Connect From Your Couch

"Remaining present in our community is a precious skill in a world where face-to-face time is severely limited."

by MARY MARTIN

September 16, 2020

Hi! I’m Mary, and like you, I have a strange relationship with time right now. It seems to be moving far too slowly for the most part, and then much too quickly when I find something interesting to do. During “these times,” I continue to find myself up against a serious lack of motivation. Why think about my career when I can think about Netflix? Then when I do drum up the energy to refocus on singing, I often feel like most of the work I’m doing will in no way further my career once the pandemic gates are lifted and stages across the country reopen. Enter Stagetime - a new platform that allows the performing arts world to connect.

No matter your position in the performing arts world, Stagetime offers a space for connection and collaboration that I am missing so much. I was excited to spend some time exploring this growing community, and putting my profile together actually took no time at all (less than an hour, or one episode of Scandal). I see this network as a chance to expand my professional virtual presence, specific to our industry, even though there are virtually no performances happening. Here are 3 ways Stagetime helped me focus on connection with my community.

1. Easy to navigate...and easy on the eyes.

If you’re like me and don’t consider yourself the most tech-savvy person around (I’m working on it), leave your fear at the proverbial stage door. The platform is incredibly user-friendly, and all of the hairy web builder formatting work I usually find aggravating happened automatically. I like that Stagetime makes the design choices for me - decision fatigue is real!  My Stagetime profile simultaneously presents my information in an organized way while still feeling unique to me. Because so much of the space on the profile is taken up by my media, my profile will never look like another artist's, because no other artist looks like me. With information in a consistent format, I know that everyone can more easily find what they're looking for (instead of digging through my 8 page website). Instead of bouncing between websites to keep up on friends and companies on your radar, you can use the Watch List feature and have all their information in one place. In fact, on Stagetime your entire community is only one click away. As a singer, it benefits me tremendously to keep up-to-date on the “vocal trends” of our performance community. Here, I can organically stay up to date with the accomplishments and performances of my peers (as opposed to searching for them), and can easily find a professional colleague. I can spend my time networking, not formatting. 

Fun fact: people visiting your website spend an average of 9 seconds on your bio page. Nine seconds! Given this information, it’s all the more important that I’m able to communicate who I am as an artist as quickly as possible. 

2. Keep your virtual presence fresh.

Fun fact: people visiting your website spend an average of 9 seconds on your bio page. Nine seconds! Given this information, it’s all the more important that I’m able to communicate who I am as an artist as quickly as possible. Stagetime allows me to control my brand and cultivate my narrative. It’s also really easy for me to update my profile, and I can even list gigs that got cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19, allowing me to claim the professional resume boost I should have gotten from that performance. I can put a giant virtual spotlight on my favorite performance video and feature the companies that have been most pivotal to my career as Notable Affiliations. My profile also includes upcoming engagements - all on the same page. No more worrying that some extra-important person will visit my website and navigate away before they get to my recordings or scroll down to my extra-special connection to President Obama (find me on Stagetime for more on that story). The lack of “cyber noise” in the form of no comments, likes, or shares on posts is greatly appreciated - the playing field is a bit more even when there are no external value judgements being made on anyone’s content. If someone is only spending 9 seconds with my virtual presence, they’ll get a lot of bang for their… click with my Stagetime profile.

3. Connect from your couch.

I don’t think I’m alone when I say I have major Zoom fatigue these days. Has this cut down on my mindless Internet scrolling? ...Not really. We’re all spending countless hours on-line, so why not make them productive? Networking is more important than ever, and remaining present in our community is a precious skill in a world where face-to-face time is severely limited. Stagetime opens the door to make professional connections for future collaborations and projects without leaving home. Discover fellow community members whose missions align with your artistic goals. Find out what’s important to potential collaborators before you are in the room with them. Message artists or agents you are interested in working with. I think it’s a great way to stay in touch with past collaborators as well — especially since we sometimes only work with professionals for a few weeks at a time as freelancers. I’ve always been told when someone in our industry tells you to keep in touch, they really mean it. Instead of your update getting lost in the noise of an inbox next to a NYT cooking e-blast, a message on Stagetime will establish a professional connection from the jump. Continue to build new connections and re-engage past colleagues for the post-Covid performance world - you know, as they say on Avenue Q, when it’s time to return to “Life outside your apartment.” 

by MARY MARTIN

On Community,

Tech, and Art

"Before we even enter the physical space of a rehearsal room, we have the opportunity to connect."

by TERRENCE CHIN-LOY

August 19, 2020

As artists, the communities we create are almost as important as the art itself. We form strong ties with one another because those of us who make art are able to understand each other in a special way. When I first started studying at Indiana University and found myself riding the struggle bus with the role of Tonio in La fille du régiment, my coach and now friend, Kevin Murphy said to me, “Listen, I don’t care if you crack every single note. You’re learning, and you can only learn how to do this on your feet.” Kevin said those words to me some four years ago, and I still hold them in my heart to this day. Because Kevin saw something special in me that I

didn’t yet see, I was able to grow into myself. This is the power of community. However hard we wish that we could wake up tomorrow and be Beyoncé, the process of becoming ourselves is often hard-won and accomplished through others. Our in-person connection to others, though, is difficult to maintain in #operalife because a production or schooling may only last anywhere from six weeks to a few years. In a world where even in better times artists find ourselves far-flung across the globe, we rely on technology to facilitate and digitally materialize our (re)connection.

The other day, a friend asked me to imagine going through the 1918 pandemic when social media didn’t exist. I could not. In a time when we are physically isolated from one another, technology is giving us the shared space we lack. Of course this connection includes catching up with our friends on Marco Polo and scrolling through Instagram, as it did before, but today I find that technology is facilitating difficult and meaningful conversations that were once deemed taboo. In opera, we are attending summer festivals on Zoom and having voice lessons via FaceTime. As we rely more and more on technology in order to continue to build our personal and professional relationships, the moments of seeing a face telecasted onto our screens feed our need for connection. In my recent coachings with Kevin, I had a wistfully nostalgic moment seeing that he was working from his studio at IU. It wasn’t so much the space itself that moved me but rather recalling how much this person on the other side of the screen helped me to be a better singer and person.

 

We can conceptualize community as less about our physical surroundings and more about relationships that we’ve formed, as well as relationships that we have the potential to create. Through social media, I am getting to know people I had previously only heard of. I’ve had full-length conversations on race, music, and the future of opera with people I’ve never met before. I have reconnected with people I haven’t talked to in years. Technology formed a large part of our lives before the pandemic, but as we move through this time, we are learning how best to use it. Some use cases provide an approximation of something live that is not currently available, while others augment our understanding of our reality. In “the real world,” it’s hard to say all the things we want to say or work up the courage to talk to a manager at that networking event. Social media gives us platforms to present the selves we want to in a landscape where everyone has a voice. We can create all kinds of communities - from ones where we share ourselves in a vulnerable way to ones where we curate our presence. That choice is our power. This separation of the social spaces we occupy allows us to show up more fully in those spaces.

"Social media platforms can help to flatten perceived social hierarchies that exist in our lived experiences by giving us all an equal platform and access to a community."

Before we even enter the physical space of a rehearsal room, we have the opportunity to connect. Having a curated space to make the most salient details count for more is important in making the impression you want to make. Social media platforms can help to flatten perceived social hierarchies that exist in our lived experiences by giving us all an equal platform and access to a community. Stagetime aims to do exactly this, favoring narratives that lead with media and celebrating collaboration over likes and comments (which, in fact, don't exist on the platform). We need each other now more than ever, and we have so much to learn from the people we know and from the people we don’t know (yet!). Through creating a community that centralizes stories and giving us the power to show up fully as professionals, Stagetime creates a community that centralizes opera’s first principles - the music, the art, and the artists. 

by TERRENCE CHIN-LOY

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