In light of the current social and health climate, with the shutting down of public spaces and - in particular - theaters across the country, Andy’s Summer Playhouse seeks to find a solution that does not lead to the closing of our organization’s doors for our 50th season. In a time of such isolation, it is imperative that our playhouse provide access to the arts for our youth. While the country and world focus on the physical health of our citizens, Andy’s seeks to provide an essential platform for our youth to express themselves and, in turn, continue to become better humans emotionally and artistically.

From ages 8-18, children are developing their inquisitive sense of self.  Being without access to the creative arts can act as a detriment to their developed adult self. As a result, Andy’s Summer Playhouse seeks to play a vital role in leveraging, supporting, and enhancing the digital sense of self in our youth and teen population during this time, so that they can carry these innovative skills back into their social environments once we are all able to return to our communities in person. 

Therefore, we propose to create an entirely new website, entitled the Digital Renaissance Project, which will serve as a digital platform connecting youth in southern NH and beyond with adults of various artistic disciplines from all across the country. This project also has the opportunity to grow to allow for involvement from young artists all across the state and nation. While this project marks a change from the infrastructure that has existed for fifty years at Andy’s Summer Playhouse, we believe this interactive, innovative solution is exactly what is needed in order to continue providing our children with what they need now more than ever: empathy, empowerment, engagement and expression.

What do the projects look like?

Projects will be divided between two types of programs: the Exchange (skill builders) and the Stage (performance builders). For all Exchange projects, the process will follow an acquiring knowledge, organizing, experimenting, reflecting process that will result in a portfolio. These projects will be like a classroom experience focused on hardware (e.g., building, sewing, character mask-making) and software skills (e.g. Photoshop, Vectorworks, Coding, QLab, Ableton Live, Isadora). Alternatively, Stage projects follow a collecting, organizing, polishing, performing process. They will focus on how to create an environment and an experience that can involve an audience. The time frames for projects are one day, one week or multi-week. These define when the project starts and ends. Within each project, there will be flexibility about how often/how many hours they meet within that day, week or multi-week timeframe. The longer, month-long stage projects will most closely follow our typical performance rehearsal structure, with time to rehearse, virtually tech and then present a longer, more polished performance piece.

How is Andy’s meeting a need that is not met in other ways? Can’t kids get together on their own and do something like this?

When adults and youth come together every summer at Andy’s, something magical happens. The adults and children alike are changed in positive ways as they discover their voice, deepen their empathy and engage daily in creative problem-solving and self-expression with people of all ages. As we move to an online platform this summer, in a global climate filled with uncertainty and fewer and fewer opportunities to engage in creative thinking and human connection, Andy’s is providing youth and adults the opportunity to regroup, reclaim and re-imagine the breadth of art-making in this new world. Within our online platform, the collaboration that was present every day in every rehearsal room at the playhouse will continue. Kids will have the opportunity to work with other children of similar ages, and they will also be able to work eye-to-eye with adults who are leaders and innovators within their artistic field.

How can I view a project as an audience member?

Once the project is completed, it will be pushed out to the public through live-streaming or recorded performance or as an online gallery. Andy's staff will collect all of the artifacts (illustration art, sound art, graphic art, performance art) and they will be displayed on the creative, interactive front page of the project website. This interactive front page will house all items that are available to the public, including artist bios and all project artifacts. The types of artifacts that are collected are dependent on the project itself and whether it is a part of the exchange or the stage.

What is site-specific performance?

Site-specific performance has been a key aspect of the performing arts for decades. The intent behind this genre of work is to create performance that is responsive to the environment and architecture of the space that the performers and audience inhabit. The Digital Renaissance Project serves as an opportunity to explore what it means to create art in an entirely digital way. This means that a digital performance space is created with the sole intention of creating digital performance art for a digital audience. Each project is a site-specific performance with “the site” being the world wide web, inviting us to examine the architecture and the space of the internet, as well as how its participants interact, engage, communicate, and perform. In years past, we have worked in the Keller’s yellow barn, a physical structure that has stood for centuries and served many purposes. Each year we recontextualize it during our Greenhouse performance. The Greenhouse is an annual project that allows for a group of invited artists to hold residency for approximately one week to create a brand-new script. Within this script creation process, we encourage experimentation and open work sessions so that the children involved in the project can be exposed to the process of brainstorming for the stage. The adult artists and children determine which parts of their work will culminate into a one-time public performance. Although the Greenhouse is always held in the yellow barn, the layout and audience experience of the greenhouse is entirely different year-to-year. During the greenhouse rehearsal period, the artists take the content of the project and determine its relationship to the site-specific space. They then determine how the architecture can respond to the content of their collaborative project. With the Digital Renaissance Project, we will host several projects across various disciplines and generate work that is responsive to our digital environment and interactions between artists of all ages, creating performance and artifacts intended for audiences of all ages.

How does this work?

The actual digital platform will be much like a bulletin board at a cafe, in which ideas are posted for people to inquire about, sign up for and show support. The projects can be proposed by either adult or youth artists. Once a project has gained enough support and has been selected as a project, it will be pushed into our weekly schedule. Once it becomes a part of the schedule, the project is granted access to video conferencing, text documentation, and sound/audio recording. These tools will allow for the group to come together in a collective and collaborative way to start asking the questions and building the project, with the children working eye-to-eye with adults.

What about security?

As an organization that works with youth, protecting the digital security of each of our youth participants is of the utmost importance to us. Our public, interactive front page will be entirely separate from the artist portal, which is password-protected for the adults and children who have been approved to join. We will be engaging the highest security measures on each of the virtual platforms that we are using in order to ensure that the virtual rehearsal rooms only include the adult artists and young artists who have been approved to work on each project. Before being hired, each of our adult staff members receive a code of conduct that details our expectations for digital behavior. This must be signed, along with their artist contract, before they can be fully hired. As when we were meeting in person, all staff will also go through a background check and their hiring will not be considered complete until we receive a clean report.