A Virtual Divide May Keep Dramashop Performers Afar, but Not Apart
Erie theatre stages a streaming cabaret running this weekend
Erie's Dramashop Theatre continues on amidst the COVID-19 pandemic by performing more shows in an online capacity. Set to perform an online cabaret this weekend, the theatre is dedicated to providing entertainment in the Erie community, as well as adapt to the restrictions that come with the pandemic.
The cabaret, titled "Afar but Not Apart," serves as a fundraiser for Dramashop's 2019-2020 Supporting Players Drive. A minimum donation of $15 is required for each person viewing the event.
"Afar but Not Apart" will feature musical performances by Dramashop veterans, creative team members, and board members. Performances will be "almost live," as most will be pre-recorded from each performer's house, while Artistic Director Zach Flock and Board Member Jessica Flock will host the event live.
According to Zach Flock, the event is a collection of songs with broad themes of hope, love, and unity. While some performers will be singing pieces from Broadway shows, others will be doing covers of songs that can be heard on the radio. However, all of the pieces are tied together by one thing: they're all performed by people with ties to Erie and the Dramashop community.
Since it's a cabaret event, Flock said each song can either be enjoyed individually or together.
"There's definitely a continuity to it, even though there's no connective plot," he said. "The songs fit really well together."
The title of the event, "Afar but Not Apart," is derived from the first show Dramashop adapted to live-stream during the stay-at-home order as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. The title is a line from Lauren Gunderson's "Silent Sky," and is something Flock said really resonated with the crew at Dramashop.
"When we started thinking about an online concert designed to unify our community and bring people together virtually, that line kept coming back to our minds," he said. "We're physically distanced from our fellow artists and performers, and from our audience, but we're sharing in this experience together."
Cast and crew came together virtually to put together the show from all over the world. From performers in Erie, to a producer in Pittsburgh, and even one performer in Japan, "Afar but Not Apart" is a symbol of unity amid ongoing uncertainty.
Theatre events like this are important, Flock said. The continuation of theatre in an online capacity is important as a creative outlet and a means of expression for both performers and the audience. According to Flock, those at Dramashop aren't doing this for views, but simply because theatre is part of their lives.
"At Dramashop, we're storytellers, and a pandemic doesn't change that," he said. "No matter what happens in the world, and especially in challenging times, it's important that we tell each others' stories."
Flock hopes for the online cabaret to bring people together emotionally, despite the distance between performers and audience members. He also emphasizes that the event is a fundraiser, with pay-what-you-can donations required for access to the livestream.
Like countless local businesses, COVID-19 caused Dramashop to feel a financial blow, which he said will impact operations for its next season. Getting ahead by raising funds now will ensure that the organization is better equipped to adapt to theatre in the age of COVID, he said.
Aside from raising funds, Flock said he hopes people tune in because a shared experience like "Afar but Not Apart" is important.
Performances will feature: Ken Brundage, Almi Clerkin, Shawn Clerkin, Rebecca Coleman, Jessica Flock, Zach Flock, Diane Hardner, Zach Hoffman, Gretchen Kerr, Josh Lapping, Julie Lokahi, Nicole Lossie, Meghan Longo, Bob Martin, Leah Mathie, Anna McJunkin, Adam Rossi, Brittney Shaw, Kate Thiem, Patrick Thiem, and BJ Waide.
"Dramashop is truly a community," he said. "Knowing our audience is out there is important. We love our supporters, and we're grateful for the chance to share this unique production with them."
"Afar but Not Apart" will run June 5 and 6 at 8 p.m., and June 7 at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at https://dramashop.square.site/ for a minimum donation of $15.