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Gossip: Call to action, updates on 3S, Hackmatack, Rep

Gossip: Call to action, updates on 3S, Hackmatack, Rep

Arts and culture organizations need support

Last week a call to action by a collective of performing arts and culture organizations was printed in the Portsmouth Herald. It was a call for help (https://www.seacoastonline.com/opinion/20200318/guest-view-portsmouth-area-arts-and-culture-nonprofits-need-you?). Unlike Wall Street, these theaters, companies, venues, and organizations will not get millions thrown their way. To stay alive, they will need the public’s support, in spite of and because they can offer little or nothing in return for the foreseeable future.

Every arts organization is threatened with closure, some more than others. A few are fortunate to have lower overhead, while others carry a mortgage and numerous staff members.

Many may well not survive a few months sans revenue; mere weeks put some in danger.

These businesses’ stockholders are us, the community they serve. And it is us, the community, that will be poorer for any losses. The face of our cities and towns will change. We have long been touted as the “arts rich” Seacoast. That could change.

The important thing to keep in mind is that these organizations took years, and went through many stages to come to fruition. They don’t come easy. It was done with money, goods and hours donated by its community, small individual donations, and larger ones by philanthropic individuals and businesses, all believing they were bringing something important to the community. They were right. These organizations have enriched us.

Yes, they bring people from outside the community to add to the communities’ coffers. But they are ours. They bring greater value to our community, and simply make us laugh, cry, feel and dance. They teach us and our children and bring us together. They make us the enviable community that we are.

The point is these nonprofits are our vitality, our soul. We need to ensure they continue.

Please buy gift certificates or simply donate during this time.

This will end. We will go back to things as they were – if we all do our part. Let’s ensure we have our dance halls, music venues, theaters and art schools to return to. Heaven knows we’ll be in desperate need of them.

Nonprofits facing ’stark reality’

3S Artspace Executive Director Beth Falconer was the person who spearheaded last Monday’s meeting of nonprofits that led to the public appeal on behalf of cultural and arts organizations.

The meeting was arranged as an in-person gathering, but moved online by the time it occurred.

“Initially this was a simple peer-to-peer meeting around the status of performing arts organizations with major cancellations in front of them,” Falconer says. “It quickly grew as word got out to other organizations.”

The intent was to encourage a collective message of the impact arts organizations faced due to Covid -19. But, word spread, and more were included. The appeal which appeared last Thursday in the Herald (written by Denise Wheeler, edited by Falconer and Lee Frank) is there for all arts and cultural nonprofits to use, Falconer says.

“The statement is for sharing with the community,” Falconer says. “Please just use it with your own audience if you feel it is helpful to do so. It’s there to draw attention to the financial and social impact the temporary closures will cause.”

The appeal notes the impact a three-month closure would have on these organizations, “and the results are staggering,” she says.

“It’s not just layoffs,” she adds. “It’s the unknown of when we can get back to business and will it be with a full staff.”

The meeting of the organizations was “a lovely opportunity to come together,” but also held a “tone of sadness,” Falconer says.

“Things are very vulnerable right now. Organizations like us live so close to the line all the time,” Falconer says. “Closures would be devastating. I’m scared. I’d be devastated to see all this work, and all these artist and staff and community that 3S has created, go away. … The stark reality is coming into focus.”

Hackmatack to hold auditions online

Hackmatack Playhouse is a summertime thing. At the moment, it’s not feeling the effects of the coronavirus as a business yet, Executive Director Michael Guptill says.

“We’re very sad for everyone that has to go through it now and crossing my fingers it’s over by my season,” he says. “I feel horrible for all the other theaters.”

It has made changes though. Hackmatack cancelled its in-person auditions, opting for online.

“We’re online however we’ll be giving priority to those that were already coming to our face-to-face auditions,” Guptill says. “We think that’s only fair.”

The theater has been inundated with requests for auditions from across the country,

“it’s ridiculous,” he adds. They had 125 planned, now they are flooded with requests. There’s so many it’s not possible for the small theater to review them all, he says.

“Other than the people we already had coming, I don’t even know how to plot the auditions,” he says. “And frankly we can’t put a cast together with people form California and Arizona. It’s not going to happen frankly.”

Physical auditions were planned for last week. Those who had slots will be notified of the new schedule, set for this weekend.

“I just want to say good luck to everyone,” Guptill adds. “Stay healthy and hope it goes away soon!”

Seacoast Rep turns to livestreaming

The Seacoast Rep is doing what it can to keep its theater alive and its employees paid.

“In the three days between not being able to host live audiences and our first scheduled event, which was the drag show last (Wednesday), we’ve turned into a what’s essentially a live TV studio,” Director of Marketing and Development Brian Kelly says. “We got a little bit of equipment and repurposed a lot of the equipment we already had and set up a live-streaming service where people can watch our performances online.”

Their first, ” ’90s Night! Drag Haus,” was viewed by 149 patrons, all paid.

“It made more money than any of our drag shows have so far,” he says. “And we even figured out ways for people to tip the performers directly (a drag show custom). It was a great success.”

The staff spent two days setting up the project, led by Co-Artistic Director Brendan James, who has experience with live streaming. There were concerns regarding technical elements “but they all held up,” he says. “We’re very pleased with how it turned out, and so we’re going to do more.”

There were 11 performers. The theater space was used as the official green room allowing for ample distance between performers when they weren’t on stage, he says.

“We’re still following precautions, washing, using hand sanitizer,” Kelly says. “I’m able to moderate remotely, I don’t even have to be on site, and the whole technical element can be run from one station. We’ve been keeping safety and public health in mind.”

The Rep plans to livestream Company Classes, likely weekly. Every Friday it will present a live cabaret and there’s new content on its Patreon fundraising service. Drag Haus will also continue. “The next drag show theme – which was picked last year – is ‘A Post Apocalyptic Extravaganza,'” Kelly says. They also have a radio station. To find out what’s up, check out www.seacoastrep.org.

But there’s more – they hope.

“We’d very much love to perform a live play or musical via livestream, but the licensing companies haven’t reacted to the situation quickly,” he says. “We’re applying for new rights every day. We’re also looking for things in public domain we want to put up. As soon as we get that rolling, we fully intend to produce a live theatrical performance over the internet.

“This is still in early days, but essentially, we’ve given the green light to any of our artists to try out whatever they like,” he says. “Pretty much anything we create, people can see. It’s encouraging our people to stay creative even if they can’t have a physical audience.”

Jeann McCartin keeps her eyes and ears open for gossip at maskmakernh@gmail.com.