From Shakespeare’s Globe to the modern halls that line Broadway, theater performances are designed to provide an immersive experience. But as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, audiences have been kept away and stages have gone dark.
The Carnegie in Covington is not easily deterred, though. Theater Director Maggie Perrino is leading a collaboration of artists, educators, and business and social service professionals to work around the entertainment world’s current struggles as a “sort of potluck” crowdsource troupe dubbed the Creative Disruption Committee (CDC).
The Carnegie is a multidisciplinary venue for performances, gallery exhibitions, and arts education that, like others in the area, closed its doors and postponed all performances in accordance with government shutdown orders. Perrino enlisted the insight of experts experiencing similar disruptions to learn how other industries are adapting to unforeseen setbacks. “What rose to the top of all of those interviews were people wanting to help,” she says. “They needed somewhere to channel their energy. They needed a place to feel like they could make a difference [because] they care about what’s happening in the arts.”
The CDC intends to create paid roles for local artists and performers to develop public performances that adhere to health and safety protocols, like audio-based walking tours and art-infused school lessons. The group is also focused on dismantling traditional systems that have previously excluded minority voices from the arts. “Theater has the ability to open our hearts a little bit and let in lessons and ideas and change the framework of our reality,” Perrino says. “If we don’t create situations in which there is a multicultural representation in that transformative experience, what the heck are we doing?”
Perrino hopes to include a large group of administrative voices when choosing which shows will be produced and casting them, as well as cultivating a place where artists of color feel supported. “The goal is to create more representation for diverse audiences to want to come see themselves on stage or learn something new and open their hearts in a different way toward someone because they saw it done on stage,” she says.
The CDC recently hosted its first backyard performance on July 20 and will co-host an art exhibition entitled The Masks We Wear on July 31. Plans are underway to bring performances to the yards of nursing homes and rehabilitation centers as well.
The Carnegie is accepting volunteers to assist with the CDC’s organizing tactics, marketing campaigns, social movements, and more. “This is really about what we can do when we come together,” Perrino says. “At the end of the day, the work is being done by the people who decided to put their time and energy here. People want to feel agency about the world around them, and this is a place to come together and try to find a way to make a positive impact.”