When will performing arts return? Local groups describe their hopes for summer and beyond
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When art provided an out from pandemic life
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Reader poll: What have you missed most about the arts and live entertainment?
Yuen Kwan, 40s, Waltham, medical interpreter
I miss being enveloped by the music. I just miss that physical feeling, especially in Symphony Hall with the floorboards vibrating. Then there’s the social part. Seeing my friends, communicating with other people who have the same, or different, experiences. There are people I only see at concerts; I don’t have their phone numbers, I haven’t seen these people for a year, and I wonder how are they doing.
Edward Keazirian, 69, Beverly, senior professor
I came to dance and Boston Ballet later in life and was stunned at the joy and passion that I found. I’ve missed the electricity of being in the theater, interacting with the audience and the Boston Ballet dancers, many of whom I know from being an extra in some of the productions. I have a subscription seat in the second row, so I can inspect the artistry up close. Most of the time I go to performances alone — I really want to concentrate on what’s happening onstage. I take the train in in the afternoon, love to eat a bite at Lambert’s Marketplace, then get to the theater half an hour early to soak up the opulence of it. I love poking around the exhibits downstairs — it’s all part of the whole atmosphere — then I read the program cover to cover.
Thom Brennan, 31, Brookline, music teacher
I just want to go to the movies. I look forward to being able to have the movie-going experience with other people. There’s a big difference when you feel the crowd. The first thing I want to do is to stake my claim in the theater, grab my popcorn and Raisinets, and complain about how long previews are.
G. Forrest Hicks, 34, Hyde Park, writer, teacher, and school administrator
I went [to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum] a lot with my two little daughters. It was kind of a family project. I grew up in an artistic household, and I want to pass that on to them. ...[When it reopened over the summer] I was there probably every single day for about two weeks straight. No exaggeration. I’m sure the security guards thought I’d lost my mind. And in a way, maybe I did. I feel like [the museum] has become kind of like a sanctuary. It’s a second home. And I need it.
Jane McGovern, 58, Scituate, Pilates instructor
The last theater experience I had was the American Repertory Theater’s “Moby Dick.” I’ve seen so many great shows there. I usually see at least three shows at Broadway in Boston. There’s just the social aspect of experiencing it with other people; being there physically, up close. The sounds, the way the music builds. Dressing up, going to dinner, maybe a drink afterwards: It makes it a special experience. I can’t wait to just get out there, be in a darkened room with other people, hearing the music, feeling the music, just enjoying it. If it’s going to be the fall, I’m pretty confident I’m going to have the vaccine by then. That makes me feel very comfortable. If something opened now and I was offered a ticket, I would go now, honestly, double-masked.
Julie Ingelfinger, 70s, Cambridge, pediatric nephrologist and editor
I go to concerts with friends, grab a bite to eat before, and afterwards sometimes go to someone’s home and sit around and talk about it. I very much miss that, and look forward to it. The two-dimensional version on Zoom or YouTube really isn’t the same. I’ve been listening over my computer with some cheapo speakers. It hasn’t been optimal. Parenthetically, I belong to a music-listening group, which I’ve been a part of for 25 years. We continued to meet in my yard until it got cold, although the sound was diluted. But it has been important to me.
Caleb Ho, 50, Boston, hospitality worker
One of the many things I took for granted is the spontaneity of being able to walk down [to the ICA] at any time. My wife and I would go for evening walks to clear our heads, and we would invariably end up down in the Seaport so we would just walk into a gallery, and just take some respite from the world. I didn’t realize how much I needed that, and how much my wife and I really appreciated that. Literally I’m jumping online after this call. I will be there on the 18th [when the ICA reopens].
Sarah Warren, 46, Norwell, clinical trial lead
Over the past year, I’ve really missed the escape that live performance gives you, the opportunity to transcend the mundane of daily life into a different space. My husband and I try to catch as many dance performances as we can, and we take our 14-year-old-daughter Isabelle — her preference is modern, so we go to a lot of Global Arts Live performances. We make it a special occasion, go in early, get some dinner nearby, sometimes walk around. I almost always walk out of a show feeling drawn in by the performers’ energy, and we find ourselves kind of skipping down the sidewalk and singing in the car on the way home. When theaters open again, we’ll grab tickets for one of the first shows we can find.
Amanda Shea, 37, Roxbury, teaching artist
There’s this vibrational magic that happens when you’re in person that you don’t get when you’re in virtual spaces. Undisturbed, unbothered, full attention and connection. When you’re in a space and you can feel the vibration of the floor, and the music’s super loud, and everyone around you is just having a great time and singing. I miss Wally’s, I miss Dorchester Art Project, Make Shift Boston, the Milky Way — that’s not here anymore. I just miss gathering with folks. When it’s safe again, I’m going to hug every single person I wasn’t able to hug.
Molly Richard, 33, Somerville, teacher
In Boston we’re so lucky to have so many great independent movie houses within striking distance and that are accessible by public transportation, They’re just such terrific soulful places to see movies. It’s basically like going to church, you have this amazing, moving, communal experience with strangers, and you walk out different.
Rob Leith, 67, Cambridge, teacher
The Museum of Fine Arts is such a large museum. But the last time I went, I wandered into a period room that I didn’t think I’d ever been in before, over how many years? I liked the idea that one can stumble across places in the museum that are totally unfamiliar, or see objects that are totally unfamiliar, even after all this time. I like this serendipity of being able to discover and learn about new things there. It’s a place where I feel very at home. I grew up in the Boston area, so I’ve gone to that museum all of my life. It’s probably one of the most important places in my life.
Amy Prohaska, 55, Waltham, media strategist
I’m such a huge fan of live music. I’ve been going to see bands forever. Sharing experiences with friends, making connections with new friends, and you know, having those shared memories. [When it comes back] I’ll be raising a glass and cheering loudly and hugging my friends and singing along.
Ross and Midge Benjamin, Newton, retired
Midge: We always sit, if we can, in the front row of a small theater. So I really feel the connection to the actors.
Ross: The ability to applaud, to tell the actors how good a job they did: At the end of the play you want to be able to show your appreciation. That’s something I missed a lot. Also, going with friends and then talking about it afterwards.
Midge: I’m hoping theater companies will continue to do the thought-provoking kinds of work they have always done. That’s why we like the fringes.
Ross: [When theaters reopen] we’ll get our subscriptions in order. Get back to old times from a year ago, pre-COVID. That’s the first thing to do: to give them their subscription money.
Interviews by Don Aucoin, Karen Campbell, A.Z. Madonna, Natachi Onwuamaegbu, and Murray Whyte. Comments have been edited for length and clarity.