Since the two months of the COVID-19 emergency have hit The Grand, we’ve missed seeing you here. After our recent performance of Alash Ensemble featuring Shodekeh, I had a patron come up to me in a local brewery afterwards, itching to talk about the performance. Our GrandKids were walking out of the house trying to imitate the throat-singing pitch with their voices. These are the moments that make The Grand special, and the essence of the electrical energy of live performance.
And so when the change into staying safer at home occurred, we were faced with a question – with the doors to the theatre closed, how do we best serve our audiences? To answer that question, we went back to the core of who we are – our mission as an organization.
Our mission is “to nurture an appreciation of the Arts in all citizens of Central Georgia, especially its youngest citizens, through attracting the presentation of quality productions as well as an immersion into a treasured architectural artifact that reflects 133 years of Macon’s history.”
Can that be accomplished while preserving social distancing?
It isn’t the same as being in our historic halls and watching an artist practice their craft firsthand, but we believe we have taken these months to try and create experiences that live up to what Maconites expect from The Grand. Most importantly, we didn’t just want to move stuff online. We wanted to use this time as an opportunity to create value for our patrons.
1. Nurturing an appreciation of the arts in the citizens of Central Georgia:
For this, instead of looking outwards to great performers across the nation, we looked inwards to the great performers living next door — literally. Knowing how much our audiences love musical theatre, we teamed up with talented citizens here in Middle Georgia ranging from seventh graders to retirees, professional musicians to small business owners, college students to professors for Bite-Sized Broadway.
With miniature performances from home or on The Grand stage, your friends and family rocked the house and reached more folks around the area than any show in our space could hold – because of the short and engaging format and since our patrons were the stars, Bite-Sized Broadway videos have reached over 15,000 viewers. Some of these folks are outside Central Georgia and can’t attend The Grand in person. Others may not have heard of us or knew we presented performances until seeing their loved one on their feed. A different kind of impact, to be sure, but an important impact.
2. Especially its youngest citizens, through attracting the presentation of quality productions:
One of our proudest features as a venue is being extremely family oriented and seeing the performing arts as a foundation for children’s development. Our GrandKids program is a major highlight of our work at The Grand. In order to engage our youth and reward our youngest fans, we’ve decided to turn the idea of performing arts centers “commissioning” artists on its head and solicit commissions from kids for prizes! You can find out more about The Grand’s Mini-Commissions here.
For me, the cornerstone of this experience is arts cultivation – we are looking to not just show art to our audiences, but to create a thriving arts ecosystem in Central Georgia. This is one of the tenets of the exciting Macon Cultural Plan. Giving our youngest creators a voice helps to increase the breadth and depth of their participation down the line, and centers the arts at the core of their identities.
3. An immersion into a treasured architectural artifact that reflects 133 years of Macon’s history:
Behind these walls are hidden traps set by Harry Houdini, where Gregg Allman found his home, and vestiges of darker times in Macon’s history. There are stories everywhere within The Grand — but how do we tell them when we’re here and you’re at home? Bob Mavity has over a quarter of a century’s worth of experience giving tours of this building. He knows it forwards, backwards, sideways, and up and down many spiral staircases. And we’ve heard from so many people who once lived in town and are homesick. So we created a super in-depth Virtual Tour of The Grand, including spaces that can’t be accessed by the public! Several parts of our cool (and occasionally creepy) building aren’t quite safe to show in person.
So in many ways, this particular experience would only be able to be possible with social distancing. We are going to release a follow up to this video with bonus content. Amongst the 2,200 viewers, I received a message from a former volunteer who had moved away from Macon and said they felt like the video was a reminder of home, as well as from a technician on one of our tours who learned a new fact about John Tesh from our concert. So the video didn’t just reach people’s feeds, it made an impact.
Even though we’ve been working hard to figure out the best ways to keep you safe while gathering together, we’ve been trying to still reach you and make The Grand a part of your life. In my next blog, I’ll show just how many folks we’ve reached near and far, and our final video tidbits.
While not all news coming out right now is good news, we hope you are well and safe, and that these activities can provide just a bit of the jolt to the senses that gathering together to share our stories, poems, dances, and beats normally does. Part of the appreciation of the arts is the ability to change the course of our quotidian existence, transcending the daily grind into sharp colors and sounds that are all the more meaningful during challenging moments in history.
In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.”