In 2020, with many people finding themselves with too much time on their hands, some learned to knit, some learned to bake bread, some learned how to cut their own hair. However, the one thing just about everyone learned this year was how to use Zoom.
The cloud-based video platform has enabled people stuck at home to interact with others in numerous ways — including by providing ways to stream live entertainment to audiences. A number of arts-based organizations have taken advantage of this new technology to keep audiences connected and keep their presence alive during pandemic times. This past year, Vineyarders near and far were treated to plays, readings, talks, music, dance performances, and more — all virtually. Here are a few examples of entertainment 2020-style.
The Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse produced two Zoom readings of full-length plays, as well as a competition of five-minute plays and a series of Shakespeare monologues.
The first full reading in August offered a reprise of the play “Crumbs from the Table of Joy,” which featured the original cast and director from the Playhouse’s 2016 production. The drama, by two-time Pulitzer prizewinner Lynn Nottage, is a memory play, centered on an African American girl growing up in Brooklyn.
The second feature offering, presented in October, was a reading of the two-person drama “The Niceties,” by Eleanor Burgess, featuring Amy Brenneman as a white professor and Tsilala Brock as a young Black student engaging in a discussion of race that eventually turns contentious.
Pathways has been going strong all year, hosting readings, music, and a new series of artist talks through Zoom ever since the arts organization was forced to shut down its space in Chilmark in March. Anyone interested in offering a performance of any type can still jump on board, as Pathways will remain active online indefinitely.
Some organizations were able to find creative ways to entertain audiences in the great outdoors. The M.V. Museum hosted a variety of events, including talks and live performances with local musicians. The musical offerings ranged from Jazz Night to the fourth annual Ladyfest, featuring female performers, including a performance by Nanauwe Vanderhoop, a Native American singer who embraces her ancestry through music that embodies the spiritual.
In November and December, the museum presented a reading series called the “Covid Monologues,” featuring Islanders recounting their personal experiences with the pandemic.
While adhering to social distancing guidelines, the Yard dance residency and performance venue hosted two outdoor, site-specific performance pieces this year. In August, the Yard’s dance collective led guests around the Slough Farm in Edgartown to witness a guided performance experience.
Just in time for Halloween, the Yard offered a spooky, immersive walk titled “UnExquisite Corpse” on the grounds of the M.V. Museum in October.
The Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival (MVFF) adapted nicely to indoor gathering restrictions by borrowing an idea from the past and setting up a drive-in theater, next to the YMCA on the Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road. The MVFF and YMCA hosted dozens of screenings of family films and documentaries all summer long, on a pay-what-you-can basis. Films were often paired with live music performances pre-screening. Even once the weather turned chilly, the nonprofit continued to offer the opportunity to view movies from the comfort (and warmth) of people’s own cars.
The M.V. Film Center offered films both live, following safety protocols, and virtually through its Film Center at Home, giving audiences the choice of getting out to enjoy a movie on the big screen or staying comfortably at home. There were live theatre performances, opera, top-notch films playing, and more, allowing audiences a bit of an escape during the pandemic.
Up until the time when Islanders can gather together once again, local organizations will continue to provide entertainment through the Zoom platform. And in one way, the virtual world is superior, in that everyone with a Vineyard connection can join in, no matter where they may be located.