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Utah performers use virtual events, other creative ways to showcase talents

Posted at 6:18 PM, Nov 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-27 21:44:48-05

SALT LAKE CITY — The COVID-19 pandemic has halted a lot of local art and performances. Artists have had to move to digital platforms to showcase their creativity and keep the show going for the community.

"Creativity is our middle name," said Crystal Young-Otterstrom, the executive director of the Utah Cultural Alliance. "So, everything we do is always creative, always innovative, and so give us a challenge like this pandemic and we'll figure out how to make art happen."

The Salt Lake Acting Company was getting ready to celebrate their 50th season before the pandemic closed down their theatre.

"We are theatre people," said Cynthia Fleming, the executive artistic director for the Salt Lake Acting Company. "And it was how do theatre people do theatre without a theatre?"

They needed a way to continue giving their actors work, and to connect with audiences remotely.

"So, it was like, how can we employ them?" Fleming said. "How can we become artistic again? So, we thought of these digital shorts."

The actors turned to YouTube to create a series of short films in order to keep producing work. Fleming says the transition has been challenging, but the work has been rewarding.

"Digital shorts is a completely new language that we had to learn and we didn't have a teacher," she said. "It just shows how artists can be so resilient."

The Pioneer Theatre Company at the University of Utah has also turned to digital platforms to continue their shows.

"We have put together a whole series of programs that are going to air virtually during the month of December," said Karen Azenburg, the artistic director for the theatre.

They have also been making masks out of costumes and other materials used in performances.

"I really wanted to be able to put our shop personnel back to work," Azenburg said. "Of course, one of the obvious things that came up during the summer were our masks."

She said the company has been grateful to come together to provide something for the community while they wait to return to the stage.

Although some in-person performances are on hold, the Utah Cultural Alliance says art is as important as ever for the community during the tough times of the pandemic.

"It's how we process trauma, it helps us heal, it's how we learn about people different from ourselves," Young-Otterstrom said. "There is no greater need for that than right now at this time."

Young-Otterstrom added that there are thousands of performances and art viewings available for Utahns to enjoy during the pandemic. The Utah Cultural alliance has a full listing of what's available in your area through their program, "Now Playing in Utah."