BAAY at Home
Wednesday, May 13, 2020
Despite the fact that the youth of America have been thrown the “biggest curveball of their generation,” Ian Bivins believes they will have a significant part to play in the post-pandemic world.
As the executive director of the Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth (BAAY), he’s gotten an up-close look at what happens when students are stuck at home away from physical interactions with friends, saddled with schoolwork delivered in an unfamiliar way, and struggling to come to terms with the disruption of their day-to-day lives—including taking classes or rehearsing for upcoming shows at the State Street creative hub.
Bivins says despite the barrage of hurdles, he’s finding that the youth he interacts with from afar are proving to be resilient as well as tech-savvy. And in this new reality, screen time is a must.
“They are still engaging in what may be the greatest coping mechanism of all—play,” he says. “This pandemic is forcing artists and nonprofits to reevaluate our options for existence. Sounds heavy, right? Yet I see young people exercising their agency to adapt to this new world. Who better to do it than these digital natives?”
To that end, students involved in previously planned showings of Fiddler on the Roof and Seussical the Musical are tuning in for group rehearsals using online tools such as YouTube and Zoom (performance dates TBD); signing up for a variety of online summer classes beginning this week such as Shakespeare 101, Theatre History, Singing for Musical Theatre, Theatre Tech, Dance for Musical Theatre, Monologue Fundamentals, and Artists in Academia; and participating in other BAAY at Home offerings such as free yoga and dance videos and prescheduled Zoom meetings focused on topics including upcycling crafts, ukulele lessons, story time and “Impressions with Ian.”
“The last one is a drop-in class I have begun to host on Wednesdays at noon,” Bivins says. “Basically, I take students through the fundamentals of creating character, where we hone in on the finer points of a target character. Me? I’m all about Christopher Walken.”
And for potential students and adults interested in what the Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth has to offer—or for those looking to recapture the magic of live performance—BAAY at Home also offers shows of the week featuring free screenings of prior full-length productions including The Stinky Cheese Man (2014), The Firebird (2019), and The Skylark (2016).
I viewed the latter a few days ago, and found that in addition to being thoroughly entertained by local playwright and musician Steve Barnes’ original tale of a civilization that has achieved hard-won peace only to find itself back on the brink of calamity, I also found many life lessons to be gleaned from its watching.
Bivins says that’s not a mistake.
“Everything we put onstage, or through our other educational programs, strives to fulfill our mission—‘to enrich the lives of children through the exploration of the arts,’” he says. “We are here to teach skills and offer tools, but most importantly, we are here to foster growth in character, confidence, creativity and community.”
That final bullet point is an important one. Without support from the citizens it serves, BAAY wouldn’t exist. As a small nonprofit that pays for its physical space and incurs additional expenditures every time it books a show for its students to perform, Bivins says donations are key to its survival.
“There are so many expenses that we don’t like to broadcast but are very real,” Bivins says. “The kids we serve through our EduArts work at elementary schools and through our scholarship programs—really, all students—need access to the arts now more than ever, and we are determined to keep fulfilling our mission to help kids make it through this stressful time with creative outlets. Our organization depends on generous support from our community.”
That said, BAAY continues to provide scholarships and barter arrangements to any student or family who needs it, as it has for the nearly 15 years since it started offering arts education to the youth of Bellingham and Whatcom County.
Along with outside support, Bivins stresses the importance of students also supporting each other.
“I truly hope that our students will embrace the idea that the cultivation of craft can continue to grow in a new way,” he stresses. “We want our students to stay connected to each other and to us, to find support in relationships and to keep creating together. The reality here is that we won’t be able to see each other in person for a while. So we are embracing new ways of learning together and supporting each other as a community through all of this.”
[Wed., May 13]
A SHAYNA MAIDEL: At 7pm, Western Washington University presents a live stream of Barbara Lebow’s play A Shayna Maidel—a story of survivors, family and honesty in the lasting shadows of the Holocaust. A cast and crew of WWU students will bring the story to life via a stage-reading-style performance directed by Lamby Hedge. The show was originally scheduled to be performed live, but due to the spread of COVID-19 was forced to cancel. To be part of the one-time-only performance, request access to the stream at the email below.
[Fri., May 15
VAUDE-VIDEO-HAM: The members of the Bellingham Circus Guild may not be able to share their talents in person this month at their spacious 6th Street Cirque Lab, but the monthly uncensored open stage fundraiser will nevertheless continue starting at 7pm via a “Vaude-VIDEO-ham” watch party featuring a montage of everything from aerial performances to dance, comedy, magic, juggling, burlesque and more. Although entry to the virtual gathering is free, the ongoing event is designed as a fundraiser with a $5-$10 suggested donation. “If you feel inspired to support the Bellingham Circus Guild while we all weather this storm there is a donation button on the bottom of the front page of our website,” organizers say.
For more info: http://www.bellinghamcircusguild.com