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Indiana band, Houndmouth drew in an amiable crowd at the Castle Theater Nov. 20. The popular heater postponed shows until further notice, but remains hopeful to open once after quarantine.

The arts have been suffering throughout the entirety of quarantine, being financially stable has served issues for many companies in the department of arts.

The way businesses have had to adjust and adapt to these hardening changes proved that even through these taxing times, we can all get through this if we continue to work together and support local artists and businesses.

This time of uncertainty has certainly impacted the art community, and once our current situation of being in quarantine fades away, how will these types of businesses handle when everything can finally start going back to normal? The Castle Theatre, McLean County Arts Center and Illinois State University School of Theatre of Dance have been hit hard and circumstances have changed the way all of these companies handle events and activities, but they all have plans for moving forward.

McLean County Arts Center made a statement amid coronavirus, “Due to the pandemic concerns, the McLean County Arts Center staff and board are sad to announce that we will be closed to the public for the time being. Classes to be starting in the new term will be rescheduled. In the meantime we are offering daily programs, most for free, on our Facebook page, and on our website with our Stay Home Art Challenges. Be safe, stay home, and make art!”

The stressful anticipation of when everything can go back to normal has made the uncertainty of the situation so much harder. Doug Johnson, MCAC executive director, discussed their plans of return to operations, “When the stay home order is lifted, we will return to the on-site role serving our community development through the arts. In the meantime, we will continue to take advantage of web-based programming opportunities to fulfill our mission of the arts for our region.”

Johnson commented on how MCAC plans to recover from the financial calamity, “We are still planning on our September fall fundraiser, have successfully applied for the Payroll Protection Loan, and various grants to assist our continued operations.”

The McLean County Arts Center will be hosting a fundraising dinner 5:30 p.m. Sept. 17 at the Bloomington Country Club. With the support from the community the MCAC can be back on track in no time.

“We have closed our doors, postponed our classes, and moved our programming online,” Johnson said. “In place of these activities, we have been posting daily art activities, artist interviews from past videos, and online free art classes.”

The MCAC Stay Home Art Challenges provides a fun outlet for all ages to be creative in the comfort of their home. Multiple themes will take over with coloring activities, sculpture, collage and many other challenges taking place and entries can be found on their website here, https://mcac.wildapricot.org/Stay-Home-Art-Challenge-Homepage. Submissions are due the same day at 7 p.m. and must be emailed to info@mcac.org with name and age. Prizes will be awarded each day to the winners.

Remote learning for classes that demands human interaction has proven to be difficult, but not impossible. Acting and dance both require physical and emotional expression and conveying emotions in the same room and seeing and feeling is much harder to accomplish in a Zoom meeting.

Lori Adams, who is the head of acting and a professor at ISU School of Theatre and Dance, gave us some insight into what it is like to be teaching in a very much needed interaction online.

How has quarantine changed the way you do things now as an acting professor?

“It has changed everything. Before being asked to switch to online learning after spring break it had never occurred to any of the acting faculty that this was something we could even do. It was certainly not something any of us wanted to do. Acting involves intense human interaction and giving and taking from a scene partner. This is not something that can be done on Zoom.”

How are you handling classes during this time?

“The students have been absolute troopers. There was a general shift in how the course material was presented. Since each of my acting classes had spent eight weeks together before the switch to online, they knew each other well and trusted each other as a result of the work done up to that time. Rather than doing scene work (which involves at least two people working together) we have converted to doing monologues (where an actor has all the lines and is talking to a person who is there but not necessarily in the room). This model is how actors audition for roles, so it is not totally foreign to them.”

How has quarantine changed the way the Theatre and Dance Program run things?

“We are a group of people who interact. We know each other and work with each other all the time. We’ve adapted by having not only classes on Zoom but also production meetings and play readings and Zoom chats and today we just had our Zoom end-of-the-year awards celebration with much of the student body and faculty in attendance. We loved seeing everyone (even though it was just our faces) and saying hello to everyone we have missed so much.”

Do you know if any musicals or plays that were canceled due to the pandemic are going to be rescheduled?

“It was devastating how many productions had to be canceled. Two mainstage shows, “The Wolves and 1984”were almost ready to be performed when the lock down came. Our mainstage dance concert had to stop. The FreeStage (the student-run registered student organization production company) lost a total of 12 shows that were part of the FreeStage Festival that would have been performed in April. It was a blow to everyone, and the students and faculty involved have experienced great disappointment. But everyone is resilient. One of the original scripts, written by a student, had a Zoom staged-reading of the play with the actors who had been cast.”

 Do you have any advice you can offer to students in this field during this time?

I can’t give students advice. They are each handling this in their own way. I do wish for them to be safe and healthy and with people they can care for and who will take care of them. I wish for them to know that they have not lost their skills as an actor, they have merely added this life experience that will make them emotionally richer. I carry so much hope that we will be back together in the classrooms and in the theatres as soon as possible.

“It is unfortunate that the hard work students put into their shows had to be canceled. The Castle Theatre can also relate to that, having to postpone all of its shows for the remaining time.”

Owner and General Manager of The Castle Theatre, Rory O’Connor discussed how the theater has been struck and their plans for reopening.

“We are currently determining what our approach and protocol will be for reopening. We are paying close attention to what other businesses like restaurants and sporting events will be implementing.”

“I assume there will be some caution among the general public but the concert going crowd are in general quite a hearty group,” O’Connor said. “Additionally, Bloomington-Normal is not a hot zone for spread and we may be in better position than venues in major metro areas.”

With the arts taking a financial hit, O’Connor commented on how The Castle Theatre is recovering from this burden. “I think most venues and restaurants are still in survival mode. Recovery, depending on the length of government-mandated closure, will take time.”

The good news is almost all their postponed events will be rescheduled or are in the works of being rescheduled.

O’Connor also provided us with some exciting insight, “We are planning to host some free shows outside this summer in the downtown area. I think that summer conditions, with the ability to space, may be a good start for us to gather as a community again.”

The art community in Bloomington-Normal can all relate during this hardening time but with the support from the community and with the passion to create art, everyone can get through this one day at a time.

ASHLEY BINKOWSKI is a Features Reporter and Photographer for The Vidette. She can be contacted at asbinko@ilstu.edu Follow her on Twitter at @BinkowskiAshley


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