When the going got tough for live entertainment, parking garage performances became a way to create and connect.
Social distancing requirements due to Covid-19 has rattled everyone’s lives and livelihoods. Of the many industries that have faced immense struggles during this time, live entertainment has been one of the hardest hit.
Yet performers and performance companies are used to reinvention and innovation during tough times. Staying active during the pandemic required them to dig deep, and when they did, they found that parking garages were ripe for reuse as spaces for performance, rehearsals, films, and recording areas.
In Salt Lake City, Utah, the theater company SONDERimmersive used the constraints of social distancing as a creative catalyst to create a retelling of Romeo and Juliet.
The result was Through Yonder Window, “a rare live experience in a socially distant time.” The performance was created for the parking garage of The Gateway shopping complex in downtown Salt Lake City.
“We create an environment that the cars that go into, where normally we create environments where audiences walk through,” Graham Brown, artistic director of SONDERimmersive told the Salt Lake Tribune (source of header image above).
Created specifically to be viewed by audience members sitting in their cars, the company describes the experience to be expected on their website:
Each parking spot reveals and conceals different aspects of the many stories. The show has been designed so that each car has a full, albeit a very different, experience.
A different experience is also what to expect from one of the more high profile companies to venture into parking garage performances: Germany’s Deutsche Oper Berlin.
Due to COVID-19, the company could no longer perform in the grand theaters they are accustomed to. Restrictions in Berlin ban large gatherings in closed public spaces, so the company had to adapt.
They re-staged the dramatic opera “Das Rheingold” on the top deck of their building’s parking garage. The open-air, socially distanced performance met the requirements of Berlin’s Covid restrictions. It also taught the company an important lesson about embracing the need for reinvention.
“At the start, it was an emergency solution. But in an emergency, you get inventive. And then, in the end, you find it fits perfectly, it’s exactly right,” Dietmar Schwarz, director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, told Euronews.
With most parking garages sitting empty during the pandemic, they became not only ideal spaces for parking garage performances, but perfect spaces for rehearsals in a time of social distancing.
Choreographer Jacob Jonas and director of his own dance company told Dance Magazine he felt “antsy” after coming to terms with how long people would be required to social distance. As the magazine writes:
He and four other dancers in his apartment complex had been training daily in empty parking garages nearby. But Jonas wanted to be in a creative process again, and he wanted to figure out how to perform in a safe way.
Given his background as a street performer on the Venice Beach boardwalk and Santa Monica promenade, Jonas was in a unique position as a dance company director: He knows how to work safely on concrete, and how to build audiences in a non-traditional setting.
He came up with the idea of setting up cars in a 100-foot circumference circle, using their headlights to illuminate the “stage.” Within two hours of telling his dancers about his plan, all 16 said yes.
The result was PARKED, a performance created specifically for a parking lot. As Jonas shared in a post on his Instagram account:
If repurposing urban structures and objects for additional use is of interest, you’ll love Reprogramming the City publications: