[TRANSCRIPT of April 30th Video Message]
Hello my friends – what a time we are living through! More than anything else it is filled with an almost absolute uncertainty that nourishes much fear and anxiety. The only thing that does seem certain is that we, as both global and local people, will be forever changed. I’m speaking with you today as the Artistic Director of IN Series, and Im excited to share with you, in a way which seems the most personal possible right now, news that is both bold and brave. First I want to take a moment to acknowledge the pain, through sickness or wellness, that we are all experiencing. I want to acknowledge in particular how this has affected our IN Series family of artists, and all those around the world that dedicate themselves to creating beauty in a world that is so easily experienced as otherwise; and I want to celebrate YOU, who have shown such love and support for these artists during this time. THANK YOU.
You’re probably wondering why I’m here dressed to the nines and with a glass of bubbly. Well, today would have been our April 30th gala, when we would have presented the first annual Caldwell-Cardwell Honor to Francesca Zambella for her work making opera a more diverse and inclusive artform, featuring Denyce Grave, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and so many other guests. We also would have announced the nation’s first young artist program exclusively for singers of color, and you would have met a amazing quartet to supremely gifted future industry leaders. It was not to be this year, but…
Today, is indeed still a day of celebration, as you are among the very first to hear exciting news about our IN Series 2020-2021 Season. Since March we have grappled nonstop with the challenges posed to our art form, our organization, our artists, and our audiences by COVID-19. The past six weeks have been consumed by consideration of how to stay faithful to our mission under unprecedented circumstances. That has meant embracing technology to present an array of online learning tools, from an expanded podcast selection to long-form interview conversations between myself and arts thinkers. It has meant releasing streaming content of some of our recent productions and also of compelling past work by our artists. It has meant videos of amazing virtual performances like our Quarentetto version of the Quartet from Rigoletto (which has been viewed over three thousand times online), and new ways to support our artists by offering their services to you in the form of Operagrams that you can send to your loved ones with whom you are unable to be right now. Perhaps most exciting, it has seen our commitment to the live experience continue with the inauguration of Cocktail Concerts, a series of live evening concerts by IN Series artists from their homes, with artist receptions that follow online where all are invited to connected with the artists and each other. Our first Cocktail Concert received over 1.2 thousand views in its first evening, and well over 2 thousand views by now, views which refer to screens watching, and hint at an even higher number of individual viewers. I’m so proud of all this, proud of our staff, artists, family of patrons, and I hope that you we continue to to join us in this new frontier.
But this has also been time where we have had an opportunity for ask the important questions – what does it mean to be an arts organization in a time of crisis? What does it mean to be truly faithful to our community and our artists? How do we justify our existence in a time like this by bringing real light into this darkness? How to we find the crucible in these difficult times that will transform our art form into something even more dynamic and powerful than it ever was? When NO ONE can provide any answers, how do we make sure that we are still asking the questions that make us all feel alive?
As we leaned completely INto these questions it became clear to all of us that we had to be true to our brand as your IN Series At the very core of our being as an organization, however small or scrappy, is that we are out IN front. We are ahead of things like this. We are INnovative, we are INspiring, we INterroagte and we INvestigate – our brand is to be radically and responsively meaningful. And that only becomes more so when the going gets tough. This is a time for bold creativity, and above all else: optimism. With that in mind we have taken the plunge, and scrapped almost the entire season we had planned for next year – and not to do less, and not to do either what we already know, or what is safe. Rather, we have thrown-out what was our plan and instead furiously embarked on imaging a new season which responds to and is in conversation with our collective TODAYS.
I’m proud to tell you on this today that IN Series is, to our knowledge, to first company in the world, opera, theater, or otherwise, to announce a COMPLETELY DIGITAL 2020-2021 SEASON. one which allows us to unflinchingly persist in our mission and vision in ways which were unimaginable even a few weeks ago.
A DIGITAL SEASON – what does that mean?
The truth is, we don’t completely know yet, and the thrill of living in that space of imagining new possibilities is precisely what has allowed us to begin to give a bold shape to its outline.
It means we are going to build together a digital theater, a virtual operahouse, an online space to house all the creative content we will produce this coming season and beyond.
It means that instead of 5 to 6 live productions, we will focus our energy, creativity, talent, and resources in making double or even triple that amount of new work, work which in some way speaks to our lived experiences of this time
It means not trying to recreate the live experience, not resorting to just making video recordings of what would have been live theater evenings. It means, instead, letting the capabilities of this technology innovate our artforms in untold ways, and thus being at the forefront or imagining opera-theater’s future. This won’t be a season about answers, it will be a season that dares to ask questions – a season of exploration and a first-of-a-kind journey of experimentation on which you are invited to come. This will mean feature length films, opera-shorts, opera-theater projects realized as episodes, virtual reality experiences and interactive opera inspired by gaming technology, audio experiences in the style of radio plays and other 21st century content that is inspired creatively by older forms. This will mean collaborations with film companies, radio stations and audio artists, animators and dancers, singers, actors, writers, creators who are local as well as those from all around the world. The possibilities are suddenly endless, and if you can’t tell already we are at this very moment lit with the fire of precisely that…so much possibility.
-It means that instead of announcing a season of titles, we will announce a promise of content, to be constantly in creation and released several times each month. This radical new approach to what a season means allows us to adapt continually during these months of uncertainly. It provides us with the flexibility to react with creativity and compassion to each wave of news or virus or treatment as it happens.
And, It means that all of this work will be accessible to multitudes around the world in a way we could never have before imagined, and that all of this content we will offer free to the community. While we will still offer subscriptions to this season, packages which will include added monthly concerts, invitations to live events and online artist receptions and premiere watch parties, as well as early and extended access to all our content, we are proud beyond measure to have discerned as a company that this digital season creates a once in a lifetime opportunity to make art and outreach events which are truly accessible and available to almost everyone, and that to offer it freely and openly makes this a uniquely powerful moment to reach wider audiences and to make a difference in their lives.
This will not be opera as usual, shrunk down to the small screen. This will be music theater designed to be consumed at home to appeal to the broadest audience possible; all ages, all languages, totally global. This new iteration of opera will speak to those who already love live opera, those who have never seen live opera but will be persuaded by this to pursue it when that is again possible, and even for those who will only love it digitally.
It does not mean abandoning the commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion that would have been at the center of our live 2020-2021 season. Though we are prevented now from launching our new emerging artists program for exceptional young singers of color, the Cardwell-Dawson Resident Artist Program, we are committed to offering all those artists even more performance opportunities in this season and expanding our network of creators of color to also include filmmakers, animators, producers, and audio artists.
And it does not mean that we’ve abandoned the experience of coming together live as a community. We expect that in the year to come there will be a difficult-to-predict series of waves, that will also provide moments when we can gather. We are building collaborations with local cinemas where we will host live film opening events, premiere evenings when we can come together in celebration with our friends, neighbours, artists to see this work presented on the big screen with receptions and guided artistic experience. We hope that moving further into the season we will have the opportunity to blend live and digital experiences together, and that this time next year, when we turn our gazes towards IN Series 40th Anniversary season, we will have discovered new ways of dreaming and making that will inform the future work of IN Series.
We will be making a more formal announcement of this season plan later in May, followed by a month when we will be designing and laying the cornerstones of our new virtual opera-theater space. This will be a digital structure to house all this new content, and its during this time we hope we can rely on our faithful family of donors to come forward to make this a reality. This new site will be opened to the public in July housing past content, and we plan our first production to drop in September, just when our live season would have begun.
I want to reiterate that this digital season is not about having answers, answers we can’t possibly have since we do not know how the virus will affect our ability to meet, to view, to make music together, or to share in person, but we do know what questions our season will address: We know also in our hearts that this is a step that is bold, brave, innovative, and most importantly takes into consideration the health and safety of our family of patrons, critics, friends, and beloved artists.
I can’t tell you how much I look forward to seeing you all in person again. I can tell you how proud and excited I am about the season we are about to make, together and for sure. This fully digital season is a good thing. It allows us to expand our reach infinitely, sharing what we love, what moves us, what unites us, and who we are, with the broadest possible audience, thereby realizing the vision that Carla established and that I strive to carry out in ways we hadn’t thought possible.
Feel free to reach out to IN Series with questions, concerns, ideas. I look forward to hearing from you, knowing you are with us this season, and to seeing you again as soon as possible.