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Arena Stage's Molly Smith Appears On EMBRACING ARLINGTON ARTS TALKS Podcast

Arena Stage's Molly Smith Appears On EMBRACING ARLINGTON ARTS TALKS Podcast

"Embracing Arlington Arts Talks" host Janet Kopenhaver was thrilled to welcome to the podcast the Artistic Director of Arena Stage Molly Smith to discuss how her theater successfully transitioned to online content and programming in response to the nation's shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "The only way we are going to keep in contact with our audiences, staff, patrons, and artists around the country is doing more online," Smith realized after the shutdown was implemented. The result is a whole slate of online programming from weekly "Molly's Salon" Facebook interviews with arts leaders and thinkers to movies to an artists' marketplace to camps, and more. (Listen to the podcast here)

One of their most unique online offerings is the "Arena Stage Theater Artists Marketplace" which gives the public the opportunity to commission or purchases a work of art safely, with no in-person contact, from the artists and artisans who have graced Arena's stages. "We are hopeful that other theaters around the nation will pick up this idea because we have to support our artists," Smith explained. When anyone makes a purchase through the Marketplace, much-needed financial support is generated for that artist who most likely is unemployed at this time and for many months to come.

For more than 17 seasons, Arena Stage's "Voices of Now" ensembles have provided a theatrical platform for youth and young people to express themselves, and the shutdown did not cancel the 18th season. Recognizing the impact of the pandemic on today's youth, Arena knew the importance of keeping it going so it was transitioned to an online program. "If you want to know what is going through the minds and lives of our nation's youth, then you need to listen to these stories," Smith advised.

Finally, Arena Stage turned to film for another one of its initiatives. "May 22, 2020" is a filmed docudrama directed by Smith which captures one day in the life of our region. Ten DC-Maryland-Virginia subjects ranging in age from 18 - 89 and from a variety of backgrounds including a DC detective to a high school student to a climate change activist to a beekeeper were interviewed by 10 area playwrights who turned their stories into monologues which were performed by Washington actors.

Smith also discussed her participation in DC Mayor Bowser's "Reopening Task Force," tentative safety plans Arena is considering for reopening, its next season (expect a formal announcement next week) and a continuation of online programming, how theater will permanently be changed by the pandemic and when live performances might begin again. Smith also cautioned theater companies that "audience members will more likely come back to a theater if they believe that theater is taking health and safety precautions seriously."

When asked for any last words to listeners, Smith responded "We miss you. We miss our audience, our artists, our Board members, and our live performances. We can't wait to see you again (with our masks on when) we will have champagne and celebrate."

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