(Yes, it’s happening!)
WARREN MILLER PERFORMING ARTS CENTER
BIG SKY – It comes as a surprise to no one that the world of performing arts has faced changes and challenges over the past year. The heart of the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center is bringing the community together to share an arts experience; restrictions on social gatherings have made it impossible to pursue that goal in the same manner as in the past. With no immediate end to the pandemic in sight, the question was whether or not the center could adapt its offerings to still serve the community, or whether they would retreat from the limelight for a season.
“Giving up was never an option,” said John Zirkle, executive director of WMPAC. “We knew it would be difficult and require insane flexibility and creativity, but we knew we could do it. We’ve changed absolutely everything about our model, from ticketing to seating to the types of performances we bring. But we are confident that we’re still providing incredible arts experiences to the Big Sky community—it just looks different than it used to.”
During the peak of lockdown this spring, WMPAC built a new, high-quality streaming infrastructure to seamlessly broadcast performances to its audiences. Perhaps the most prominent adaptation of the 2021 Winter Season is the option for audiences to buy either a virtual or in-person ticket to almost every performance. Guests who prefer to keep their distance but still engage from home will log in to the virtual platform, wmpac.live, and watch the performances live.
Another necessary change to this season is the in-person experience at the theater, for those who choose to participate. WMPAC’s seating capacity is limited to 25 percent, and groups of ticket-buyers will be seated at least six feet apart from each other. Masks are required for the duration of the time indoors, and each performance has eliminated an intermission to reduce foot traffic in the lobby.
“There’s something unbeatable about gathering in a space with others to witness a performance live,” said Zirkle. “We wanted to still be able to provide that experience for Big Sky, but safety was without a doubt our top priority.”
So, what type of performances are on the roster for this brand new kind of season? WMPAC has booked a series of artists that is as diverse and engaging as ever. Broadway musical star Bobby Conte Thornton, who made his Broadway debut starring in “A Bronx Tale,” directed by Robert De Niro and Jerry Zaks, opens the season on December 5. Thornton will sing a series of reimagined Broadway classics for both a virtual and in-person audience. Following Thornton is Manual Cinema’s creative 2020 adaptation of Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol.” Manual Cinema first came to WMPAC in 2015, and will perform their unique blend of puppetry and cinema live in Chicago as it’s streamed into the WMPAC theater.
The rest of the season holds an evening of stand-up comedy, performances by Kronos and Cascade Quartets, perennial favorites James Sewell Ballet, and much more.
“This is a new kind of season, in every way,” Zirkle said. “But we’re ready for whatever comes, and we couldn’t be more excited.”
Both virtual and in-person tickets are on sale now. The full performance lineup, information about Covid safety measures, and tickets are available at warrenmillerpac.org.