Update on Education Programming

January 13, 2021

Greetings from the Renaissance,

On March 12th of last year, we closed our doors for the first time due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Since then we’ve done our best to ebb and flow with the rapidly changing state and federal mandates, monitor the number of COVID cases in our area and the areas we serve, and juggle the responsibility to keep our patrons, staff, and audiences safe while remaining a beacon of light for the arts in our community. Along with many of you, we clung to the glimmer of freedom and small improvements of the summer months and we never expected that, ten months later, we would still have the same devastating struggles keeping us awake at night.

It goes without saying that the past year has been extremely difficult: stressful, unpredictable, disheartening are a few words that come to mind first. In times of great duress, we typically turn to the arts to drag us out of these feelings, yet this past year has tested our ability to move forward with every one of our programs, from Broadway productions to education ensembles to symphony performances. Every virtual alternative that we’ve been able to produce to replace cancelled performances might make it seem as if we know what we’re doing, but the truth is that we’ve all been on a wild learning curve for the better part of a year.

We don’t take the decision to change our programming lightly—to be completely frank, it’s something that we agonize over, because we know that the impact is great: cancellations have cost us over $600,000 in revenue over the past year, limited our ability to serve our community, and robbed our performers of the opportunity to fulfil their basic need to create. While we’ve developed strict protocols to keep everyone involved safe, we cannot totally mitigate the great personal risk that performers and staff must take on to participate in live programming. Larger ensembles, which we are blessed to have with our education programming, present the greatest challenges. As a result, the theatre hasn’t had an in-person
performance, or even a streamed recording of more than eleven performers, since November 22nd, and it is unlikely that we’ll see these resume until at least March.

Like the other areas of our lives right now, the pandemic has touched every facet of the Renaissance. We share the frustration that you and your students may be feeling that the education programs have also been impacted by so many changes, cancellations, and alterations. We see the Ren Education Department as our greatest investment in the future; it is a vital part of our mission and a critical reason that the Renaissance is successful in its professional endeavors, and our goal to provide arts opportunities to all students has remained unchanged despite the past turbulent months.

I know we all look forward to brighter times ahead. In the meantime, it is our hope that you will join us for our virtual programs so we can celebrate your students, as their dedication and perseverance is an example to us all.

Sincerely,
Chelsie Thompson, President
Maddie Penwell, Director of Education, Community Engagement, and Symphony