Amid postponements and cancellations, hope springs eternal
— Created April 15, 2020 by Kathy Reed
By Kathy Reed
We are three weeks into “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” with another two-and-a-half weeks to go. While health experts say we are beginning to make progress “flattening the curve,” it remains to be seen whether Gov. Jay Inslee’s order will be extended past May 4.
That uncertainty has had a profound impact on community festivals and celebrations, with many being postponed and outright canceled. Already we’ve missed out on the Welcome the Whales Festival and Parade, not to mention numerous Easter egg hunts. Local theaters went dark almost immediately, resulting in seasons being postponed, at the very least.
In the coming weeks, we will miss out on even more, such as the Holland Happening Parade and Festival, the Penn Cove Water Festival, Coupeville’s annual Memorial Day parade and even the Island Shakespeare Festival – all canceled. Holland Happening was the first major event to fall.
“It is with a heavy heart that I announce the Holland Happening Parade and Festival will be canceled for 2020,” announced Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Miranda Hoppock on March 16.
It was not a decision reached easily, she said, emphasizing the important role events can have for the organizations which put them on.
“All of our events that have been canceled will impact us at the Chamber greatly,” Hoppock told Whidbey Weekly. “All event revenue goes toward our chamber staff and operation costs. We have a tight budget; if we don’t have an event it directly affects our ability to staff the Chamber or operate effectively.”
Nina Marie Goddeau, president of the Penn Cove Water Festival board of directors, announced the cancellation of the long-standing cultural festival – typically held in mid-May in Coupeville – on March 19.
“This was an extremely difficult decision for us but we all agreed,” Goddeau said. “It Is definitely best for the safety of our Penn Cove Water Festival family and community. We have spent much time and money towards this event…and although we are sad about the energy we put into this event, we understand the greater cause. We know our love and passion towards the celebration of our native culture will be expressed in years to come.”
The water festival will be back next year, although a date has not yet been set. Goddeau said the board is now looking for ways the group can recoup some of its financial losses suffered due to the cancellation.
“We have ideas to raise awareness and create fun fundraising events,” she said. “We have a need for new, creative ideas and to motivative people to help pull this off. Only as a community standing together can we pull this off. Our board members and all the people who make this event are amazing.”
Perhaps most surprising of the postponements and cancellations to date is that of the Island Shakespeare Festival, which doesn’t begin its season until July. Organizers announced late last week the current season’s productions will be pushed back to 2021.
“Many factors determined our postponement,” explained ISF Artistic Director Olena Hodges. “First, we don’t know if stay home orders will still be in effect in the summer, and while we hope they will be lifted, it felt like too big a risk to rely on that optimism. Second, even if they’re lifted, it’s possible we’ll be gearing up for a second wave of illness in mid to late summer, based on some predictions, so gathering may not be safe. We felt it untenable to risk a COVID-19 spread at our performances.
“Third, spring is our major fundraising season,” Hodges continued. “This time of year, we solicit playbill advertisements and hold our major fundraising event. Because our community of small businesses is suffering along with individuals suddenly out of work, we didn’t want to add to the stress of our loyal supporters by asking for funds during this time. These primary reasons, among many others, made clear the appropriate decision was to postpone our season.”
The postponement means ISF will hold over the shows scheduled for this season for next year. Because other theaters around the country are facing similar scheduling dilemmas, it means ISF may only have to re-cast a small number of actors.
“All three directors are able to stay on board, as is much of the production and design team and even the acting company,” said Hodges. “It’s so hard to say what the next year will hold, but at this time, we’re confident much of the team will be able to stay with these projects. After we (staff and board) made the decision, I called everyone in the company and spoke to most, and everyone was hopeful they’d be able to make the shift with us.”
Financially, Hodges said without the expenses of the summer season, ISF’s overhead is relatively low, so she feels confident the organization will be able to survive the coronavirus storm. She said those who want to support ISF can do so by supporting local businesses.
“We are keenly aware that the current focus of support needs to be on the front lines,” she said. “Support Good Cheer Food Bank, support the Whidbey Community Foundation, support nonprofits on our island currently keeping people safe and alive.
“If, after those, you feel inspired to support the arts and ISF in particular, we are grateful beyond all expression,” continued Hodges. “We are working to supply cloth masks, which we’ve termed ‘Bard’s Barrier’ masks, available for a pay-what-you-will donation. Those are available at the Star Store in Langley and through ISF directly, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. A portion of donations received from these will go to support the Good Cheer Foodbank as well.”
Goddeau said Penn Cove Water Festival volunteers are doing something similar to help keep the community safe and to raise funds.
“We have donated prior years’ [festival] T-shirts to be used to make masks,” she said. “Many board members and community volunteers are sewing away to help our front line workers. I have asked people who offer donations towards the masks to put them towards next year’s festival.”
As we begin to look at the summer calendar, many hope there will be opportunities ahead to allow us to gather and celebrate. Hodges believes we can come out of this better than before and is filled with hope for the future.
“We will come out of this remembering how much we need connection,” she said. “The communion of theatre will not be taken for granted. We will spend this time grateful for the art we have access to in our homes, but when we can come together to share a collective experience, we will know the depth of that importance and beauty.
“ISF will be grateful to share in healing with our community,” Hodges continued. “The joy and triumph that will resonate in our space will be palpable in a unique way. I can’t wait for that day. And I know it will arrive. Many of us will come out of this shared experience so much more connected to ourselves, our families, our planet, our priorities. Some will not have that privilege; I hope we also come out of this with a new connection to our empathy and care for one another. I see so much hope for humanity on the other side of this time.”