On Stage

Share the Wealth

We heart community

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

It’s chilling to think about the array of performing arts venues whose shows and seasons were abruptly cancelled in mid-March when the emerging coronavirus made it clear show business couldn’t proceed as usual, and what that meant for casts and crews who had already labored for untold days, weeks and months behind the scenes to ensure Whatcom County’s arts scene remained a vibrant one.

At the Sylvia Center for the Arts, for example, iDiOM Theater had just wrapped up the first weekend of performances related to its latest epic undertaking—an ambitious three-show adaptation of classic Viking legends dubbed The Saga of the Volsungs—when the cast of 22 realized they’d have to exit stage left, likely for quite some time to come.

Similarly, the Bellingham Theatre Guild was on the cusp of opening the penultimate show of its 2019/2020 season, The Smell of the Kill, which was to be followed by the mega-musical Into the Woods in September. The set for the former had already been built, costumes were ready to be donned and the cast was eagerly anticipating opening night when Governor Jay Inslee advised Washington state residents to stay healthy and stay home. Cue the closing of the curtain.

For the Mount Baker Theatre, acts that had been on the books to perform through the end of the season—including “An Evening with Steep Canyon Rangers,” the musical Finding Neverland, the perennially popular Pink Martini ensemble (https://mn2s.com/booking-agency/live-roster/pink-martini/), Menopause the Musical, trumpeter Chris Botti, the Wailin’ Jennys, Dance Theatre of Harlem, and a visit by bestselling humor writer and social critic David Sedaris (whose presence at the MBT always guarantees a sold-out show)—were canceled, with rescheduling dates up in the air.

Other theatrically focused venues and organizations impacted included Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth (which has been offering virtual classes and programming throughout the summer), Bellingham Repertory Dance (who held off on its annual seasonal auditions, but still pulled off a virtual dance festival at the tail end of August), and Children of the Setting Sun Productions (a multimedia theater, film and theater arts production company specializing in Coast Salish storytelling).

All of the aforementioned entities are part of a “We heART commUNITY” fundraising drive spearheaded by the Whatcom Arts Project in late July. The undertaking by more than 30 organizations asks patrons to make a $50 donation to at least five local arts establishments, totaling $250 in giving.

“Arts organizations are all suffering from physical closure, lost earned income, and lack of resources to continue to paying staff and facilities costs,” organizers say. “With your help we are widening our collective pool of supporters, encouraging you to branch out in support of the diverse groups who make up the thriving Whatcom County arts ecosystem. The arts are vital, we are interconnected, and everyone will benefit from a thriving arts and culture section in our community.”

The collaborative campaign isn’t just confined to theater and dance entities. In the visual spectrum, Allied Arts of Whatcom County, Make.Shift Art Space, Jansen Art Center, and the Whatcom Art Guild are on the list. Musically inclined organizations include Bellingham Symphony Orchestra and the Jazz Center of Bellingham. Screen-focused choices include the Pickford Film Center and Cascadia International Women’s Film Festival.

By sharing the wealth and asking donors to choose not one, but five ways to spend their donation dollars, We heART commUNITY is drawing attention to the fact that if even one of these organizations is forced to shutter permanently, it will be a detriment to the cultural landscape as a whole.

While participants will receive an exclusive tote bag back commemorating their part in the movement to keep the arts alive and thriving in Whatcom County, the true perk of making a tax-deductible donation will be in knowing you supported those who, year after year, help ensure that you have a reason to leave the house—whether it’s to sit in a darkened theater while ancient fables are enacted, watch a new piece from a regional composer come to life, experience the breathtaking beauty of movement, view a daring documentary, or attend an art opening. They’ve been there for us, now let’s be there for them.

For more details about the We heART commUNITY project, go to http://www.alliedarts.org/we-heart-community-donation

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