The writer T.S. Eliot once said, “Between the idea and the reality ... falls the shadow.” When it comes to the coronavirus and its impact on the arts, local actor Mikey Abrams has not spent a second in the shadows.
On March 18, he launched a Facebook page called Quarantined Cabaret, and in no time at all, he’s seen it spread like cyber wildfire. By Wednesday, the end of its first week, it had reached 24,000 members.
Abrams is a real estate agent who worked as a high school theater teacher for 15 years. His resumé includes having performed in off-Broadway shows in New York City, but in North Texas alone, he has worked with, among others, Uptown Players, Lyric Stage and Stage West.
So, how did it happen exactly?
“We have lots of costumes and wigs and everything in the house," Abrams says, "so I said to my partner, ‘Look, if I’m going to be cooped up, singing and drinking in the house, I should at least have an audience!' "
He posted a couple of videos, then friends posted theirs, and voila! “In one day," he says, "it grew past 4,000 people.”
He even got a call from a woman at Facebook, “asking me, ‘How did you get this to grow so quickly? This is an extraordinarily fast-growing pace. What can we do to help?’ ”
“Since we’re self-quarantined," Abrams says, "it’s been a nice way to keep our minds off things. It’s like a variety show, a cabaret show. We’ve had singers, we’ve had people dancing, people telling jokes, reading poetry, reading books they’re writing.”
What he loves about it, he says, is that its users are “all ages. And we are now in 35 countries and six continents. Everything but Antarctica.”
He describes his mission as being, “How can we support the arts and keep them alive? Because, let’s face it, these are the first things that are going to get cut in the post-virus economy.”
Even he’s blown away. To give users a sense of how successful they’ve made the page, he posted a photograph of the American Airlines Center to make the point that he has more users than would fit inside AAC, whose capacity is 20,000. As he told them, “Please note that you’re performing to a larger-sized audience than this! To me, that’s super cool.”
So, who’s participating? In his words, "Professionals from New York, California, England, and then we have people who are like, ‘This is my first time to ever sing and post,’ and it’s all regarded as the same. The rules are, no one can bring somebody down.”
It has grown so fast, he has had to hire outside help to manage his Instagram and Twitter accounts, which use the hashtag, #QuarantinedCabaret. Who knows, Abrams may have stumbled onto something that could be the cyber equivalent of American Idol, which in the case of a global pandemic, is like making lemonade out of a global lemon.
Jennifer Scripps, director of the Dallas Office of Arts and Culture, is among those applauding Quarantined Cabaret, whose growth she called stunning.
“I think it’s amazing!” she says. “I think it’s the classic example of the ingenuity that occurs and our deep need to be entertained and entertain others and share our talents. This may be one of our silver-lining kind of memories in the future. I’m already thinking, ‘How will my children and my husband and I remember this time we’re living through?' ”
After all, she adds with a laugh, it can’t just be memories “of watching Netflix. That’s not going to stand out. Please give me something more provoking." Her own favorite is a woman singing opera with strands of toilet paper attached to her head as a kind of makeshift crown. By Wednesday, that one alone had almost 300,000 views.
Scripps lauded as another shining example the recent online performance of American Mariachi, staged by Dallas Theater Center.
Such endeavors as American Mariachi and Quarantined Cabaret “are going to stand out more in a year, two years, whatever."
In other words, as Scripps says, we need these, for they are what will endure after the worst is over.