How to support performers, artists during entertainment shutdown

By Tracy Riggs
Correspondent, The Alabama Baptist

We usually take them for granted … the performers, the entertainers, the artists who show us a different way of seeing the world. We may even complain about ticket prices or how their shows push “merch” (merchandise) and how expensive it is. But we love them and can’t imagine a world without their talents.

When social isolation restrictions first came into play to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S., these “non-essential” shows were some of the first things to go, with many entertainers canceling shows until at least mid-May.

But what has it been like for those whose bills get paid by sharing their talents in front of crowds and how have they also been affected in non-monetary ways?

Chonda Pierce, a comedian known as the “Queen of Clean,” said, “Mandated social distancing, lockdowns and other life-altering changes caused by the coronavirus have folks stressed, depressed and struggling with faith in God.

“People could use some laughs and I want to spread around much-needed hope,” she said. “Over the years, laughter has been good medicine that has helped me navigate personal pain, tragedy, grief and depression.”

Pierce — who hosted a comedy event on Facebook Live called “The Quarantined Comics” — is just one of many live entertainers who are finding creative ways to help others during this time.

Jesse Joyner, speaker and juggler, taught a live juggling class on Facebook, is hosting his church’s live online Kid’s Club twice a week, and is streaming after-dinner piano dance parties from his living room.

“It’s actually been pretty therapeutic for me during this challenging time,” Joyner noted.

A bit of anxiety relief

Aaron Wilburn, songwriter and comedian, presented a live stream concert on April 27 with guest Lee Black.

Magician David Garrard has been “posting a simple trick each day on social media and following up the next day with the explanation … hoping to provide a little relief from the fear and anxiety folks are experiencing.” He also recorded “Kentucky Performing Arts at Home” with friends and Vegas superstars, Lance Burton and Mac King.

“There are surely folks who think of what we do as unnecessary and a frill — something easily done without,” Garrard said. “And there is some truth in that sentiment. At the same time, entertainers can bring laughter and joy that, to quote my mentor and friend, the late Grady Nutt, can be ‘the hand of God on the shoulder of a troubled world.’”

And while the current restrictions allow the entertainers to spend more time with family and work on new projects, being off the stage and off the road is hard, they say.

Robbie Maxwell of New Ground Ministries, a gospel music trio, said, “It has been a huge change — this is what we have known for over 25 years. Singing is our lifestyle.”

Joyner said, “It’s a challenge, but I will say this: The Lord has always provided. He is providing now, and He will provide in the future,

“‘Your Father knows that you need them. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well’ (Luke 12:30–31).

“The Lord is reminding me to put Him and His kingdom first,” Joyner said. “Any lost income is just money. And the Lord will provide for our every need.”

Garrard added, “This is one of those times when you find out if you believe what you say you believe.”

‘God is always with us’

“For years I have told boys and girls (and anyone else who would listen) that no matter what happens to us or around us, God is always with us. We are simply trying to lean and live into that amazing promise of God’s presence.”

Wilburn said, “I learned as a child in Alabama when the storms came, the rain fell, and the lightning and thunder showed its power that I could sleep when mom and dad told me it will be alright.

“I have learned in the years I have lived, that my Lord has said, ‘I am with you always’ … so I can rest,” he said. “It will be alright.

“I have determined not to spend a lot of time worrying, knowing I have no control over this situation,” Wilburn noted. “God has been my source, and will be.”

Maxwell offered a similar message of not letting the situation get her down: “We will be back soon — stronger than ever — carrying His Word in song. I can’t wait.”

Ideas for helping entertainers weather COVID-19 restrictions

  • Encourage them.
  • Sign up for online classes.
  • Purchase vouchers for future shows.
  • Buy merchandise.

Source: Jesse Joyner