Virtual front-row seats celebrate the performing arts

April 09, 2020

In a time when the need for social distancing has forced us apart physically, thousands of once-in-a-lifetime events have been disrupted or canceled, among which include theater productions, outreach programs, and art exhibitions. Performing artists around the world are undoubtedly experiencing extreme disappointment as opportunities to share their work publicly have been shut down for no fault of their own. In particular, my heart goes out to the students – especially those who are weeks away from completing their degrees – whose productions have been silenced and performances have been tabled.

As the dean of the College of Arts and Architecture at Penn State, I am always ready to support opportunities for artists to share what they do with the world. You can imagine my delight in being part of a commitment by the University to create a platform for our theater and music students and alumni to share their artistic gifts on a global stage. There is perhaps no better way to express our recognition of their hard work and dedication than to showcase their craft for others to enjoy. 

What began as a sliver of positivity in this otherwise uncertain time has exploded into a multi-evening online “cabaret” event consisting of live, 30-minute vignettes. Through the extraordinary efforts and unbelievable resourcefulness of our community, theatre and music students are joining renowned alumni performers like Caroline Bowman, who currently stars as Elsa in the national tour of Disney’s “Frozen,” by Joonas Suotamo, who plays Chewbacca in the recent “Star Wars” movie series, and by Patrick Fabian, who plays Howard Hamlin in “Better Call Saul.” And many others to soon be shared. We are blown away by the generosity of special star appearances such as these.

The global pandemic has presented an opportunity to recognize how current arts students and alumni are one community. We inspire one another. As artists, we often step up to make a positive difference when it matters most. In this spirit, I encourage everyone in our extended Penn State arts family to “applaud” these student and alumni accomplishments and to generate a level of energy and enthusiasm we all can celebrate. 

Keep in mind these events are not just for theater and music students, alumni or enthusiasts. Rather, they represent the grit, determination and hard work of all students everywhere. The student teachers. The student nurses. The students pursuing medical degrees. Life-long learners. The list goes on. Of course, not everyone will be able to share their creative accomplishments and years of hard work with the world. Despite the ongoing recognition of the critical need to do everything possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19, more lives, hopes and dreams will be lost if we don’t, without these social distancing efforts. Yet, I am awed by the resilience I see every single day in the work of medical professionals and service workers who risk their lives daily to help others. I trust these performances will inspire those among us who could use some art at this challenging time.

In a world where there is much uncertainty and separation, even a few minutes of escape into a space filled with the possibilities the arts afford becomes a precious moment. Tune in to pennstatepresents.psu.edu April 9-12 at 7 pm EDT and allow the star-studded performances to feed your soul, enrich the moment, and enlighten your evening. Afterall, the show must go on. 

— B. Stephen Carpenter II, dean, College of Arts and Architecture

Last Updated April 27, 2020