The Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts is celebrating the success of its Digital Stage livestream programming that, over the last 18 months, has attracted audience members from 48 states and eight countries during a time when in-person experiences have been limited.
But its continuation during the 2022-23 season will depend in part on how well four shows capture online audiences and whether long-time supporters who’ve aged out of nighttime travel will transition to virtual viewing.
Prompted out of necessity at the beginning of the pandemic and continued as a means of convenience, the Digital Stage in the last year and a half has featured a range of performers from the Pilobolus dance company to stage and screen star Kelli O’Hara and rocker Ben Folds.
It continued Feb. 14 with the Polish Wieniawski Philharmonic Orchestra, which is on its first U.S. tour and was the first orchestral program on the Digital Stage, Jorgensen Director Rodney Rock says. Connecticut’s large Polish community with its deep sense of pride also promised a good turnout for the performance, whether online or in-person live from Storrs.
“We’re delighted to have attracted such a large digital audience over the last 18 months and hope our spring programming will continue that trend,” Rock says. “The Wieniawski Orchestra offered the audience classical pieces from Rossini to Brahms. It was wonderful.”
But Rock says that despite the Digital Stage’s success, the popularity of these spring events in part will set the direction for its continuation during the 2022-23 season.
“We’re still considering livestreaming some events, but we really want to see how the rest of this season goes before committing to the future,” Rock says. “It’s possible we will continue livestreaming some events, but the final decision remains to be seen.”
Noting that the Jorgensen’s most mature audience members oftentimes forego nighttime travel or no longer can make their way to UConn, he says he’s approached some of the larger congregate facilities to solicit interest in the Digital Stage to bring performances to them. While many have had to redirect their attention or limit group activities during the pandemic, that may change with shifting health situations.
“We’ve been trying to encourage those folks to consider livestreaming as an alternative to coming to Jorgensen, and some are taking advantage of that,” he says of older audience members. “There’s also the option with a livestream to create video on demand so a crowd in a congregate setting can enjoy it on a Sunday afternoon as opposed to a Thursday evening.”
The spring Digital Stage is funded by a donation from the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM).
“This year we were very fortunate to have a donation from NICABM, and that made hosting the Digital Stage very easy. We’re very grateful for that,” Rock says.
As for next season’s lineup, Rock says only that the schedule is almost fully booked and, per tradition, will include the Boston Pops holiday show in early December.
“A hallmark of the Jorgensen’s programming is the cultural and artistic diversity it brings to audiences. The 2022-23 season is going to be an exciting year when it comes to dance and world music,” Rock says. “We’ve got some wonderful chamber music, an orchestra, and a mix of popular entertainment.”
For ticket information to any of the Digital Stage or in-person shows, visit Jorgensen.uconn.edu.