Just like other theatres throughout the state, the Circle Theatre in Grand Rapids has had to cancel and postpone all performances and events through the end of April. Circle Theatre’s solution to this is to put on Virtual Events through Facebook Live. With three shows every week, airing on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, these virtual shows are a great way for the theatre to earn revenue during this time and also for the community to come together and enjoy the art of theatre.
The first performance in the Virtual Events series aired on Monday, March 23. Circle Theatre virtual performances will consist of two Living Room Concerts at 7:30 p.m. and one episode of Petty’s Circle Fireside Chats at 7:00 p.m. Director of Creative and Audience Development Noddea Skidmore is the mastermind behind the Virtual Events. “I created our Virtual Events so they could be collaborative, but also a little hands-off for the Circle staff.,” said Skidmore.
Living Room Concerts feature either a current Circle performer, a new face to Circle, or a Circle alum. Petty’s Circle Fireside Chats is a fun, talk-show style program that is hosted by Grand Rapids’ own Broadway drag queen Petty LuPone and each episode has a special guest.
Skidmore said that one of the challenges Circle theatre performers and singers have faced doing the Virtual Events is that they are used to having a Music Director and accompanist. “So, a part of making our virtual Living Room Concerts “click” has been finding those performers of ours who can accompany themselves on guitar or piano and be resourceful to put together their own set list,” said Skidmore. “It’s been wonderful and magical to watch.”
Skidmore cites two reasons behind the decision to put on Virtual Events: the need to generate income and the community’s need for arts and entertainment.
“We knew it would be a necessity to bring in donations and generate sales in order to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. If we could provide our community with entertainment to keep them smiling and hopeful…perhaps it could be a way to bring in donations beyond an ask for support,” said Skidmore.
Circle Theatre has also set up a page on their website for community members who want to support the theatre during this time. This page of the website is where patrons of the theatre can make donations, purchase merchandise and get more details on the Virtual Events series.
“People have been so wonderfully supportive, but in the coming weeks, we need that support to continue and we need to draw in new audiences, too,” said Skidmore.
Putting on shows for the Virtual Events series has been beneficial to both Circle Theatre and the Grand Rapids community. “It’s been tremendous for the morale of our community and our performers,” said Skidmore.
“I can’t tell you how many of our performers I talk to after a Fireside Chat or their Living Room Concert and they share how much they needed that outlet to perform, to talk about their feelings in these strange times, and to feel connected to others through the power of music and theatre. Without a doubt, music and theatre heals,” she explained.
Circle Theatre plans on providing entertainment through their Virtual Events series for the duration of the mandated social restrictions, however long that may be.
“As long as the community comes through with their contributions and support, we aren’t going anywhere,” said Skidmore. “This will be Circle’s 68th Season and we’re planning on providing entertainment, enrichment, and education for West Michigan for decades long into the future.”