Connecting Across Social Distance

As I write this, in early April 2020, the world is in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like so many artists and all types of collaborators, my Idiot String collaborators and I are feeling the intense disappointment and loneliness of being unable to meet regularly with our ensemble, gather with our audiences, or host events. In this case our tiny size is to our benefit — we are so small and with so little overhead, that our existence is not threatened by the inability to produce work consistently. In fact, we don’t have a “regular” season, though in the course of the last few years, we have developed a pattern of producing one large-scale original production every two years (Elixir of Life in 2017 and Port Stories in 2019), in addition to the summer tours of the Samuel Peaches Peripatetic Players, and hosting ongoing workshops and occasional special events. Naturally, as of this writing, our spring workshops are cancelled and the Peripatetic Players’ tour is on hold, awaiting the unfolding of the global pandemic to determine whether any sort of performance in the late summer or early fall might be possible.

In the meanwhile, we are hunkering down and determined to find new ways to connect, collaborate, and create across the distance required by common sense and shelter-in-place orders. It’s not an easy task: our work has always been made by gathering artists together in a room, by moving our bodies through shared space, by attending to the gestures, images, textures, vibrations, and sounds that we create together and between one another in real time and physical proximity. Because we value authentic connection to our audiences and always seek novel ways to bring the audience into our stories, our work is never complete until the audience is there, able to move through the story with us, able to “breathe the same air,” as theatre people often say. Today, that simple aspect of human contact is unsafe.

But human connection is essential to our well-being and survival as social beings. It’s also central to Idiot String’s mission. While we shelter-in-place, we can focus our energies on developing future work, and find new ways to connect. We’re grateful that we’re well-positioned as a company to look toward the future, and are fortunate to have a cadre of dedicated donors who have stepped up to ensure that we can continue to thrive during this time. To us, that means that we’re able to pay administrators for the first time in our six-year history, in addition to setting aside production costs and artists’ fees for future productions. Though our in-person gatherings have been postponed, I take great comfort in the prospect of dedicating ourselves to exploring new ways to reach our audiences and one another. I know that even during this time of staying home and distancing, we will find ways to fulfill our mission of fostering human connection through joyful shared experience and participatory fun.

The greatest disruption to our planned activities has been to our annual fundraiser, the Particularly Obstinate Obstacle Course. We recognized an opportunity to take the course online — making it the Particularly Obstinate Online Obstacle Course, or #POOOC2020 — and to thereby allow even more people to participate! #POOOC2020 is no longer just a fundraiser, but an offering of lighthearted, creative fun to one and all, like our free performances in parks. Of course, rather than coming together in public spaces — which we long to do — #POOOC2020 is an at-home adventure.

To participate, simply visit the online list of obstacles, interpret them freely, and play along! The Peripatetic Players have recorded their vailiant attempts at obstacling and posted them on our social media accounts with the hashtag #POOOC2020; anyone who likes is invited to do the same. We’ve even created a new account at TikTok and as anyone familiar with TikTok can attest, that has been an adventure in itself!

If Idiot String has brought you joy in the past and you are in a position to donate, we hope you’ll consider a gift of support. Every gift, no matter how small, helps us shore up our ability to make future plans during this uncertain time, and is a much-needed vote of confidence in our work.

Explore the #POOOC2020 hashtag and connect with us on social media on your favorite platform:

Thank you for adventuring with Idiot String!

Rebecca Longworth,
Co-Founder and Artistic Director

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