GENEVA --- The doors of Geneva’s Smith Opera House may be closed, but that hasn’t stopped the organization from connecting the community through enriching arts opportunities. In response to Covid-19 and the protective Stay-At-Home order, The Smith has launched three new series: “The Smith Film Club,” a movie streaming and discussion group, “The Smith Sessions,” a series of videos of regional musicians performing from their living rooms and The Smith’s stage, and “The Ghost Light Tours,” video tours through the hidden gems of The Smith Opera House’s history, created by Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ Chris Woodworth. Details of these series may be found on the Smith’s website, www.thesmith.org as well as on their social media pages.
The Smith Sessions were born out of The Smith’s desire to help the artists who are The Smith’s lifeblood. As tour dates have been cancelled, musicians have had little access to income. The Smith shares videos of musicians performing in their homes and on the opera house stage on its Facebook and Instagram accounts, along with the artists’ digital payment information, allowing them to collect digital tips.
Geneva-born, San Francisco-based songwriter Matt Venuti was visiting his Geneva family members in March for what he thought would be a two week break in his national tour. One month later and a fully cancelled tour, he is still here and eager for opportunities to play. Venuti, the first Smith Sessions guest to play on the stage, reflects on what pandemic means for artists. He says,
“The role of virtual, online performance is playing a crucial role in the careers of performers like myself whose livelihood has been dependent on physical venues and attendance. It's going to take a lot of patience, learning and adjustments, but I think Covid 19 has given birth to the age of the virtual performer. It will never completely replace actual venues and assemblies and I'm thankful for that. There's an undeniable synergy between performer and audience that creates magic.”
Though The Smith’s popular, weekly history tours may be on pause, you can now learn fascinating anecdotes of The Smith’s history from your living room. The Ghost Light Tours, created by Chris Woodworth, Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ Associate Professor of Theater, can be viewed on Wednesdays at 7pm on The Smith Opera House’s Facebook page. “We turn on the Ghost Light in dark theatres as a beacon of safety,” says Woodworth. “The ghost light helps guide our steps through darkness and offers us the promise of future performances and a return to collective gathering. I think of the Ghost Light Tours in that way. These small video tidbits of the tour are definitely not the same as the live experience. But one of the great opportunities of this difficult moment is to share the history of this building and its role in the community to a broader audience.”
The movies are coming to you with The Smith Film Club, a free virtual club dedicated to watching and discussing movies available on Netflix. Club members can choose to watch the movie as a group using Netflix Party, or they can watch the movie on their own time. Post-film discussions will be scheduled and held through virtual Zoom calls. All club members must be at least 17 years old.
To launch The Smith Film Club, we will be screening “Chasing Coral,” an environmental documentary. The film will be screened on Earth Day, April 22nd at 7pm and will follow with a discussion with the filmmakers on the 23rd via Zoom. “I know I miss being able to attend performances and screenings during this challenging time,” says Smith board member Rebecca Burditt, Assistant Professor of Media and Society and film committee chair at The Smith. “There is something very special about collective viewing and being able to share the experience of watching a film together. The film club gives us an opportunity to try to recreate that sense of community.”
Susie Monagan Executive Director says, “All of us at The Smith are passionate about live performance so the uncertainty surrounding our timeline for reopening has been unsettling. The Corona Era has required us to dig deep into our reserves of flexibility and improvisation and reinterpret our core mission. We’re here to engage and entertain and hope these digital offerings will delight you. Our culture has just hit the ‘fast forward’ button; the innovation we’ve seen online has been astounding. Please join us but, sorry, you’ll have to pop your own popcorn!”
The Smith Center for the Arts, stewards of the historic Smith Opera House, provides diverse arts and educational enrichment opportunities year-round for Finger Lakes residents and visitors. The Smith Opera House is at 82 Seneca St. in Geneva, NY. Box Office hours are suspended until further notice. For more information, call 315-781-5483 and leave a message or visit www.thesmith.org.