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Go Ask Mom

To lift spirits, NC Theatre launches Quarantunes project, connecting students with patrons virtually

Posted April 13, 2020 9:00 p.m. EDT
Updated April 14, 2020 3:45 p.m. EDT

Courtesy: NC Theatre Conservatory

The covid-19 crisis has changed everything — how we live, how we shop, how we work, how we learn — and how we stay entertained. For the North Carolina Theatre Conservatory, the educational arm of the North Carolina Theatre, it's transformed every aspect of their operations. Classes have gone virtual, and the theater has gone dark.

"It has upended our usual mode of operation in the sense that theater, in its purest form, is about an artist and a spectator in the same room. That’s it. That’s all it is," said Lauren Sale, the conservatory's executive director. "When we can’t do that anymore, how do we take the essence of what is theater and how do we continue to have our audience and spectator even if it has to be virtual? And how do we teach our students how art can transcend dark times and difficulty? That’s very large, but that’s kind of what I have been thinking of in terms of how we’re doing. How can we innovate what we do and how can we teach our students to navigate these times using art?"

Like theater companies across the country, the Raleigh-based nonprofit has had to get creative. And one of the results is Quarantunes, a project that connects individual conservatory students with NC Theatre patrons. As part of the project, students sing a song for these longtime theatergoers and share it directly with them via YouTube.

When the conservatory asked students to volunteer, they lined up, Sale said. About 50 videos have been recorded for individual theater fans, and Sale expects they'll do another round.

"We put the ask out, 'Does anyone want to do this?', and we were so overwhelmed and so happy that most of our students were, 'Yes," Sale said.

The Quarantunes virtual songs include these three ...

Conservatory student Isol Young singing "On My Own" from Les Miserables.

Conservatory student Emmy Dykes singing "Round Shouldered Man" from The Secret Garden.

Conservatory student Ryan Gregory singing "Grow For Me" from Little Shop of Horrors.

In addition to the videos, the Conservatory's other programs are still running virtually. Most weeknights, students across the region log in to Zoom for acting, singing and dance instruction.

"We are so proud of our students," Sale said. "They are so engaged and excited to be with their peers. It's just so heartwarming. It's just been so wonderful in a crazy sea of anxiety that not just adults are feeling, but students too. It's been so nice to have that outlet."

Programs are full right now, but Sale said the Conservatory is looking for other opportunities, such as last week's virtual spring break, to offer. Two-week summer camps also are planned — for now — in late July and mid-August. More information is on the NC Theatre's website.