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    LOOKING FORWARD: Horsham Arts Council members Maddi Ostapiw, left, and Jessica Wilson at the group’s headquarters in Hamilton Road. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Hope for performing arts return


The Wimmera’s performing arts community can remain hopeful that performances will resume next year with groups such as Horsham Arts Council continuing to rehearse in self-isolation. 

The performing arts sector, which relies on ticket sales and face-to-face rehearsals, is one of the hardest hit industries amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with artists losing performance opportunities for the foreseeable future.  

Horsham Arts Council managed to save expected costs of royalties for songs and advertising for its latest performance, Broadway Showcase, due to being in early stages of production, ultimately saving the show. 

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Broadway Showcase, set to feature snapshots of 24 musicals, will have 70 cast members performing songs from the likes of Wicked, Matilda and Hamilton when it hits the stage in 2021. 

The group has cancelled all other shows in 2020.

To keep the arts community and supporters ‘on the edge of their seats’, the group has started a series of talent-sharing videos through its Facebook page #HACsings, in an effort to keep cast members ‘engaged in their talent’.

Committee member and show co-ordinator Maddi Ostapiw bravely took part in the online challenge, uploading herself singing a cover of Goodbye Until Tomorrow by The Last Five Years. 

Ms Ostapiw, who typically works behind the scenes, said she hoped her singing would encourage other cast members to get involved. 

“I don’t normally sing in front of people anymore,” she said.

“I recently moved to completely behind the scenes. I’m more comfortable telling people what to do rather than putting myself out there. 

“Jumping in front of a camera and recording myself singing felt very strange, but it’s amazing to see that we can keep that same human connection through teaching, learning and performing that we normally have when we’re in a room singing to one another.

“We just thought this could be a way to keep people a little bit motivated or give them something to do and share the love.” 

Ms Ostapiw said cancelling HAC shows for 2020 was a massive loss to the community. 

“I know I feel very lost all of a sudden, having all of these events that I sink hours and hours into suddenly disappear this year,” she said. 

“It was a massive blow to everything we do in a year when all these public events were closed down. 

“Obviously it definitely needed to happen, but it has left a lot of people who’ve really seen places like HAC, the eisteddfod and the concerts we do in town as a bit of a social home, without anything to do for quite a while.”

She said many people in the Wimmera relied on shows such as Mamma Mia! and Rock of the Ages as a hub to meet like-minded people and to be able to express themselves. 

“The arts community is incredibly important for Horsham, we make money for the region and we’re creating social connections,” she said. 

“We do some great work, it may not be the greatest work because we’re not medical professionals, we’re not contributing to a world that will change history forever, but we’re making the world better for people who otherwise would not have an artistic outlet in this town. 

“It’s so strange for a small regional place like ours to sustain the amount of work we do every year.” 

Ms Ostapiw said she was grateful HAC could save Broadway Showcase.   

“We’re excited that we’re able to move that show back and still produce it next year – times will change, depending on the advice given by the government,” she said.  

Council president Jessica Wilson said she wanted HAC to continue to grow and continue to serve Horsham, a city thirsty for entertainment.

“We were halfway through rehearsing a production and things were starting to take shape, but it literally came to a screeching halt – we walked out of our last rehearsal not knowing it was our last rehearsal,” she said. 

“As a not-for-profit organisation, we rely on each production to then go into the next production, so if we lose that momentum it sort of stagnates us a bit with what we can produce in the next few years.” 

Mrs Wilson encouraged all committee members to get involved in the group’s #HACsings challenge.  

“We still gather in a digital way – it’s really wonderful. We are getting people to share things who wouldn’t normally perform,” she said. 

“We put a message out to our casts to continue practising, we want to keep the momentum going.” 

She said losing the outlet of the arts had a huge impact on the community. 

“The whole reason I joined the arts council 20 years ago was because it was my outlet – it’s my tribe,” she said. 

“It’s not so much the art we create, it’s the people we spend that time with – when the people element is taken away from you it can be quite harsh.”

The entire April 29, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire April 29, 2020 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!