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School Lockdowns During Pandemic Put Performing Artists Out Of Work


How are performers getting by during the pandemic? Many are out of work while their audiences are on lockdown. It's especially hard for children's performers.

MICHAEL COTTER: We had a very healthy April and May on the calendar, and that very healthy number went to zero.


That's the voice of Michael Cotter. He runs Blue Sky Puppet Theatre, which performs in elementary schools up and down the East Coast.

COTTER: But all of a sudden. Somebody called and wanted to have a virtual show. This has opened a Pandora's box for me, being 72 years old and being a tech un-wit (ph).

INSKEEP: Mr. Cotter tried doing shows on Zoom, but his puppets looked too small. So he jury-rigged a rolling tripod that allows him to move his computer in and out to capture the action.

COTTER: Any time over the last 45 years that a door opened even a crack, you would kick that door open. And a crack has opened up, and we're pursuing it with all of our resources.


MICHELE VALERI: That's it. (Singing) Oh, bugs, bugs, bugs, bugs. We like bugs a lot.

MARTIN: Before the pandemic, Michele Valeri and Ingrid Crepeau did music and art workshops for preschool teachers.

VALERI: So these are interactive strategies to use in the classroom.

INGRID CREPEAU: Yeah because, developmentally, preschoolers can't sit still. But they can learn while they're dancing.

VALERI: But they shouldn't have to sit still.


MARTIN: All of their workshops have now been canceled. They tried getting money from the Small Business Administration. But...




VALERI: Let me see how many times have I been on the SBA website?

CREPEAU: Website.

VALERI: Six hours, last time I tried?

INSKEEP: Now they're turning their workshops into videos.

VALERI: This is our biggest moneymaking time of the year - spring. We always make half of our income...


VALERI: ...In a third of the year, and this is the third.


VALERI: So that's depressing. And we just miss it. We love going into the classroom. It is the most fun thing in the world to do.

CREPEAU: We do miss it.


CREPEAU: It was very hard.

INSKEEP: The children's performers say their lives feel like the end of a children's book where the moral of the story is never give up.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOONLIT SAILOR'S "YES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.