With spring in the air, one usually thinks of the flowers and trees in bloom.…
When the COVID-19 restrictions initially went into effect in March, no one had any idea how long they would last. At the beginning of the safer at home orders, many artists were live streaming performances from their homes to keep spirits high or to support the frontline workers. As we cautiously enter the sixth month of quarantine, the live entertainment industry is continuing to struggle to stay afloat, primarily because it relies on large in-person audiences in venues to succeed. Performers are putting their creativity to the test in order to reach their fans and satisfy their desire to share their craft with others. We have found five unique ways that entertainers are continuing to safely perform during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shakespeare on YouTube
By now, we’ve all likely experienced what seems to be the neverending Zoom meeting. The Show Must Go Online channel on YouTube, however, is using Zoom to keep you entertained for free. Focusing on the works of Shakespeare, Rob Myles and his talented cast put on one-of-a-kind performances every Wednesday for their viewers. Myles casts his actors from all over the world, directs and often acts in his own productions. Without flashy sets and period-accurate costumes, these plays are stripped down and raw. The actors rely on their talent alone to captivate the audience, and they deliver in spades. It’s the modern, COVID-era version of Shakespeare in the Park!
The Show Must Go Online: Julius Caesar Performance via YouTube
Streaming Live Concerts
The music industry has had a somewhat easier time during COVID-19 thanks to streaming services like Spotify and iTunes. For many artists, concert tours make up a bulk of their revenue, however,ome artists have found ways to continue performing “live” for their audiences during this time. StageIt, for example, touts itself as your online concert venue. Artists including Sara Bareilles, Leann Rimes, Tom Morello, and Trey Songz are able to perform live from their laptop; these performances are never recorded, making them once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Audiences can even interact with the performers by asking questions and requesting their favorite tunes. This pay-per-view model that allows fans to support their favorite artists seems to be gaining traction. Pop star Ellie Goulding live-streamed her new album, The Brightest Blue Experience, from London’s Victoria & Albert Museum through LIVEnow. Global Citizen is also offering free, short performances from the likes of Lady Gaga, Elton John, and Stevie Wonder through their One World: Together At Home series.
Ellie Goulding’s The Brightest Blue Experience, photo via Facebook
Keeping Comedy Alive
The early months of COVID-19 hit stand-up comedy especially hard. Comedy clubs completely rely on live audiences in order to keep their doors open. By July, almost half of all comedy clubs in the United Kingdom were in danger of closing permanently. Comedians turned to an unlikely platform to keep their audiences laughing:Twitch, which is primarily used by “streamers” or people who play video games online while providing commentary and interacting with a live audience. This summer, comedians from the Free Edinburgh Fringe Festival used Twitch to stream short comedy sets. Once they had their audiences interested, they offered full live sets through ticketed Zoom events. Other comedians like Sarah Cooper found success on TikTok by performing hilarious voice-overs and skits. Cooper’s TikTok videos now draw millions of viewers. Her success on the social media platform has even landed her an upcoming Netflix special.
@watchugotforme via TikTok
Drive-Ins Make a Comeback
In the 90’s, drive-in theaters began to decline in popularity, and in the early 2000’s, streaming services like Netflix almost made them extinct. After the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily shut down most sit-in cinemas, people started flocking to drive-in theaters again. Some of these theaters have also recently started to host concerts where people can enjoy live outdoor music from the safety of their cars. In Colorado, the popular heavy metal band, Metallica, had concerts at seven different drive-ins, while the Garth Brooks drive-in concert drew in an estimated 250,000 people across the country. Netflix is also bringing what they’re calling a “drive-into experience” to Stranger Things fans. Participants will be able to drive through the city of Hawkins and even the creepy “Upside Down” while live actors act out different scenes from the show. This experience is perfectly timed to begin in the month of October
Image via Netflix
Dancing From a Distance
None of the activities we’ve mentioned thus far are as risky for the performers as the art of dance is. Ballet is particularly risky because the dancers are often up close and personal with their partners or other large dance group members. Ballet companies all across the country are fearful of the upcoming holiday season, as their Nutcracker performances typically draw thousands in attendance each year. With the current COVID-19 restrictions in place, dance companies are scrambling to find a way to reach their audiences.
Kaatsbaan, for instance, is in the middle of testing a new format with its Summer Festival. The company is restricting all performances to outdoor spaces and no more than 50 people in attendance. Audiences can watch from their cars or from benches strategically placed at least 10 feet apart. Dancers will also primarily perform solo, and only dancers who have been quarantining together can perform duets. City Ballet of San Diego, on the other hand, found an inventive way to create performances in their Dark Room Series. After turning their studio into a black box, they recorded individual solos and edited them to make it appear that the dancers were performing together in an ensemble. These ballet companies will continue to test the waters and see how they can make the upcoming critical holiday season a success.
Kaatsbaan Summer Festival 2020, photo by Sara Krulwich