July 28, 2020

When COVID-19 forced the suspension of live performances around the country, Trinity Rep was on track to complete our highest-selling subscription season, so when opportunities for earned revenue all but vanished in the pandemic, we were positioned relatively well to weather a loss of over a million dollars in budgeted income. The blow was further softened by the generosity of those who made annual fund contributions and those who donated back the value of tickets and tuition in lieu of refunds for cancelled events.

While planning for multiple contingencies, and contracting our expenses, we have served our community virtually in innovative ways, shifting programs online and creating other brand new digital initiatives.  

After distance learning became the new reality, teachers, students, and families moved quickly to build online learning communities. We responded by continuing our school-based programs during official distance-learning hours. We met students in Zoom sessions instead of classrooms. Our Creative Classrooms arts integration work with Providence Public Schools adjusted and continued with first-, second-, and third-graders. One class worked in small groups to write their own story and practice telling it. Checking in, our teaching artist asked what they’ve enjoyed about this work. One student said, “getting close to people in our group” — kids who have been in their class all year but whom they didn’t really know. Another girl responded “Yeah, we’re like best friends now.” Our teaching artist said, “It gives me hope to know that storytelling and theater can still build community, even through screens.” 

New Young Actors Studio online classes filled quickly. Students and educators got so much from the free pilot programs that we created expanded schedules and new opportunities were available throughout April, May, and June. The parent of one Young Actors Studio high school student wrote: “I wanted to tell you how enthusiastic my daughter was after your monologue workshop today! I haven’t seen her so ‘alive’ about anything like this since the whole shut-down! She couldn’t say enough great things about the teacher. He made her and the others feel like he really cared, and created a safe space for them to experiment. It was a breath of fresh air to see her beaming so much!” 

Several other education initiatives moved online. Trinity Rep Active Imagination Network (TRAIN) programs continued virtually with partner organizations such as Bradley Hospital Adolescent & Children’s Inpatient Units, Center for Autism & Developmental Disabilities, and Sargent Rehabilitation Center, a behavioral health school for children & teens. Our Shakespeare in the Stacks couldn’t meet in person at the Providence Athenaeum, so the class for grades 3-6 met online to create and share a virtual abridged Shakespeare performance. Write Here! Write Now!, our annual 10-minute play festival for high school playwrights presented the winning plays online.

While offering the month-long YASI program for kids wasn’t possible in July, the education team created an entirely new model for summer camp – Summer Acting Studio (SAS). Flexibility is at the heart of SAS, offering students opportunities to take classes in up to seven different subjects depending on their schedule and interest. Kids in grades 5-12 could work with professionals to learn more about improv, playwriting, classic plays, audition techniques, movement, acting the song, and directing. Younger children in SAS Jr. learned about the basics of acting.

Four one-week YASI programs will be meeting in-person in August. Robust safety precautions will be in place for YASI Masters, YASI Players, YASI Shakes, and YASI Jr.

Opportunities to connect virtually with Trinity Rep extended beyond K-12 students. Artistic Director Curt Columbus led a play-reading group that brought adults, seniors, and teenagers together for vibrant conversations and inspiration. One senior wrote, “The opportunity for dialogue, thought-provoking questions and ‘behind the scenes’ delving into the authors and their characters left me wanting MORE! Thank you again for keeping theater alive in such a meaningful way.” 

Additional digital content has been posted on our website and shared via email and social media. Our “Show Goes On” page contains links to readings and stories from actors, clips from past shows, and episodes of Trinity Rep Radio Theater and Your Half Hour Call with Curt. The latter is a live Facebook event featuring Curt and special guests talking about a specific topic and taking questions from viewers. Currently scheduled for the first and third weeks of each month, Your Half Hour Call has explored new play development, musical theater, and more with guests that include resident acting company members and leading theater artists from around the country. One viewer of the show, Nancy W. said, “This really helps me feel re-connected with Trinity Rep. I miss being able to be there, participating, in real time. Thank you for making this happen.” 

During this time when in-person gatherings are temporarily paused, all of us at Trinity Rep have been working on planning for a safe return for artists, staff, and audiences, while also developing new ways to stay connected while we’re apart. We thank all those whose support is making both things possible.