The Performing Arts in a Troubled Time

The news about the performing arts is sobering when not dire. Across the country – no, make that across the world – theatres, orchestras, and dance companies are shutting down, some temporarily, some indefinitely, some permanently. With the needs of millions of people in our country and across the world prioritized by circumstances down to the very basic human needs of food, shelter, and health, the arts are taking second place, and along with the arts, tragically the people who make he arts.

From many artist friends and acquaintances we hear stories of sacrifice, of radical rethinking of what they do and how they do it and why they do it and even of if they should do it. Thankfully many of these artists are coming up with survival initiatives: musicians are self-producing CD’s and marketing them themselves and arranging on-line performances of new work, perhaps predicting what the new normal will be for the foreseeable future.

Performing artists – among the most challenged by the limitations imposed by social distancing and mask wearing – have come up with ingeniously-conceived one-person performances and on-line mountings of mid-sized plays and dance pieces in which the performers act and react to images of fellow artists miles away on a screen achieving ensemble coordination in spite of physical distancing . Orchestras have assembled small ensembles from among their ranks for on-line performances of the symphonic repertory downsized in orchestration for obvious reasons. 

Hopefully this write up will provoke interest, elicit support, and foster generosity among arts lovers by reminding them – even if this is preaching to the choir – that the arts are as essential to us humans as food and health and shelter are, even in and perhaps more so now, in the bleak times in which we live.

Rafael de Acha