COVID-19 Impact on Arts and Culture: Auburn Public Theater Produces Variety of Virtual Content

May 8, 2020

The theater may be closed but they're offering a variety of online programming four times a week.
Credit Auburn Public Theater

We're wrapping up week seven of the COVID-19 shutdown, and we’re once again checking in with some of Central New York’s arts and culture venues to see how they’re coping.  WAER News caught up with Auburn Public Theater and found out they’re offering virtual programs four times a week.

Artistic Director Angela Daddabbo finds great irony in all of this…she says they’ve spent the past 16 years trying to get people out of their houses and away from electronics only now to be stuck in and to them.

"So, here we are faced with a shut down pedaling as fast as we can to get everybody on their phones, their tablets, their screens, and their computers through our programming.  We're hosting an open mic night Tuesday nights at 7:00 for about an hour.  We're soliciting musicians ahead of time to make sure it's all scheduled, and they're set up, and the lighting's right and the technology's right."

Kate Ellen Dean sang on a recent open mic nite.  Daddabbo says they didn’t really plan on virtual programming four times a week.  But she says the team is determined, and they have a pretty big Rolodex of performers to call upon after a decade and a half.  Not to mention, they don’t have to be available to make the trip to Auburn.  Among them is Skaneateles native Jeff Connor in northern California who recently did his best Bob Dylan.  Daddabbo says they've built quite the online following.

"The worldwide web opens us up to everyone, not just people who are physically here.  That's been one of the silver linings of programming during this very bizarre set of circumstances.  Not only can performers pop in from anywhere, we have people watching from all over the place...people from different continents,  lots of different time zones, and they're commenting in real time on Facebook.  For me, that's coming from the sense of loss, lonliness and separateness.  It's a virtual community for sure, but it's a community nevertheless."

As with most performance spaces, Daddabbo and the Auburn Public Theater staff are trying to figure out what the future might look like once they’re allowed to re-open in some capacity.

"We're having the same conversation I'm sure that everyone else is having about cleaning protocols, number of people in the building, what we once had versus what we will now have; how we will tape off seats ortape off rows."

But she acknowledges the uncertainty is pretty thick, just as they were finally hitting their stride.

"We have spent the last over 16 years now building Auburn Public Theater, creating Auburn Public Thater,  reinforcing Auburn Public Theater, dreaming of long-term sustainability for Auburn Public Theater.  We really felt we were on the eve of making that happen."

Daddabo says the theater that began as an unlikely social experiment with five younger, idealistic, undercapitialized friends feels positioned to persevere.

"If you pull back and take a higher view of the path of the theater, this feels like something we might be able to over come.  We certainly hope we'll be able to overcome.  We still have the grit and the determination to try to overcome it."