How I Organized a Cabaret During a Global Pandemic
On June 6th at 7pm, my first cabaret, Songs for Scrubs: A Digital Cabaret Benefitting The Frontline Fund went live on Facebook.
As a performer, putting together a cabaret was something I’ve always wanted to do; but I never thought I would be organizing and performing in one during a global pandemic.
It was a whirlwind experience, and so I wanted to share the process here.
At the beginning of May, I sat at home reading a harrowing account written by an ICU Nurse working at a New York City hospital treating patients with COVID-19.
Prior to reading this piece, I had spent my lockdown laid-off; taking classes and watching a lot of Netflix. Most of my feelings regarding COVID-19 were anxiety-based; how to cope emotionally during a pandemic and to stay safe during it.
However, this article made me pause. It filled me with a wide range of emotions, ultimately ending in a deep-rooted desire to help.
Then the question became how?
I’m not a doctor. I’m not a nurse. I’m not a scientist.
I simply do not have the skill set to be incredibly helpful during a global pandemic.
I’ve got a degree in musical theatre.
And so, I started to wonder: How can I use what I have to contribute?
The original idea was to put on a performance of some kind over the internet while accepting donations for an organization that was able to contribute to Coronavirus relief in Canada. Eventually, it became Songs for Scrubs, a cabaret put together via Zoom and then broadcast across social media platforms. During the concert, we would encourage viewers to make a donation to the organization of our choosing.
After speaking about the idea with my mentors, I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do, and the confidence to actually put together this cabaret.
I did some research, and decided the cabaret would support The Frontline Fund. This organization was founded by board members of hospital foundations, all across Canada, to support frontline workers during this unprecedented time. Their goal is to provide as much support as possible to healthcare heroes at over one hundred Canadian hospitals. The funds are divided amongst the participating hospitals as needed and go towards medical supplies, support for frontline staff, and research on combating COVID-19.
For more information on this organization, you can visit www.thefrontlinefund.ca .
This was going to be a group endeavor, and the first thing I had to do was reach out and get a fabulous team together.
Now, I am NOT tech-savvy, which I knew would be my biggest obstacle in this endeavor. I needed some help. Live videos can be unpredictable, which is why I wanted to pre-record. This also opened up the opportunity to edit together a clean concert video. So I posted on Facebook looking for a video editor, and a friend from college, Nick Sheculski, offered to help.
I then started reaching out to my theatre friends, asking them to perform. I felt strange asking people to donate their time in a world where everything is uncertain. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the results. People were on board and the ball was rolling!
While we had a few people drop out closer to the time due to courtside circumstances, we still had a wonderful line up with some of my favourite, talented pals from St. Clair College: Malinda Carroll, Dallis Brinkman, Camille Blott, Jonathan Voisine, Tanner Homonko, Joey McDunough, Clara MacLeod, and Jade McLeod.
We scheduled a tech rehearsal, a filming date, and a launch date, created a setlist, and circulated a logo.
My main focus in doing this work was visibility. Like with any other performance, you want an audience. In a way, launching this over the internet in a time when a lot of us were stuck at home was an amazing opportunity for viewership. The only downside with the heavy stream of social media content was keeping our concert on people’s minds.
At first the concept of getting people not only to tune in, but to donate, was difficult to wrap my head around.
Eventually it all came down to this: Of the ten people participating, if each of us got one person to watch and donate $5, we could raise $50. That was kind of my top goal, in the sense that due to the pandemic and shutdowns, a lot of people aren’t in a situation to make a donation.
It’s why I kept the concert free and simply directed people to make a donation on the site. Maybe people would donate, maybe they wouldn’t. But we are letting healthcare workers know we’re cheering them on and hopefully, putting a smile on some faces.
Of course, not everything is smooth sailing when it comes to live theatre, and this wasn’t any different over the internet. After a few technical difficulties, the show was all cued up and ready to go ahead as scheduled.
Looking back, the only thing I would’ve changed from a technical standpoint would have been to find some way to track donations as they came in. While I know a handful of people made donations, I don’t know a total number. I am so glad that people were able to make donations, but I’m still curious.
The concert went extremely well, and sharing it was so wonderful.
I ended up even leaving the concert up on Facebook, and it has had 461 views at the time of writing this, which is about four hundred more than I ever expected! What’s really important though is that I have received a handful of messages from people who have made donations to support The Frontline Fund and from people who simply enjoyed the show.
For me, theatre is all about spreading joy, and the fact that we could do that during a global pandemic, without even being in the same towns as each other, all while supporting a great cause blows me away.
Before I sign off, I just want to thank everyone who helped make Songs for Scrubs a reality. I am so grateful for everyone who supported the concert by participating, working with me, tuning in, and donating.
Thank you so so much !
I also feel like I have to use this platform to say:
Trust your “crazy” ideas, and surround yourself with people who encourage and support them.
If you missed Songs for Scrubs, you can watch the full concert here:
It’s thirty minutes of incredible vocal performances of a set list ranging from pop-rock to musical theatre by artists across Canada, done in support of our healthcare heroes.