The Old Globe’s digital presence has skyrocketed amid the new coronavirus pandemic. Courtesy photo

Just recently, an aspiring playwright decided to use the power of theatre to share with his mother an important message. The playwright, who was a member of The Old Globe’s Community Voices program, finally told his mother that he is gay.

“He was able to share with her his life in a way he couldn’t before,” Freedome Bradley-Ballentine, director of arts engagement for The Old Globe, said. “He put it into a story that led to a conversation with his mom.”

The story of the young playwright is just one of many that showcase the powerful results of The Old Globe’s influential, digital programs that were created as a result of the new coronavirus.

Bradley-Ballentine, who has worked at The Old Globe for five years, said the 85-year-old company has always planned to expand its virtual presence but it took the pandemic to move plans forward.

Bradley-Ballentine said he and his team began crafting a digital plan after he witnessed the outbreak first-hand during a trip to New York. He returned to San Diego on March 9.

“I didn’t have COVID-19 when I returned, but I did have the paranoia of what the world could look like,” Bradley-Ballentine said. “We immediately started to pivot and implemented a plan of how we could maintain our mission during a shelter-in-place.”

Freedome Bradley-Ballentine. Courtesy photo

Four days later, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a statewide stay-at-home order that effectively closed non-essential businesses, including The Old Globe.

But, Bradley-Ballentine and his team knew the arts had a way of providing an essential service to the public, which forced them to quickly create countless programs for a digital world.

“Theatre is a place for people to recreate themselves with the arts,” Bradley-Ballentine said. “People need a break. People need a chance to create. People need to come together. Theatre does all of this.”

From hosting workshops to facilitating activities for inmates and students to simply performing shows online — The Old Globe with its staff of more than 100 have delivered a variety of theatre programs. In fact, Bradley-Ballentine said they’ve reached a worldwide audience.

“Prior to COVID-19, we didn’t have any digital programs,” said Bradley-Ballentine, who has worked in the arts industry for roughly 20 years. “It was always something we wanted to do, but we couldn’t carve out the time for it. Now, I can’t imagine a world where we don’t have an online presence that allows us to reach beyond the border of San Diego.”

Although The Old Globe isn’t sure when they’ll be able to reopen to a physical audience, the team has many plans for its online fans. In July, they’ll host a program with San Diego Pride. The team also plans to host a summer Shakespeare program for 20 students from around the world.

But, there is hope to bring their fans back to the historic, beloved theatre in Balboa Park.

“I’m hopeful that we can still perform ‘The Grinch’ and other favorites that The Old Globe has become known for,” Bradley-Ballentine said. “I’m optimistic.”

For more information about The Old Globe and its digital programs, go to www.theoldglobe.org. Programs run on the company’s Facebook and YouTube channels.

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