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Our New Busy Lives Online: Virtual Goes Viral

Lee Fryd

Alec Baldwin is taking part in a Guild Hall staged reading of "Same Time, Next Year." (Photo: Marco Vacchi)

Remember when lockdown started and everyone had time to chat? These days, there's so much to do online, everyone's days are filled. Seems we went into our homes physically then out of them virtually.

Randi Schatz, Jackie and Jean Shafiroff get off the phone when Elisabeth Halfpapp and Fred DeVito's CoreBarreFit classes (www.corebarrefit.com) come on. Halfpapp and DeVito, married since high school, co-founded Exhale and train their trainers. Celebs like Heidi Klum, Cameron Diaz and Allison Williams are devotees.

The Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center has online acting classes. Bay Street Theater has classes too, and a Virtual Sip & Sing sing-along, Fridays at 5.

Known for attracting top talent — they're all out here — Guild Hall grabbed local supporters Alec Baldwin and Julianne Moore, for a virtual presentation of "Same Time, Next Year," directed by Bob Balaban, on July 12, at 7:30pm. On July 15, they will have an online reading on Al Hirschfeld, "Behind The Lines: A Zoom visual visit of the Hirschfeld Century." Earlier this month, Austin Pendleton gave a virtual staged reading, "James Joyce: A Short Night's Odyssey from No to Yes." There are also lots of online activities for kids, the Florence Fabricant series, Stirring the Pot at Home series, featuring different chefs and much, much more.

Of the effort, Executive Director Andrea Grover said, "I'm very impressed with the Guild Hall team and their ability to rapidly transform readings, gallery tours, studio visits, and art projects to virtual platforms so there was no perceptible interruption in our mission. I think this flexibility comes from being a multidisciplinary center with a staff that frequently learns new tricks and collaborates all the time." Guild Hall just opened up for outdoor art presentations and safe social distancing in their gallery.

Lang Lang, the rock star of concert pianists, who has graced the Hamptons at private fund raising soirees, took his Play It Forward community service initiative for Young Scholars virtual. The program, which sends his proteges to perform for schools, retirement homes, and community centers is now on LLIMF's Instagram IGTV every Friday at 12pm EST (www.instagram.com), with a participation element afterwards.

In further service of the stir crazy, we will take a look at three sites that will up your culture quotient, sate your wanderlust and unleash the talent you've heretofore hidden, singing in the shower.

So, grab your laptops and get lost in:

A digital Singnasium class. (Photo Courtesy of Singnasium)

Singnasium:

Think you can sing? Now you can get professional Broadway instruction without having to go to Broadway. Hone a career or just raise your voice in song. Lennie Watts' Singnasium (singnasium.org) classes are uplifting, no judgment and for all levels. Watts has been churning out Broadway, jazz and cabaret singers for almost thirty years in Manhattan. Now, with the school he started in 2018, Singnasium, he can come to you.

"It's our first time online," Watts told us, "and it seems to be going really well. It started out as a community where people could just go and sing with each other and we still have a monthly online free open mic, 'Singapalooza.'" (Thursday, July 16 and Aug. 20, 6:30 -8:30pm. Email singapalooza@singnasium.org).

He quickly realized the teaching talent he could attract could make this into something much, much more. "This is the time to get artists who normally wouldn't be available," he said. "Without jobs for the next two months, they're all like sitting ducks!"

Grammy Award-winning songwriter Julie Gold ("From a Distance"); Tony Award nominee Sharon McNight ("Starmites"); and multi award-winning Broadway, recording and cabaret star Karen Mason ("Sunset Boulevard, Mama Mia, And the World Goes 'Round") offer new classes, joining current Singnasium teaching artists Gabrielle Stravelli, Kristine Zbornik, Brad Simmons, Michael Holland, Carmen Cancél, Ted Stafford and Lennie Watts. Also joining with new offerings this summer are Joshua Zecher-Ross, Lisa Asher, and Ashton Corey. Some classes are already sold out.

Watts' studied at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, and segued into national tours and regional theater. "Then I discovered the cabaret world," he told us. "I played just about every club from Don't Tell Mama, the Laurie Beechman, 54 Below to the Algonquin before it closed." He's been president of MAC Manhattan Association of Cabarets for more than 10 years, where he produces and directs their programs.

He's the go-to guy for performers in between Broadway gigs. "Two years ago, Afra Hines dropped out of my Arranging Experience class because she got 'Hadestown,'" he told us. "I also teach a cabaret class at Marymount Manhattan College. And we get a lot of theater majors who don't find immediate success."

But, it's never too late to turn to Lennie. He's turned business refugees in their 50s and 60s into NYC cabaret performers. "The late John Koprowski came to us when he was almost 60 after being a CPA all his life. He ended up with a one-man show he took to Don't Tell Mama and the Laurie Beecham. Then he helped us found Singnasium." Today there is a scholarship in Koprowski's name for other late starters.

There is also a significant community outreach program — after school programs in underserved schools, and plans to go to hospitals and senior centers — which makes Singnasium a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

"It's a medical fact that singing is a natural antidepressant and it strengthens the immune system," Watts told us. "Now more than ever, being creative, and more specifically, singing is important. It helps with stress and breathing, and all around good feelings."

Next, we will look at the Parrish Art Museum, who expanded an already copious online presence to continue serving our community, and Indagare, the members-only, travel company founded by Town & Country's former destinations expert, who took her exclusive little black book online to show us other communities.




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