People who have been trying to ward off loneliness and boredom in quarantine have regarded art as a comfort. Hundreds of plays, musicals, films, museum tours, books, concerts, art classes and more have been made available for free to the public in quarantine. These forms of art, consumed online, have been anchors that remind us that there is and will always be beauty in the world—no matter how idealistic it might be to think of it now.
But for Filipinos, who are still experiencing the world’s longest lockdown, art can only do so much. Four months in and people are losing jobs left and right, all while trying to safeguard themselves from the virus. One of the sectors affected is the performing arts industry, whose livelihood hinges on mass gatherings of audiences and spectators.
Enter The L.O.V.E Project, a two-pronged online initiative by the Full House Theater Company (FHTC) of Resorts World Manila, which grants the public access to quality performances while providing an avenue for performers to generate income in the safest way possible for both parties—from the comforts of their own homes.
Michael Stuart, co-artistic director of FHTC, says, “Potential customers now have the chance to directly interact with and book the artists of their choice, without having to go through talent managers and coordinators. They can also request appropriate performances for the specific occasions they are celebrating.”
The L.O.V.E or Live On-Request Virtual Entertainment Project gives performers an online platform where patrons can book them for a mini-concert, performance, meet and greet, dance class, voice lessons or even a date-night serenade. The artists get all the proceeds that patrons pay them and patrons will be able to enjoy a personalized performance created especially for them.
Currently, The L.O.V.E Project’s roster features world-class artists like The Philippine Ballet Theater, Singing Sensation’s Cris Pastor, Charlotte Ferguson, and Jasmine Fitzgerald, Grand Bar and Lounge performer Jon Joven and El Calle regulars Jay Kent, Hans Dimayuga and Rox Puno.
A virtual press conference earlier this week helped the Preen team understand how these artists have utilized The L.O.V.E Project to find comfort in quarantine and even to hone their craft a little bit more. Singer Jasmine Fitzgerald says that aside from the initiative being a learning experience because of all the technical constraints, it has helped her stay sane by doing what she loves to do: singing. It has also helped her reach a bigger audience by performing for people all over the world.
Kim Abrogena, veteran ballerina from The Philippine Ballet Theater, has used the platform to spread her love of ballet. The online format has allowed her and her dance company to reach people who normally would not have access to dance classes or performances.
For FHTC co-artistic director Menchu Yulo, nothing can beat the real theater experience, but she also knows that artists are creative, ingenious and built for survival, even in the most dire situations. “Theater is all about the live experience. When you watch a musical or a play live, you feel the actor’s energy and pulse. You are in the same space experiencing what the actor is feeling. You don’t get that by watching a show on the internet. But these are desperate times, and theater companies must find ways to survive. And I guess for now, online is the way to go in this “new normal” until it is safe. As a result theater companies will continue to stream what they can until we can all gather once again and experience that curtain rise.”
Going online and reaching thousands of people at the click of a button can teach theater and performing arts companies that there are audiences willing to seek out and watch performances. From there, companies can work on creating new streaming and distribution channels for online performances and even planning out the best tour locations based on the demographics of patrons that took part in the online initiative.
The pandemic has made almost every industry transition to online operations. The L.O.V.E Project can lay the groundwork for local artists to improve their online performances. On a larger scale, it can also help theater production companies finetune what it takes to stage successful, effective and accessible online productions.
Aside from providing a stream of income and making art more accessible in what may look like a hopeless and dark period in history, The L.O.V.E Project, while still in its infancy, can be a blueprint on how the performing industry can pick itself back up for the new and better normal. For now, artists are doing what they do best—coming up with inventive and cutting-edge methods to practice their craft and provide entertainment for humanity.