Generosity is all around us during the COVID-19 crisis. I want to highlight one initiative in particular that’s successfully raising funds for darkened theatres. Pandemic Players is the brainchild of Baltimore County director, actor, and pianist Stephen Deininger. Since mid-March, a group of over 100 volunteers and seven-member board have raised $1,500 a week, on average, to benefit one local theatre a week—five at the time of this writing, with more to come.
Every Saturday, a classic public-domain play is performed on the Zoom platform that’s been manipulated to include digital sets and the illusion of shared props. Every Sunday, the volunteers decide collectively which theatre will be the next beneficiary. Performed pieces range from Shaw’s Saint Joan to J.M. Barrie’s Dear Brutus to classic Shakespeare. The group is now developing curriculum to help guide arts educators so they can adapt the value-added Zoom technology to benefit students.
As Deininger watched theatres close one after the other, “We took stock of what we had, and what we have is a very robust community of people willing to volunteer, who care very much about the arts.”