The COVID-19 pandemic has been a lonely time for much of the theater world, as stage productions remain shuttered or confined to audience-free, virtual performances, but for one group of South Lakes High School alumni, the past year unexpectedly rekindled their bond.
A virtual theater company dedicated to giving new and up-and-coming playwrights a platform to have their work read and critiqued, the Walking Shadow Readers Theatre emerged in June 2020 out of what was originally just a casual online reunion of former South Lakes drama students who had scattered across the country in the decade-plus since they graduated.
Now, the company is organizing its first one-act play festival to celebrate its first season and raise enough money to have a second one.
“Our main goal with the fundraiser is to earn enough to start compensating artists, as we are currently an all volunteer [organization],” Walking Shadow board president and casting director Amy Benson said. “We have been providing actors and writers with the gift of a creative space during the pandemic, but want to be able to compensate them for their work.”
Scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. on May 28, the One Acts Festival will feature eight short plays by the playwrights who participated in Walking Shadow’s inaugural season, along with interviews with the writers and excerpts from past readings.
The program will be about two-and-a-half hours in length and will be available to stream on YouTube until June 11. General admission tickets are now on sale for $10, but the company encourages people to consider one of the higher-priced options, since all of the proceeds will go toward paying artists and staff and keeping the theater operational.
According to a press release, the company plans to soon become an official nonprofit.
Benson says that Walking Shadow’s origins help distinguish it from other theater organizations since its members include both theater professionals and people who ultimately pursued other career paths.
Benson, for example, teaches at Imagination Stage in Bethesda, but her fellow company members include a media director who works as a security consultant by day, a virtual marketing assistant and stay-at-home mother, and a licensed mental health therapist.
“We have realized this is one of our strengths as a group because we bring diverse experience and knowledge into our playwright feedback sessions,” Benson said.
Because its members live around the country, Walking Shadow will continue to focus on virtual readings and performances even after the pandemic fades into memory, but some in-person performances could be possible in the future, according to the company’s website.
Benson says it has been rewarding to watch Walking Shadow evolve over the past year into a venture that is “creatively fulfilling for us and the other artists who are involved.”
“Theatre is one of the great ways of connecting with other people,” she said. “This has given us and the artists we work with the opportunity to not only reconnect with one another and connect to performers and playwrights across the country, but as a way of staying vital and creative in a time when life has been stagnant.”
Frying Pan Farm Park’s annual Spring Farm Day has been canceled for the second year in a row due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The fundraiser had been scheduled to take place on May 1, but Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park, the nonprofit that supports the park, announced this morning (Wednesday) that plans have “unfortunately” changed.
Spring Farm Day’s cancellation means that the Friends group has to scramble again to raise the funds need to support the dozens of animals that live at the park in Herndon.
“We’ll lose thousands of dollars Spring Farm Day would have raised. This money would have helped feed our farm animals and support the farm,” the organization said in a Facebook post. “If you can, please make a donation to help replace our lost funding.”
Spring Farm Day typically takes place in May and offers crafts and activities, such as sheep-shearing demonstrations and encounters with the baby farm animals, that highlight the park’s role in showcasing early and mid-20th century farm life.
When the pandemic shut down the event last year, the Friends organized an online fundraiser to collect the $30,000 that the group said is required to feed, care for, and shelter the roughly 100 animals on the farm each year. The fundraiser exceeded its goal, ultimately bringing in $44,254 from 513 supporters.
Frying Pan Farm Park is operated by the Fairfax County Park Authority, but the animals are owned by the Friends group, which is responsible for covering their food, shelter, and medical care.
Both one-time and recurring donations can be made online through the Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park website.
Reston Now contacted Frying Pan Farm Park for a comment on the decision to cancel this year’s Spring Farm Day but has not heard back as of press time.
Photo via Yvonne Johnson
South Lakes High School’s annual Tag Day band fundraiser will officially be held virtually this year as a result of the pandemic.
The fundraiser helps pay for musical instruction, instruments, student scholarships, uniforms and more, according to a press release from Melissa Gifford, the President of Band Boosters. Tag Day is the nonprofit’s largest SLHS fundraiser each year.
“Even though band classes are virtual right now, our staff and students are working hard on new music, and they can’t wait to play for the community!” said Gifford.
The funds are currently being allocated to support students now and upon their eventual return to in-person learning. To support virtual learning, Band Boosters are looking to bring in additional help in the online classroom to increase the individual attention given to each student.
Fundraising proceeds will also go towards purchasing new sheet music for smaller performing groups for an eventual return to in-person school, and to help purchase and repair instruments, according to Gifford.
“Most people aren’t aware that many of our students use or even share school-owned instruments,” she said. “Obviously it’s important that we are able to provide a working instrument for every student at home, and sharing is now a thing of the past.”
The nonprofit has set up a crowdsourcing campaign, with information on the website about the band program and how proceeds are being used. Those interested in donating can donate online or by check payable to SLHS Band Boosters (South Lakes Band Boosters, PO Box 8561, Reston VA 20195-8561).
“Each ear we are overwhelmed by the support of our community,” said Shannen Setlik, the Tag Day Coordinator. “We are especially grateful this year, during these difficult times.”
Photo courtesy of Melissa Gifford
Reston Community Players has announced a special month-long concert series, ‘RCP Gives Thanks’, to show gratitude to the Reston community for its support this year.
The virtual mini-concerts will feature some of RCP’s performers while generating donations for their organization in addition to other local non-profits in the Reston area.
Beginning November 1 at 8 p.m., RCP will spread a message of gratitude and camaraderie with uplifting stories of gratitude and performances from memorable past performers, according to a statement from the organization. The fundraising campaign will take place via RCP’s Facebook page.
“‘RCP Gives Thanks’ is our chance to show our gratitude and appreciation for the community that has sustained us for the past 54 years,” said Jolene Vettese, the president of RCP, in the statement. “November is often a time to reflect on what we have in our lives that we are thankful for, and we’d like to share with our community what it is that we are thankful for.”
Donations will go towards defraying the fixed operating expenses that RCP cannot cover due to the pandemic, specifically production cancellations.
RCP will also be staring the proceeds with Shepherd’s Center, LINKS Inc, and Cornerstones as a means of thanking the community. Each non-profit partner will be featured for 10 days of performances and will receive half of all donations raised during those days, according to the statement.
Those interested can visit RCP’s website for more information and the schedule of performances.
Image via Reston Community Players/Facebook
Friends of Frying Pan Park, a local park in Herndon, will host its first NASCOW race next Friday (Oct. 16)
This event will race 11 of the park’s cows in efforts to replace revenues lost by the COVID-19-related cancellation of the park’s annual Farm Harvest Days fundraiser, the event ad said.
“Farm Harvest Days usually bring in 8,000 people per day,” said Yvonne Johnson, Manager of Friends of Frying Pan Park. “Due to COVID-19, we found a different way to generate revenue to support the farm and park.”
The cows that will race are of different ages from nine-months to four-years-old:
- Bandit (Age: 1)
- Brandy (Age: 3)
- Evee (Age: 3)
- Florence (Age: 2)
- Guinness (Age: 9 months)
- Helene (Age: 2)
- Hokie (Age: 3)
- Marybelle (Age: 4)
- Rain (Age: 3)
- Skipper (Age: 9 months)
- Smokey (Age: 1)
The race will be videotaped and aired online.
Sponsors for the NASCOW race can use this form to pick their cow and donate. So far the park has raised $8,000 of its $10,000 goal.
Photo via Friends of Frying Pan Park/Facebook