SOCIETY FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS LAUNCHES SPA DIGITAL IN RE-IMAGINED 20/21 PERFORMANCE SEASON
Pivoting during a year of cancelled performances and events, due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Society for the Performing Arts (SPA) has turned from the stages of Houston’s Theater District, classrooms and community centers to the new stage of online streaming with the launch of SPA Digital.
Performing arts presenters, along with the entire industry, are facing a historic challenge as social distancing and the health and safety of audiences, artists and staff take priority and touring artists stay at a near standstill.
Much as SPA would like to return to normal operations, the reality remains that live performances, for the time being, must stay paused. Embracing the challenges then, and exploring the opportunities of digital media, SPA continues to bring audiences and artists together.
SPA Digital delivers the same range of experiences that Society for the Performing Arts is known for—Choir of Man, singing Brits sharing joy in an English pub, a conversation with comedy legends Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo, Manual Cinema’s world-premiere take on Dickens’s Christmas Carol, and DJ’s Spooky’s powerful cinematic remix, Rebirth of a Nation. Additional performances will be added on a rolling basis.
Augmenting the ticketed programs of SPA Digital are the six virtual premieres of the Houston Artist Commissioning Project (HACP). Launched in July 2020, HACP supports the creation of new works by local Houston artists.
The project’s first phase of digital works, and the accompanying Westwood Creative Chats featuring the artists, will remain permanently free and on view at SPA’s website and social channels. Applications are being accepted through December for phase two of the project which will award three commissions for longer, live performances to premiere next year. We all need to stay connected and inspired—these timely and powerful new works by Houston’s creators give us the perfect opportunity to do so.
SPA CEO Meg Booth shares why the organization shifted to digital programming: “We all miss the energy of a live performance, but artists’ creativity can still inspire us, conveniently in our own homes. SPA is adapting to our current reality. We launched SPA’s Houston Artist Commissioning Project which supports creation of new work by Houston artists, and we’ve pivoted our in-school arts education curriculum Collaborative Arts Project to the digital platform. SPA is happy to continue bringing terrific artists and audiences together while socially distanced, keeping us safe and inspired.”
These events represent a wide range of arts disciplines, subject matter, and in the background of the artists themselves. But what these programs have in common is so important: they’re all made for the virtual space, to be seen on a screen and shared with family, friends and countless others watching along online.
It may be some time before we can return to in-person shows. Until then, through initiatives like SPA Digital and the Houston Artist Commissioning Project, Society for the Performing Arts will continue to move forward through the crisis, and with programing that inspires.
SPA DIGITAL PERFORMANCES
Choir of Man-Saturday, NOV 21, 7:30 pm CST: Raise your glass! Handsome British blokes sing some of your favorite songs and pour joy by the pint.
An Evening with Chevy Case and Beverly D’Angelo-Saturday, NOV 28, 7 pm CST: Light up your holidays and join Christmas’ favorite couple, Ellen and Clark Griswold for this virtual salute to the holiday classic, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation!
Manual Cinema’s Christmas Carol–DEC 5, 12 & 19, 7 pm CST: In this world premiere online event created for audiences of all ages, interdisciplinary performance collective Manual Cinema takes on Charles Dickens’s holiday classic with a visually inventive adaptation made to broadcast directly to your home.
DJ Spooky’s Rebirth of a Nation–Saturday, FEB 6, 7:30 pm CST: DJ Spooky examines D.W. Griffith’s 1915 silent, controversial film The Birth of a Nation, which is set during and after the American Civil War and provoked controversy for its treatment of white supremacy and its positive portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan. The film features Miller’s original score, performed and recorded by the Kronos Quartet.
SPA HOUSTON ARTIST COMMISSIONING PROJECT PREMIERES
Westwood Trust Creative Chats, conversations between these winning artists and Claire Williamson, SPA’s Director of Education & Community Engagement, go live a few days prior to each new work premiere. These chats, plus all new works, can be found on our website or on our YouTube channel. All will remain freely available to the public.
Jacquelyne Boe & David Janesko, Thursday, NOV 12, 7 pm: Collaborators Jacquelyne Boe & David Janesko have created a new dance work, compiled from five consecutive live streams. Boe and Janesko have an ongoing collaboration as part of their 2019 to 2021 residency at the Lawndale Art Center in Houston, Texas.
Christopher Thomas, Thursday, NOV 19, 7 pm: Houston dancer Christopher Thomas’s motto is: “God gave you a talent. Use it. That is your gift to the world.” Thomas has visited 25 countries as a teacher, competitor, choreographer, and performer. Through dance and entertainment, Thomas has performed alongside Steven Tyler, Keith Urban, Sugar Ray, Life House, Natasha Bedingfield, 69 Boyz, Flo Rida, Kendrick Lamar, Erykah Badu and more.
Felipe Lopez, Thursday, DEC 3, 7 pm: Felipe Lopez, a multidimensional visual artist based in Houston, collaborates with Meghan Hendley and Emanuelee Outspoken Bean on a work that incorporates visual art, music and poetry. In 2019, Mayor Sylvester Turner and the City of Houston approved Houston Arts Alliance recommendation to award Lopez a Support for Artists and Creative Individuals grant which has helped fund his largest bulb work.
WindSync, Thursday, DEC 17, 7 pm: One of the nation’s leading woodwind quintets and based in Houston, WindSync performs a new work by composer and dancer Akshaya Avril Tucker. WindSync has appeared in recital at the Library of Congress, Shanghai Oriental Arts Center, Ravinia, and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, and they have been named three times to the touring roster of the Texas Commission on the Arts.
FURTHER PERFORMANCE UPDATES
The following spring 2021 performances have been canceled due to the ongoing limitations of the pandemic. Ticket holders will be notified over the next week. The Brubeck Brothers, scheduled for January 29, 2021 (previously rescheduled from May 16, 2020) and Samin Nastrat: Salt Fat Acid Heat, scheduled for January 30, 2021 (previously rescheduled from June 12, 2020).
THE ARTS FORWARD: RELIEF & RESPONSE FUND
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, SPA has launched the Arts Forward, Relief & Response fund, to address the devastation of the crisis and support growth initiatives that will sustain the organization for years to come. As of November 5, 2020, the campaign has raised $907,183 to a goal of $1.5 million. To support, go to https://spahouston.org/support-spa/#fund.