Updated: Jun 5, 2020
Live entertainment provides a means of shared connection with audiences of all ages, large and small. During these challenging times, music, theater, and dance provide us with not only a means of distraction but also a shared experience that may help us cope with our new normal. Artists typically perform in groups, sometimes up to 100 members, as with a symphonic orchestra, to a room full of people, indoors or out. Throughout the pandemic we have seen artists from numerous genres stream events online to share their artistic endeavors with their fans, everything from solo musical performances, to individuals recording and performing choreographed pieces individually recorded and then shared online pieced together. Artists have quickly evolved their methods and have provided us with moments that we can share while alone, together.
But what happens as our countries begin to ease out of lockdown? How does entertainment evolve when the reality is that the stadium arena shows, theatre productions and outdoor festivals may be on hold for an indeterminate amount of time? And even then, will people want to attend these large gatherings? How are the artists coping with a lack of audience feedback? How many artists thrive on audience participation and respond accordingly to their reactions? How do artists make a living when some have relied on tours and live performances?
Artists and organizations have been and will continue to be required to think critically about how to keep themselves and their audiences safe. The WHO has created guidance and risk assessments for mass gatherings and yet there is a very real challenge with contact tracing should a case be reported. Appropriate safety measures in the form of visual cues, hygiene availability, mask usage and the creation of environments that promote and even enforce physical distancing will hopefully create an experience of artistic enjoyment within this new normal.
Examples of How Shared Artistic Experiences Have Evolved
Providing a Physically Distanced Ensemble Performance to a Virtual Audience
The Berlin Philharmonic had been set to perform their annual European Concert in Israel in honor of a state visit from the German president in March. Philharmonic orchestras typically have between 50-100 members sharing the stage at the same time. A socially distanced orchestra had to be reimagined. They chose chamber pieces, where the arrangements are made for a much smaller group. This time no more than 15 musicians could share the stage. Woodwind players, who use their breath to create their instrument’s sound, were spaced 5 meters apart, which the remaining instrumentalists kept 2 meters of distance from another. All were tested for the virus before beginning rehearsals and there were health care officials advising along the way. Masks were required backstage, but were not needed on stage as they maintained their distance. While the conductor and first violin typically shake hands before beginning and at the end of the performance, this time they bowed to each other from afar. They performed to an empty theater and live streamed the event.
Creating an Environment that Ensures Physical Distancing
Meanwhile another musician in Denmark hosted a live musical performance outdoors with audience members. He played from a stage and the audience came with their household members in their cars, parked them in designated spaces and listened to the concert broadcast over their car radio, reminiscent of drive-in theaters. Another musician in the States has announced a similar ‘Drive-In’ concert tour for the summer.
Creating Scripts that Can Be Performed by Quarantine Households
An organization called 'Play With Us' has commissioned several playwrights to develop short plays that can be preformed by individual households. Several of these plays center around quarantine, which offers what may be another means of coping to the groups of household actors performing these works.
Physically Distanced Indoor Concert Experience
An indoor theater in Alabama hosted one of the first live socially distanced concerts in the States on May 18. With ‘fan pods’ ranging from two to twelve seats of members from the same household set up throughout the theater, the overall capacity typically at 1100 now hosted 229 attendees. Concert had their temperature taken before entering the theater and had to wear masks. All drinks and snacks were served in pre-packaged containers and with lids. Restroom had a limit to persons inside. All sinks, soap dispensers and towel dispensers were be touchless. While all of these precautions will most likely be part of the new norm, it may be difficult to ensure physical distancing throughout the concert experience.