Live shows are returning to Cotuit Center for the Arts, starting Saturday with a multimedia performance related to the African American experience.
When live shows return to Cotuit Center for the Arts Saturday, it will have been 160 days since performers and audiences last shared an evening there.
Yes, executive director David Kuehn is excited enough that he counted. And he assures that safety is the highest priority as he welcomes people back. (Videos due soon on the center website at artsonthecape.org will add to the written explanations there about how it’s all going to work.)
The first event, at 7 p.m. Saturday, will also honor the important conversations that have been happening nationally in those 160 days by focusing on experiences for Black Americans. “Restoring My African Soul” will be a multimedia performance with Robin Miller addressing what is described as “an artist’s struggle from black shame to African American pride through art and poetry.”
The show was to be performed at the center in January, but Miller had to postpone for personal reasons, Kuehn says. Because of the coronavirus-related shutdown, this is the first chance to reschedule, and circumstances have prompted center officials to work with Miller in a broader way. “Restoring My African Soul” will be the first show in what is planned as a five-part monthly series titled “Black Lives Matter: A series of consciousness-raising events and conversations with Robin and Jim Miller.”
In announcing the opening, board president Kathie Lynch Nutting thanked the Millers, whom she called “a passionate and artistic couple,” for helping “our community engage in challenging, overdue, important and ultimately enlightening conversations.”
The center will be splitting proceeds from some upcoming shows with performers, some of whom have been out of work during the pandemic. Kuehn says Miller plans to donate her half to the Zion Union Heritage Museum in Hyannis. (Tickets are $30, $28 for seniors and $25 for members.)
The weekend, which also includes Saturday’s reveal of a digital collage of various artists’ work called “Piece by Piece V: Demonstration 2020,” kicks off a schedule of summer and fall music, theater, art and conversation aimed at finally bringing people together on the main stage and outdoors. “We feel we need to keep the programming alive, we need to keep everyone engaged,” Kuehn says.
But only in a safely distanced way, with masks and strict cleaning policies in place. And only 25 people at a time, under state and town restrictions. The indoor theater has been reconfigured for maximum flexibility, he says, and indoor seating at least 25 feet from the stage will be at cafe tables and on the balcony with only parties that have quarantined together seated together. Outdoor seating will involve tables on the patios and people bringing their own chairs. Details of cleaning plans and other protocols are available on the center website.
Many of the close to a dozen shows announced and more planned will also be live-streamed, recorded for later viewing, or otherwise made available for those without a ticket. Kuehn says he and his reduced staff are experimenting with the best way to present programs, after seeing a variety of online content in recent months that they didn’t believe worked well.
“Wherever possible, we will make it so people who don’t feel comfortable coming in person will be able to experience what we’re doing, even if it’s a week later,” he says. “Restoring My African Soul” is expected to be available for free streaming next week, he says.
On Aug. 15, “The Tommy Bee Maiden Cabaret” will combine live and recorded options in a streaming nod to shows lost because of the pandemic. The production features performances recorded last month on the center’s stage, along with live conversations between executive directors David Kuehn and the directors of the three shows — “Tommy,” “Death and the Maiden” and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” — that had been well-rehearsed and close to opening before they had to be canceled in March.
At the time, Kuehn had promised the disappointed actors a cabaret-style show where each singer would choose a song or duet to perform there.
Other upcoming theater involves just one or two actors, with separate performances collected in larger shows to showcase though larger groups of actors will also get to perform “the best of the past 10 years of (the center’s) musical theater.”
Pricing varies per event; some are free (but donations encouraged).
The center’s art gallery is also open, with small tours available by appointment. The center has already been presenting arts classes, many via Zoom. That schedule will increase soon, including small, in-person classes and workshops — including at the new ceramic studio — on the Route 28 campus. Private instruction is also available.
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