What’s it like to step back into a theater for the first time in months with a live audience – carefully and with masks?
It’s all about finding a SAFE way to connect and share the intimacy, power and beauty of live performance. This is a new frontier for most performers – emotionally as well as logistically. It certainly is for me.
For the last 7 months, this wasn’t even legally possible. During that time our town theater was closed. The beautiful old 500-seat vaudeville theater could have 25 people maximum in it, and that could NOT be in the context of a live show (I’m not sure exactly what those 25 people COULD do).
A Birthday Tradition
But when it comes to birthdays – and mine is Nov. 11 – the one thing I love to do is a CONCERT. I started the tradition when I turned 19, and it’s been my birthday celebration on and off since then. So I asked the Regent Theatre’s manager, Leland Stein, if I could use the stage for a livestream concert to 500 empty seats – and he said yes.
So that was the plan. Until the guidelines changed suddenly on October 5th.
A Space Opens Up
I heard it first on the news, and called Leland immediately and it was true: with strict distancing guidelines, masks for everyone in the audience, and no intermission – we can have an audience! A very limited, very spaced apart audience – less than 20% of the house – but a real, live audience for a 7:30 pm LIVE-INTHEATRE Show at the Regent Theater.
Leland and I had an emergency meeting – which meant he texted me and we met in the park, at ‘our’ meeting bench and worked it all out.
Another Possibility Opens
That’s when I found out the Regent was also doing a Saturday morning Family Show series and I said, “How about I do a kid’s show that morning, as part of the Series?” And thus was born KIDSHOW with the Harp Lady at 10:30 AM EST — which is streaming-only and has the added benefit of being a perfect showtime for a lot of my livestream audience in Europe.
So we started searching for the right Livestream platform: something that would give everyone a LIVE experience – and finally found StageIt, a streaming platform specifically for live performance. You watch it when it’s happening … and then it’s over, like a real live concert experience.
My Favorite Glitch So Far
Of course, with any new technology, there are glitches. My favorite so far (not) was the $199 tickets for a 30-minute LIVESTREAM show – which one person accidentally bought before we discovered the glitch (sorry about that, Midge!).
If this sounds like a dumb mistake – it isn’t! Since StageIt streams throughout the world, they have their own monetary system. For folks in the US it works out to roughly 10¢ for each Stageit buck, but if you’re a little sleep-deprived or stressed by other Covid-19 considerations, it’s easy to get it wrong, and last Sunday morning I got a text from a friend: “Are the tickets really $199? For a 30-minute show??”
Well, no, the LIVESTREAM tickets are $19.99 and the show is 90 – 100 minutes long but the 30 minute show-length default is absurdly hard to bypass and the $199 tickets … well, attention to detail is hard in times of stress.
My Favorite Problem-to-Solve Creatively
My favorite problem-to-solve is the issue of SINGING. Turns out that instrumental performance is considered safe … but not singing. And singing is a big part of my show.
Enter creative problem-solving and resourcing (two of my favorite things): Since the whole show will be Live-Streamed, with multiple cameras, which can be fed to the Live-Stream AND to onstage screens, our plan is for me to walk off stage any time I sing, effectively taking the audience into the wings with me via video.
This makes me grateful, once again, for a harp I can WEAR (thank you for the lifelong collaboration on that CAMAC HARPS!), for wireless mics (thank you MICROPHONE MADNESS!!), and for the joy of being able to take audiences backstage, into more areas of the theater I personally find magical – places you only get to be as a performer. But THIS show will get to take place on all those levels.
The Magic of the Open Possibility Metaphor
My other favorite part of this, believe it or not, is the empty-theatre experience. My whole life, empty theatres have been magical places for me. To be in this huge empty space before a show is like being in a realm of possibility.
I feel the excitement of that emptiness even though I know that part of the power of music is that it isn’t diminished by a larger audience. You share a cake with 1000 people and each gets barely a mouthful – but every ear is filled completely whether a theater is full or nearly empty. BUT … there is something about a nearly empty theater that highlights the fact that you are there … you were in that room.
It’s like that breathtaking sense of specialness when you see something unexpected and ephemeral and you wish you could share it with everyone, but at the same time you feel you’ve been singled out to experience it.
And that’s what it means to be LIVE
If you live near the Boston area – join me live with your mask and your hand-sanitizer in a magically nearly-empty theater filled the with the joy of a live experience. If you live in the rest of the world, join us via livestream to celebrate a joyful birthday gift of music and the faces and hands of humans in the most glorious place on earth: a theater.
The last time I took my harp out of the house was Feb. 1st 2020 for my Annual “Lose Your Blues” show at the Center for Arts in Natick. I’m so grateful for the chance to do this again and I hope it’s not the last time before another lockdown, but rather the discovery of a way to be in the magic of live performance safely.