Magician/Mentalist Paul Draper
A radical paradigm shift during a time of uncertainty is nothing new to magician Paul Draper. After all, the Utah native made the decision to pursue a career as a full-time entertainer during the last big economic slowdown. "I was a part-time magician, part-time singer, part-time teacher until 2008," Draper recalls. "That's when I decided. So I'm not afraid of drastic change."
As was the case for almost all entertainers, a drastic change was required for Draper, who has performed at venues as big as Disneyland. Perhaps more significantly, Draper was used to a show that depended greatly on live audience interaction. "Every object I use is touched and taken home," Draper says of his live shows. "So that's completely out the window."
Draper re-imagined his act as an online show—not just in terms of what he would do, but the audience he had in mind. He realized that plenty of children would be spending birthdays at home, without the ability to have a party. And to provide something special on those days—or for any occasion—Draper crafted a 30-minute performance where "it's modular and immersive and interactive, and outcomes change based on their choices in real time." He has even been able to customize themes based on kids' specific areas of interest, whether it's Harry Potter or soccer.
Performances are $250 or pay-what-you-can, but Draper has also set up a Patreon (patreon.com/pauldraper) to allow for "scholarships" so free shows are possible. "I was an only child raised by a single mom," Draper says. "I wanted to make sure I could make [shows] accessible." Visit MentalMysteries.com to bring a little magic into someone's stay-at-home day. (Scott Renshaw)
Salt Lake Acting Company: We Got This
It's understandable that many arts organizations are worried about their own viability at this time. While Salt Lake Acting Company is by no means downplaying those concerns, it has also reached out to show its concern for how others in the community are doing.
"We want to make sure our audiences are doing alright," SLAC executive artistic director Cynthia Fleming says. "We've offered to assist in whatever way we can—whether it be picking up groceries, prescriptions, or even providing toilet paper."
As an offshoot of that desire to reach out to the community, SLAC launched a project titled We Got This. In keeping with the company's passion for storytelling, they've asked people to share their own stories of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The company has already received several submissions, sharing accounts that range from the feelings of being a person with "high-risk" health conditions living alone, to using their financial resources for generosity, to what it's like to visit a grocery store at this time.
Fleming says that there is no specific plan in place for what SLAC might do with these stories going forward, including the possibility of combining them into a full production along the lines of some of the company's anthology projects from the 2000s like The Water Project. "While the number of submissions has been modest," Fleming says, "and to be honest, that's what we expected at this stage, as we're not completely aware of the final scope of what exactly it is we're going through, there have already been some incredible stories shared, any one of which could be the basis for dramatization." (SR)
Pioneer Theatre Company: The Show Goes On...line
While arts organizations are physically separated from audiences by the pandemic, the artists in that community are showing how connected they are to the people and places that have supported them. Karen Azenberg, artistic director for Pioneer Theatre Company, saw that connection when she had to send an email to cast members of the planned production of Something Rotten to let them know that it had been cancelled.
"None of them were surprised," Azenberg says. "But their response was incredibly generous; it had more to do with, 'If there's anything we can do for the theater, please let us know. And I was going to cry. What I had said to these people was, 'You're fired,' and what they said is, 'What can we do for you?'"
That generosity has taken the form of The Show Goes On...line, a series of daily short videos at pioneertheatre.org created by members of the extended Pioneer Theatre Company "family" of production alumni. You might find Sweeney Todd cast members Blake Stadnik and Anne Tolpegin (pictured) performing the show's "Not While I'm Around," or Something Rotten cast member Daniel Plimpton at his piano showing off an improvised pandemic-themed tune created by his mom.
While at press time Azenberg still planned on posting clips from actual PTC productions like Sweeney Todd, she believes this kind of content is just as valuable at showcasing the people behind the shows. "I thought what we decided to do should be as personal to us as we could be," Azenberg says. "Make it about this big community that we have created at Pioneer." (SR)
Make Salt Lake
The feeling of helplessness that can accompany a crisis finds its best antidote in helping others. That's exactly what Utah's DIY community is doing—in a way that has already yielded tremendous results.
Make Salt Lake—a "makers" organization active since 2013—has spent much of the last month addressing the much-talked-about shortage of masks, face shields and PPE in the battle against COVID-19. The creators apply homemade techniques like 3D printing and sewing to generate (so far) more than 2,000 pieces of PPE, with a goal of 20,000 units.
"At the heart of every DIYer or maker is a problem-solver," Make Salt Lake board president Melissa Allen says. "We tend to be people who want to take on our own problems—and the problems we see in the world—and try to fix them."
Collaborating with other organizations locally, the 40-50 Make Salt Lake volunteers are also taking advantage of a global DIY community, both to come up with creative plans for making their equipment, and organizing how and where to distribute it. "The face shield design we're using was open-sourced by a 3D printing company in the Czech Republic," Allen says. "We're able to tap into this brain trust to see who's finding what materials work well."
The organization welcomes other volunteers, as well as donations of cash and raw materials to makesaltlake.org—particularly cloth for masks, and thin plastic sheeting for face shields. Allen says that while most commercially-available PPE is understandably going to hospitals, Make Salt Lake aims to fill in the gaps by providing equipment to other vulnerable potential "hot spots" like homeless shelters and assisted living facilities. (SR)