about the performers? Any words of wisdom or encouragement you and provide for them?

To keep on working - even if it is at home. Keep on thinking, rehearsing, almost as if getting ready for that "Big Opening" that is going to happen very soon, we hope. Not to give up. To find ways to keep the creative juices flowing. To think of ways and then actually apply for any scholarship, artist aid, grant, anything that may be out there at this time. To be practical in thinking what one can do to be both creative yet possible and even somehow access an online audience no matter how small or large. Youtube has made stars out of people who have been quite clever in using the technology, many of whom less trained the in the traditional crafts that many of us spend our lives working at. In some cases folks have become wildly successful financially. It's about thinking right now how we can use what we have at our disposal within the limits controlled by this dreadful disease to reach audiences - in some way. We must think about how we can monetize whatever it is we have big or small to make it work. How to do this while worrying about how to feed a family, or feed one's self in these times, is a question. I don't know the answer. I don't know the general rule. I wish I did. So, in my little way I do what I can to help my own circle of artists, and artists and orgs that I have relationships with, as well with whatever I have at my disposal. I just have to keep on. We all do.

BroadwayWorld would like to thank Hershey Felder for chatting with us as he gears up for his Debussy livestream this weekend.

Tickets for: "Paris: A Love Story" (Hershey Felder as Debussy) can be purchased at

-Peter Danish

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