You want honest feedback?
Ask a parent.
“My children are used to a large amount of structure and activities,” one mom wrote, “and when there was seemingly nothing, there was still Mr. Nick and Miss Lynn on the screen, making us all feel like our world was going to be okay.”
Meet Nick Sargis and Lynn Piotrowski, the masterminds behind theatrical performances in the Fox Valley Park District’s vibrant Performing Arts scene. The two go together like butter and popcorn.
When the pandemic first hit and the FVPD shuttered its doors in mid-March, Sargis, the performing arts coordinator and technical director, and Piotrowski, the performing arts supervisor, huddled and designed a playbook of possibilities, despite the mountain of uncertainty that lay ahead.
What they emerged with was a remarkable lineup of virtual activities, including cooking challenges, trivia nights, sign language classes, and even a Shakespeare production in late August, to name a few.
“I really love theater and I love the theater family that we’ve developed in the last year,” another mom wrote in a letter to Piotrowski. “It has meant so much to me to have made such good friends through the program, especially since you know how hard this year has been for my family.”
A validation of the department’s impact, to be sure.
Up next is the virtual (Zoom) performance of Fall Folktales, a medley of five small plays – Cinderella, Snow White, King Arthur & The Witch, The Twelve Dancing Princesses and The Salem Witches. Virtual auditions were held the first week of August and the 22-member cast, ranging in age from 7 to 16, is set to perform via Zoom at 7 p.m. on Friday, September 25, and 2 p.m. on Sunday, September 27. Zoom registration is $5 per screen and can be purchased here.
“The kids are remarkably resilient,” Piotrowski said, “and because they’re doing Zoom for school, they know how things work as well as we do.”
Because Shakespeare – the District’s first “live” (though virtual) performance since the start of the pandemic – flowed so seamlessly, Fall Folktales “became more of a justified reality,” Sargis said. “The word I use is ‘pioneers.’ This is all so new and we don’t know what happens next. We know there will be challenges, and we will embrace them and conquer them together.”
Since March, the Performing Arts Department has produced and posted more than 100 videos, which have been collectively viewed more than 328,000 times. The department’s Facebook followers have nearly doubled in six months.
“The social media presence and the response from parents has been so heartwarming,” said Sargis. “I told Lynn, ‘I don’t think the words thank you are ever enough.’ It reassures us that we’re still making an impact.
“In those moments when you can smile and laugh, the virus isn’t in front of you. Those are moments of bliss, where normalcy is there, hope returns and history will remember what we did.”
For more information on our Performing Arts Department, or to participate in upcoming activities, visit https://www.facebook.com/FoxValleyParkDistrictPerformingArts/.