I, Edward Park, had an interview with April Evans, the Interim Executive Director of the Uptown Knauer Performing Arts Center.
There have been many concerns surrounding the local businesses in West Chester University due to the ongoing lockdown of the area due to COVID-19. On national news, we hear horror stories of the perpetual tragedy of businesses failing to cope with the drastic change to their operations, some not able to function at all with the new regulations. However, this article will talk about a business that is moving along. With a fundraising campaign and quite a few interested clientele, The Uptown Knauer Performing Arts Center is doing well to stay ahead of the pandemic and is able to serve people the entertainment many have been starved of.
On Sept. 11, I had the pleasure of speaking to the Interim Executive Director of the center. This is our interview.
Edward Park: So, as the Interim Executive Director of the Knauer Performing Arts center, how have you been during the pandemic?
April Evans: “Not too bad. We have been trying to pivot our programming a little bit and during the shutdown, we’ve been trying to change gears by live streaming online on Facebook Live and things like that with a couple of our artists. That was fun for everyone. We also started our ‘Raise UP the Curtain’ campaign.
The livestreaming was free for people to see. It was simply done to engage with the people who they couldn’t reach. There was a virtual tip jar for performers who played in their livestreams as well as a donation system for themselves.”
EP: Do you think changes like livestreaming will stay even after the pandemic ends?
AE: “That’s what we’re hoping. Technically, we are closed. We are not open to the public. We have our education department, West Chester Studio. That has been the only operating program here in the theater through the camps and now through the fall classes. As far as programming is concerned, we are hoping to do live streaming. It is kind of up in the air as to whether or not it will be monetized, as well. We, like so many other organizations, are pivoting to this live streaming. Because we are so young, we did not have the live streaming equipment already in place in our theater. We are waiting on that. It is on back order due to COVID-19, manufacturing and high demand, and we are waiting for that equipment to come in. Once that does come in, yes, it will become part of our norm. This is the way of the future, and so even when our doors are open, we anticipate livestreaming being part of our way of life.
Our theatre educational department is called West Chester Studio for the Performing Arts at Uptown. It is for ages between five and adult. We had a very successful camp. We had both in-person and online camps. And now we are starting our fall classes both in-person and online as well.”
EP: I’m actually kind of curious about the in-person classes considering the pandemic. Were those as successful as the online classes?
AE: “They were more successful than the online. However, they were extremely small in comparison. Where we would have had 25–30 students at a time, we limited it greatly so we would comply with CDC guidelines. So we only had 8–10 students at a time for each individual camp, and everyone was spaced out throughout the entire building. Even though they were successful because we filled every slot available, we were limited greatly just due to the guidelines.”
EP: So the online classes, have they always been present in your studio?
AE: “No, that was brand new. As successful as they were, because they gave an option, we were really surprised there was so much interest in it, but it had, of course, young children and they really needed to be active. We did quite a bit of change right at the beginning of the spring classes that we had already been running; we quickly turned them all online. So, by the time summer came, the students found it difficult to stay in front of the monitors for any length of time, so we kept it really short just for fun, just those little pop-up classes, just here and there.”
EP: I noticed on your website that you were selling tickets for a show, The Dueling Pianos, on Oct. 9.
AE: “Yes. So we are keeping that open at current because it’s open all year long. It’s just one of those dates that we keep up there. We kept it on because we are hoping that our live streaming equipment would be in so any ticket purchases would be easily transferred to an online experience or, if we are able to because at current, we are only allowed to have 25 people in the building at a time. Even if we have some ticket purchases, we would like to split it between the in-person and online event. We will be very soon closing down that option because our live streaming is still up in the air. So, that will also be closing out… just like many of the options, it will be rescheduled.”
On their website, they have a campaign currently happening called “Raise UP the Curtain!” According to the site, it says that they have raised $350,000 of their $500,000 goal. I asked April if there had been any significant updates since the last notice of fundraising. Here was her response:
AE: “It’s still about that. I think, currently,we may be at about $357,000 to $359,000. We are inching up. We have really wonderful supporters, both within West Chester and surrounding areas, that are fantastic and exactly what we need in this area to support the arts here. So, we are very fortunate to have them as a part of us and keeping us vibrant, and we are just going to keep on going and, hopefully, making our goal before the end of the year would be great and even surpassing it would be better.”
If you would like to donate to the Uptown Knauer Performing Arts Center’s “Raise UP the Curtains” campaign or to simply give them donations, go to their website https://uptownwestchester.org and provide the funds necessary to keep their business thriving.
Edward Park is a third year student with a BsED writings track. EP909767@wcupa.edu