Solving the Pandemic Performing Arts Challenge

The City Is Our Stage places dance, theater, and music performances in venues all over Cleveland in a bid to solve the pandemic performing arts challenge. Above, Morrisondance’s Erie Sirens. Image courtesy of Morrisondance.

Five months into the pandemic lockdown, it’s natural for arts addicts to be jonesing for landmark experiences. All the familiar festivals have been cancelled, and companies who have not been able to conceive a viable way to deliver performance to audiences can only wait for a vaccine, or herd immunity. Sure, galleries and museums can keep open hours and manage a trickle of an audience. As LAND Studio has recognized, public art makes the City into a museum. That doesn’t work well for musicians, or theatre and dance companies.

But in The City Is Our Stage, a group of independent performers, producers and technicians have put together something that is part urban adventure, part road rally, and part scavenger hunt, but 100 percent  Cleveland performance. It’s a little like the Ingenuity Festival blew up and shot its pieces all over town.

Built by Trad A. Burns, Sarah Morrison, and production whiz Chuck Karnak, with support from Lindsay Carter, The City Is Our Stage has a roster of about 30 performing acts. They take dance, music, theater, and performance art to improvised stages all over town for audiences to visit from their cars.

Like a Drive-In, you pay by the car: $40 each. But rather than pack the audience into one big space, you get a starting point and a map that takes you from one venue and performance to the next. It’s a two-hour tour, more or less. Venues include a church in Tremont, porches, front lawns, and other places spread throughout the city that can accommodate the performance and a few cars. There are must-see companies like Opus 216, Robin VanLear, and Verb Ballets, but the joy of The City Is Our Stage is the likelihood that you discover something new.

Performers, in alphabetical order: AlbaTrio, Aminah Louise, Ballet Legato, Be Fitness, Blakk Jakk, Cats on Holiday, Christopher Johnston & Courtney Nicole Auman, Dancing Wheels, Djapo Cultural Arts Institute, Fellahean with Slowburn, Inlet Dance Theatre, Kenya Woods, Lara Troyer, Laura D’Alessandro/Tou ,Cha/June Hund/Norbert Ziebold, Marquez Dance Project, Mike Bruckman, MorrisonDance, Nadia Tarnawsky, Near West, Opus 216, Radio on the Lake Theatre, Robin VanLear Art Acts Ltd., Russian Duo, Shanty Circus Option with Chris Seibert, Sky Aerial Works, The Scenic Route, The Welcome Table, Tribe Ostara Tribal Belly Dance, and Verb Ballets.

CAN readers know what the pandemic has done to galleries and museums. It’s been inestimably worse for performing artists, whether they be musicians, dancers, or theater artists—anyone whose art takes place within a specific window of time, who therefore depends on gathering the whole audience to see it at once. Galleries can have viewers trickle through. For performers, it’s harder to make that viable. Part of the beauty of The City Is Our Stage is that it is group experience of performance, without the group.  But there’s something else: All the money goes to the artists.

For more information and tickets, click here.

The opinions expressed on CAN Blog are those of the individual writers. Art is somewhat subjective. Well, somewhat. But yes, everybody's a critic.

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