Eric Butler serves as a board member of the Worcester County Light Opera Club (WCLOC) Theater Company. WCLOC is Worcester’s oldest community theater, having entertained, informed, and nurtured audiences and artists since 1937. Butler says the volunteer-led organization produces, “high-quality, affordable musicals, plays, and children’s educational workshops.”
Like all performing arts organizations, COVID-19 closures of non-essential business meant WCLOC’s spring and summer programs were not going to happen as planned. They have postponed a planned spring production of the musical Fun Home, and are reimagining summer programming so it can take place online. “We continue to monitor the situation closely, adapt our programming as we can, and look forward to welcoming our volunteers, artists, and audiences back to our space for live theater when it is safe and responsible to do so,” Eric said, adding that WCLOC is, “doing our best to adapt to these times and provide virtual programming to keep both local performers and audiences engaged.”
One such initiative is Worcester County Playwrights: A Weekend of Original One Act Plays which will take place online on June 12 and 13, 2020. Featuring works from several local playwrights, the program is free but requires registration. In addition to hosting online performances, the WCLOC education committee is evaluating how to bring its summer workshop online, and is also considering performance venues aside from its home at the Grandview Ave Playhouse. “As Worcester’s Community Theater – I’d love to see us be able to utilize some of the city’s unique outdoor public spaces as an extension of our home,” Butler said.
Where to rehearse and perform are far from the only concerns COVID-19 has brought to WCLOC. Eric acknowledges that, “arts and culture organizations are struggling during these times. The majority of our operating budgets are supported by revenue generated by performances and programs – all of which have been cancelled or postponed. These are the times when our valued cultural institutions depend on federal, state, and local governments, private philanthropic foundations, and individual donors the most.”
Butler pointed out that the irony in dealing with COVID-19 is that, “people often turn to the arts for comfort [yet] the pandemic has prevented us from physically gathering at those arts institutions that have allowed us to escape, to be uplifted, to feel human and to be connected during those other difficult periods of our lives.” While many people are primarily accessing the arts online these days, and the path forward is unclear for arts organizations and workers, Eric remains optimistic about the future of the arts. “I truly believe the arts will play an important role in post-COVID recovery – not just economic, but also the recovery of our individual souls and the spirit of our collective community. The arts and culture sector is resilient and resourceful, and we are here now and will be in the future, to make sure Worcester is a healthy, supportive, vibrant, and well-rounded city and home.”