While we are all coping with the social ramifications of Covid-19, many industries are struggling to maintain stability. The performing arts is one of those deeply affected by social distancing rules, as without an audience, the show can’t go on. Arena Stage, an integral staple of the local performing arts scene, is calling upon patrons to help them ride out this moment in time by donating to the Roaring Back Fund.
Molly Smith, artistic director of Arena Stage and architect of the fund, tells District Fray that this is an opportunity for fans of the theater to help stabilize their favorite performance space for the moment, though she knows that they’ll come roaring back: “Because the theater always comes back.”
Arena Stage has been open for 70 years, through the Vietnam War, 9/11, the Great Recession and, now, in what Smith describes as the challenge of our generation, the fight against the novel coronavirus. For one of the first times in our history, people must go against their human nature and not interact socially in groups. As far as the theater goes, its job is to bring living, breathing audiences together to share the same space with actors who perform hopes and dreams on stage.
Arena can’t do this because of social distancing, so the fund is intended to supplement artists while they aren’t able to do what they do best. However, Smith knows that nothing will keep artists from creating, and many are looking to the internet as a way to combat the isolation and the loneliness people are feeling by posting their work on the Arena Stage Facebook page. Whether they’re singing, teaching a certain dance step, sharing costume designs for children to color in, writing poems or any other form of art, social media has become a way to connect with the audience despite their distance
“Artists will always create,” Smith says. “Even if we’re isolated, artists will always create.”
In addition to providing fans with home entertainment, Arena Stage is also assisting those at the front line battling the disease. In the absence of shows to create costumes for, Arena’s costume department has begun sewing face masks to donate to the Children’s National Hospital of D.C. The way Smith describes it, this selfless act is just their responsibility as Americans to help others in this time of need, similar to checking in on your elderly neighbor or calling your family across the country.
“I know that Americans have always joined together, made change and made sacrifices for the good of the whole. And that’s happening right now.”
Smith knows that when all is said and done, Arena Stage will open its doors to those hungry for theater. Though the world will likely change from this experience, she is confident it will change for the better. A start to that better change lies in supporting places like Arena Stage as they work to stay afloat. Smith looks forward to the day that this fund has paid off, and audiences and Arena workers alike can take in all that the theater has to offer. But mostly, she looks forward to “a moment when we can sit down and have meals with friends and family and toast each other and toast the moment of being totally and brilliantly alive.”
Arena Stage: 1101 6th St. SW, DC; 202-488-3300; www.arenastage.org