After the COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of artist performances on stages around the world last March, including the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts, no one knew when audiences would again be able to enjoy theatrical or musical performances.
When Executive Director Rodney Rock and the Jorgensen Center staff decided in July to establish the Jorgensen Digital Stage with three livestreaming performances by The Dover Quartet, there was some uncertainty about how audiences would respond.
Jorgensen subscribers in eastern Connecticut were enthusiastic, as were those from a much wider audience in 19 states and Canada ,who joined online to view the performances via the Our Concerts Live.com platform.
“The summer went very well,” Rock says. “It gave us an opportunity to get our feet wet with the livestreaming experience and sell tickets. It was a great experience for the Jorgensen staff. We went into the fall semester with the desire to come up with a livestreamed Digital Stage for the fall.”
The fall schedule for the Jorgensen Digital Stage will include four performances, beginning with the Nov. 1 presentation of “Sugar Skull,” which tells the story behind the Day of the Dead holiday through the adventures of a charismatic candy skeleton. Other events will include the Pilobolus dance company on Nov. 12, UConn School of Fine Arts Music Faculty Showcase on Nov. 19, and stage and screen star Kelli O’Hara performing a collection of holiday favorites and classics from Broadway and the American Songbook on Dec. 5. All events will include an interactive question-and-answer session following performances.
Rock says the summer program was less complicated to organize than the fall program. The Dover Quartet was together in Colorado, rehearsing and preparing to perform. Musicians, actors, and other performers in most ensembles and theater troupes live in different locations until they begin to rehearse and go on tour.
“We originally started out with a plan to offer six events this fall, but it was difficult to identify artists that were performing,” Rock says. “Some of them have not been performing for five or six months and were not ready to go out and do anything. We wanted to livestream from campus. Some performers are not comfortable doing performances yet. We ended up with four solid events. One of the things I had hoped to do was to feature as many Connecticut-based artists as I could. We were able to put together four events that feature Connecticut-based artists.”
Two of the events will stream from Storrs locations — O’Hara from the Jorgensen Center stage, and the music faculty at either Jorgensen or the J. Louis von der Mehden Recital Hall. Both events will follow established state and University pandemic health and safety guidelines. The music faculty performers will feature Grammy-winning trumpeter Louis Hanzlik, horn player Eric Reed – who are members of the internationally renowned American Brass Quintet – and violinist Solomiya Ivakhiv. Special guest will be Tanya Bannister, winner of the New Orleans International Piano Competition.
Rock says a survey of Jorgensen subscribers earlier this year indicated audiences preferred a livestream performance rather than an on-demand event, noting that prerecorded entertainment is already available online.
“We’re not going into this thinking we’re going to sell out every show. For one thing, the capacity for livestreaming is limited,” he says. “We try to gauge how many tickets we can sell for each performance. It gives us an opportunity to keep Jorgensen in the forefront of people’s minds. These are livestreamed performance with live components.”
Support for the 2020-2021 season has been provided by the Jorgensen CoStars and Circle of Friends. Media sponsors and other partners include: CT Public, New England Public Media, Connecticut Magazine, Radio.com, WRCH Lite 100.5 FM, Hall Communications, WCTY FM, the Chronicle, MyConnecticutKids.com, UConn’s Puerto Rican Latin American Cultural Center, and UConn Music.
Tickets to livestreamed events on Jorgensen Digital Stage must be purchased online. Patrons will receive order confirmation, PDF tickets, and access codes via email. In an effort to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the box office will be working remotely. For questions and assistance, contact the box office manager via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also leave a message for box office staff at 860-486-4227 and a representative will get back to you as quickly as possible.
UConn students, non-UConn students, and Connecticut youth (K-12) are invited to attend all Jorgensen chamber events for free, including the UConn Music Faculty Showcase on Nov. 19, through funding by The Lenard Endowment. Students/youth need to email the box office at email@example.com to request access to any chamber performance livestreams.