As arts organizations in Greater Boston and around the world are forced to darken their theaters and shut their doors in response to the growing COVID-19 pandemic, ArtsEmerson, in its 10th anniversary season, is launching a free online initiative that looks to bring audiences together from the safety of their homes.
Together Apart, a curated series of recorded ArtsEmerson performances from past season, as well as conversations with artists, launches Wednesday, April 8, with a conversation with Melinda Lopez, writer and star of Mala, which premiered at ArtsEmeson under the direction of Artistic Director David Dower, in Fall 2016. On Thursday, April 9, WGBH 2 will broadcast Mala at 10:00 pm, and stream it live on YouTube TV.
“From the outset, ArtsEmerson has sought to foster connection across difference, and that sort of connectedness takes on greater urgency in this moment of social distance,” Dower said. “Our purpose is the same, but our platform has pivoted.”
The series will run through May 21, will bring audiences encore presentations of The 7 Fingers’ high-art circus Sequence 8 (2012-2013), Clyde Petersen’s queer coming-of-age multimedia event Torrey Pines (2018), and Global Arts Corps’ remembrance of genocide and silence, See You Yesterday (2019). Gypsy Snider, co-founder of The 7 Fingers, Petersen, and members of Global Arts Corps will join Dower for online conversations about their work, and Dower and ArtsEmerson Executive Director David Howse will host two virtual town halls to talk about art and audience during – and after – a pandemic.
“This online series signifies our best effort to contain that sense of connection between artists, audiences, and our staff, and to hold space for the important conversations that can happen in response to the art,” Dower said. “We fully expect to find ourselves, once again, gathering in our beautiful venues, but until then, we are grateful to our participating artists for helping us stand with our community as we stand apart.”
Survey data compiled by Americans for the Arts indicates that 95 percent of arts organizations in Massachusetts have canceled events due to COVID-19.
While much of the focus thus far has been on the economic impact of the virus on arts organizations and the cities and towns that surround them, ArtsEmerson is focusing on the impact left on audiences, said Howse. All experiences in the Together Apart series are free of charge.
“It’s a gift for our audiences during this time of physical distance, and just as importantly, a gift for our neighbors here in Boston, and beyond those borders who have yet to join us at the theater. All are welcome here,” he said.
ArtsEmerson was in the middle of its 10th anniversary season when the difficult decision was made to cancel or postpone all remaining programming. The fifth commission of the season, Plata Quemada, completed two performances before closing early to protect audiences, artists, and staff. Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower was rescheduled to Fall 2020.