Adapt. Pivot. Virtual: Words that once exited mouths infrequently became part of everyday strategy and lexicon during the pandemic, especially for Anchorage performing arts groups and organizations that had to adapt, pivot and go virtual after theatre doors closed.
In this great reassessment, organizations made new connections, strengthened old ones, and dove into new mediums for their art.
Audiences got glimpses into artists’ homes and experienced concerts from their own living rooms. Art lovers gathered outside in parks, gardens and front lawns that hadn’t hosted professional performances before.
Anchorage Symphony Orchestra debuted their first virtual performance of the Alaska state song early in the pandemic. Their concert of ‘Alaska’s Flag’ has garnered thousands of views since it went online in May 2020. In November 2020, ASO remained virtual for the opening of their 75th season. By the end of the season, 45 musicians could gather in person for the first time in more than a year to record a performance at the Atwood Concert Hall.
Drag artists were another group that quickly pivoted to online shows. ‘Queerantine for a Cause’ virtual drag performances raised thousands of dollars for Alaska charities and organizations.
Other groups ventured into territory that they hadn’t explored as much before.
Anchorage Opera created ‘Masks that Sing.’ Inspired by shows they’ve presented and plan to present, such as ‘Frida’ and ‘Tosca’, the masks with style and flair went to Anchorage Opera partner organizations. “Until we can sing again for our community, our masks will!” they wrote.
In addition to podcasts and programs at KONR, Out North presented a series of pop-up, drive-in films, including ‘I Am Not Your Negro’, ‘Latch Drom’ and ‘Paris is Burning’.
Underground Dance Company created a film with Bryan Fidel Films and D’zine Alaska. ‘Break Free’ told the story of four individuals who “find that dance is a common language that speaks to each of them differently and has the power to change how we see ourselves and the world around us.”
Adapting and experimenting is in the DNA for some arts groups. Momentum Dance Collective artistic director Becky Kendall said, “We’ve been fortunate because we have always experimented with the types of performances we do each season, whether we are performing in parks, on buildings, focusing on dance filmmaking or in traditional theatres.”
Momentum produced two different concerts at the Alaska Botanical Gardens in September 2020 and 2021. Audiences wandered the half-mile loop in a beautiful setting while the artists could be creative and safe.
Coming up, performing arts in Anchorage will be a mix of in-person, virtual and new mediums. Alaska Center for the Performing Arts has guidelines such as mask wearing and proof of vaccination or negative COVID test result to protect patrons.
TBA Theatre’s annual Halloween performances include live events at APU’s Grant Hall with some streaming options available.
Anchorage Concert Association recently announced a dozen in-person shows. It is also continuing its Community Artist Project, an art series that provided connection and creatively addressed isolation. Projects included ‘The Quarantine Sister Circle’ by MC Mohagani Magnetek, a series of panel discussions and performance art processes designed to encourage empathy, compassion, connection, and creativity during the isolation and hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic. Up next is ‘Of Hope’ in April 2022, a performance created by Enzina Marrari that “will provide a space to share the hard stuff; a place to provide a sense of connection and normalcy through art during a time of unrest and fear; a place to feel seen, and an opportunity to bring live, place-based art back into Spenard.”
Channels and venues may change and adapt, but performing arts haven’t left Anchorage. Artists continue to perform, and organizations continue to pivot to present in new and familiar ways. Whether gathering virtually, outdoors, or at the theatre with masks, audiences are still able to experience the transformative power of live performing arts.
Laura Carpenter (they/she) lives and writes on Dena’ina land. Connect with Laura on Twitter and Instagram at @lalauramarlene.