When arts organizations and venues began shutting down across the globe due to COVID-19, Spring Theatre — a 9-year old theatre company based out of Winston-Salem, North Carolina — was one of the thousands affected by this worldwide pandemic. Their season opener, Children of Eden , was scheduled to go into rehearsals in March, and with a diverse cast of kids, teens and adults and an amazing production team, it was set to be one of the highest-calibre shows Spring Theatre had ever produced. When the decision had to be made to postpone the show, Artistic Director Dan Beckmann and Executive Director Erinn Dearth felt called to create something for the community of artists who would no longer have a live audience to practice their craft upon.
“These are unique times,” muses Beckmann. “It’s kind of exciting, you know, as someone who prefers to practice their artistry off the beaten path, and to have this opportunity where it is not only encouraged, but necessary to get creatively weird… Ooh, did you feel that rush just now? I know I did. I’ve got goosebumps.”
Shortly after the cancellation, the board of directors at Spring Theatre announced the new plan: to open the Spring Theatre season with a Digital Performance Project — a fully-online, socially-distanced performance series. Under the direction of Beckmann and Dearth, performers individually contribute their pieces of the performative puzzle from wherever in the world they may be located, and they are then assembled into a stunning theatrical collaboration for the whole wide world to enjoy!
After hosting digital auditions, the production team was surprised to acquire a talented cast of 100 not only from their own community, but from Virginia, Florida, Minnesota, New York, England, Australia and more.
“The show is coming at a time where it is needed, I think,” Beckmann suggests, “where our patience for solitude is being tested and we’re all kind of locked up and afraid and are getting perhaps too much of some people and too little of everyone else. We’re writing this thing with the intention of addressing many of the everyday struggles we’re being faced with now, and to sort of bring a therapeutic quality with it; a feeling of connectedness. It’s lighthearted but insightful. It’s playing with purpose.”
As the project was beginning, a sense of community within the cast was one the most important things to Executive Director Erinn Dearth. “When you’re in a community theatre production, it does so much for the soul of the performer, not only in what you give to the audience but in the friendships you make with your fellow cast members. In putting this project together, it was imperative that we made a way to foster a sense of community”. A couple of ways they do this is through regular online live cast meetings and a hidden facebook group for all 100 of them, and through projects like music videos.
Their first music video- a cover of the Alex Boyé song “Lemonade” was put together in just one week, and included the voices, singing talents and personalities of the full cast. The response to the video’s release online was so explosive it immediately caught the attention of the song’s original artist:, “Such an amazing job, I’m feeling so blessed to have heard what you guys did to my song,” Boyé wrote on the theatre’s Facebook Page.
Spring Theatre is encouraging everyone to follow the project in the next several weeks, and especially to tune in to the LIVE watch party performance on Friday, May 15th at 8pm EDT. The details on how to tune into the live event will be on the Spring Theatre facebook page soon.
Sponsorship opportunities are also available for companies who would like to be involved in supporting the arts at such a crucial time.
More information on the project can be found at www.SpringTheatre.org or at facebook/springtheatreorg. For additional media items, to set up interviews, or to be involved in any way with the project, please email Erinn@SpringTheatre.org or call Spring Theatre at 336-528-5343.