The “Great Pause”

During the “Great Pause” of the COVID pandemic, when most other arts organizations had to cease production, Mad Cow continued to work safely: preparing and delivering 250 meals, making and distributing 5,000 masks, serving as a pop-up vaccination location (over 200 vaccinations given), and producing 27 multi-performance projects (digital and/or socially distanced) involving more than 300 paid local artists. Mad Cow Theatredid not lay off any of its staff members during the quarantine.

Mad Cow took part in the Orlando Cares act which employed 19 theatre artists to work behind the scenes at Mad Cow. This included marketing, show development, design, and production. For 12 weeks, this group of creatives worked on the thing we thought might never go back to normal- live theatre.

“I can’t think of anything better than live theatre to accomplish the kind of connection and emotional release we all so desperately need after the year we’ve had—and that goes for both artist and audience,” says DJ Salisbury, director of Together Again, the outdoor production created by the Cares Act Team. “And harkening back to the kind of iconic show that entertained and encouraged American troops in WW2 feels like gathering hope from the past to help us ‘return home’ as well.”

Founded in 1997 on the belief that theatre is a dynamic and powerful means of social understanding as well as a marvelously entertaining art form, Mad Cow Theatre’s mission is to “create experiences that explore the human condition through art, offering classic and contemporary works that provoke conversation and celebrate life.” And while the pandemic may have shuttered their venue, it hasn’t dampened their voice or their spirit. In fact, the word that best describes their response to the pandemic, the shutdown, and the return to live shows is compassion.

Among the first to close their doors last spring to protect artists and audiences, they were a beacon of care in the early months, making and distributing masks and meals for frontline workers and those in need. Artistically, they pivoted to create original online content for shuttered audiences—live theater shot with multiple cameras by an out-of-work Disney videographer. And that is the story of just one of the ___ displaced theater artists employed by Mad Cow Theatre through Orlando’s Cares Act since September. Known for offering theme park performers, directors, and designers the opportunity to create works of art outside their day jobs, their reach actually expanded during the pandemic.

Written in collaboration by Peg O’Keef, Stacy Barton, and Annabelle Cuitino

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