Emens Auditorium adjusts to online productions

<p>The Emens Auditorium staff originally planned to welcome more than 15 stage shows during the 2020-21 season. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, it is hosting free interactive online events for students and community members. <strong>Kristi Chambers, Photo Provided</strong></p>

The Emens Auditorium staff originally planned to welcome more than 15 stage shows during the 2020-21 season. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, it is hosting free interactive online events for students and community members. Kristi Chambers, Photo Provided

Upcoming Emens Auditorium virtual shows

Jan. 25: Yoga + Music with Kylie Morgan

Kylie Morgan is a country musician who was named to multiple “Artists to Watch” lists from Pandora, Taste of Country, Country Music Television and the Country Music Association. She will lead a 30-minute yoga class followed by a 30-minute acoustic performance and Q&A.

Feb. 1: New Year’s Cooking Class with Food Network Chef Jyll Everman

Food Network chef Jyll Everman will virtually return to Emens to teach viewers how to make peanut butter oatmeal bars and sheet pan chicken and vegetables. A grocery list is available on the Emens event page so viewers can prepare and follow along.

Both of these events are free and open to the public. Online registration is required on the Events at Emens web page.

Source: Emens Auditorium

Lining up in excitement for the upcoming show and having an usher point ticketholders to their seats is what a typical event at Emens Auditorium looks like. However, during the 2020-21 academic year, guests are having a different experience. Emens invites people to register for shows online, and they are emailed a Zoom code before the performance.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Emens Auditorium had to edit its schedule of performances and presented interactive online shows in the fall 2020 semester, including a cooking class with Food Network chef Jyll Everman and Marvel Comics illustrator Will Sliney.

Emens currently has two virtual shows scheduled for the spring 2021 semester and may add more. Kristi Chambers, Emens assistant director of marketing and communications, said she hopes to gain student interest in the upcoming shows “Yoga + Music with Kylie Morgan” and a second online appearance from Jyll Everman with “New Year’s Cooking Class.”

Chambers said the Emens staff is “still holding out hope to be able to present a few in-person events'' if it is safe to host performances later in the spring semester. She said online shows offer unique benefits, such as spectators feeling more of a personal connection to the performer.

“Rather than sharing a room with 3,000 other fans, you’re sharing your screen and able to only focus on the artist,” Chambers said. “You’re able to personally interact with them in a way that you would be unable to do at an in-person performance.”

Emens Auditorium started to promote Facebook Live events that individual artists presented in the summer of 2020 and were able to book Zoom events with some performers for the fall 2020 semester.

Chambers said even though virtual events are free, they can be difficult to schedule and advertise.

“It is easy to register for a virtual event and at the last minute decide not to attend or simply forget, which creates a challenging attendance factor,” she said. “Plus, with so many virtual opportunities, it is challenging to cut through the noise and present something that’s unique and enticing.”

Assistant Director of Operations Daniel Pozzebon said the fall 2020 online events Emens hosted were successful, and he is happy virtual shows can reach a wider audience than just Ball State students and Muncie locals.

“Virtual events are, have been and will be a strong part of the performing arts, and COVID-19 has only heightened the importance of this avenue for sharing the arts,” he said.

With the loss of in-person events, however, student and volunteer ushers aren’t currently needed, so paid operations staff members have shifted their focus to ensuring cleaning procedures for the theater are met.

Every other row of seats in Emens is closed to provide social distancing, seats are sanitized regularly and face masks are required for everyone inside the building.

The only in-person gatherings Emens is currently hosting are classes and rental events approved by the Delaware County Health Department and Ball State University administrators.

Nineteen class sections are planned to be taught in Emens Auditorium during the spring 2021 semester. Pozzebon said the energy usually focused on preparation for in-person performances is currently being focused on the professors and students who enter the auditorium each day.

He said he is grateful for the opportunity to present virtual events as the performance industry finds itself in a new era.

“The performing arts are going through a challenging moment that is propelling us to do what we do best — being creative,” Pozzebon said. “We are looking forward, with our patrons’ support, to a bright future of rich, important, challenging and beautiful art sharing.”

Contact Grace McCormick with comments at grmccormick@bsu.edu or on Twitter @graceMc564.


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