It is said that the best actors know how to improvise—and a group of DMV-area performers is doing just that, by forming a fully online theater company from the ashes of Baltimore live performance. Yes, they are adapting well to change, but The Pandemic Players’ mission also fits in with a wonderful emerging trend—artists making art to help others who are struggling. For each performance, the group partners with an existing theater company to raise funds for them during the COVID-19 shutdown.
This self-described “temporary” organization, founded by Stephen Deininger and other prominent Baltimore actors, focuses on free live theatrical performances of beloved classic plays. In return, they request small donations from audiences at home. At the beginning of each week, volunteers submit nominations and vote on which theater to support. Afterward, casting begins, rehearsals commence, and the final performance occurs at 7:00 PM that Saturday. So far, The Pandemic Players have performed Dear Brutus, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Six Characters in Search of an Author—all streamed online from separate locations in keeping with social distancing guidelines. Their next production, Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House April 25, 2020, supports Silhouette Stages of Howard County. All performances are available to stream from The Pandemic Players YouTube page.
The Pandemic Players’ artist-led efforts are making a difference on a larger scale as well. Their fundraising initiative is making its mark on the community by inspiring corporate donors to make more grant funding available to the arts sector. They also advocate for local artists and arts organizations with the Maryland State Arts Council. In addition, they plan to educate Baltimore community theaters on content creation, online fundraising, script selection/procurement, and the use of internet technologies. To date, The Pandemic Players have raised over $7,500 in donations to Spotlighters Theatre, Fells Point Corner Theater, The Children’s Theater of Annapolis, Laurel Mill Playhouse, and The Strand Theater Company. You can support them by liking and following their Facebook page, streaming their plays, and donating to their production partners.
Pandemic Players is driven by respect for community, volunteers, the rights of authors and artists, and a passion for the life-changing power of the medium of live theater. They are committed to supporting the community, both through live broadcasts, and through finding innovative solutions as everyone adapts to a difficult situation.
Tax-deductible donations can be made to each theater through production-specific fundraisers on the Pandemic Players Facebook page.