After COVID-19, all the world’s a stage
Unconventional performance venues could become the norm
For fans who wanted a night at the opera while observing COVID-19 precautions, Lyric Opera Chicago recently staged a performance of Wagner’s Twilight: Gods in an underground parking garage. Viewers drove through the structure, following a route that took them from scene to scene.
Novel ideas for offering live entertainment have not only helped artists survive the pandemic but also made performances more accessible to the public. Many in the industry expect the change to become permanent.
“Time and again, people have said there is no returning to normal. It’s a new normal,” said Geena Russo, senior communications manager for the UCLA Center for the Arts of Performance. “Recovery takes creativity. Living among artists, who are some of the most creative people, it’s no surprise that we would create something new.”
Michigan Opera Theatre also performed Wagner in a parking garage in Detroit last year. Now the company has moved outdoors again for its upcoming performance in an amphitheater with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and it is not alone.
The NY PopsUp festival formed as a way to reintroduce live performances to New York City without gathering in large crowds. From February to August, musicians, dancers, and comedians are giving surprise concerts throughout New York’s boroughs. They perform on porches and streets and in parks and shop windows. Similarly, opera singer Anthony Costanzo and other members of the New York Philharmonic will begin their second season of Bandwagon, now called Bandwagon 2. They park a truck on the street, set up around it, and play for passersby. Costanzo stands on the truck bed to sing.
In Seattle, dance company Whim W’him did a pop-up performance in the park, and a local professional singer for the Seattle Opera sang for his neighbors from his front lawn, said Christina DePaolo, communications director for 4Culture, an arts funding agency.
Chad Carpenter, events and operations director at the Washington Center for Performing Arts, said he thinks the shift to unconventional live performances will last after the pandemic. All of this thinking outside the box could be a boon for traditional theaters, too, he said: “Post-pandemic, more people who are visiting these untraditional spaces will then think about the more traditional theaters and be more willing to come back and watch performers in more traditional venues.”