The genius of children reading clubs on Zoom will outlast COVID-19

How to cope with the COVID-19 financial crisis – and even emerge from it stronger.

A child sits at the computer (photo credit: FLICKR)
A child sits at the computer
(photo credit: FLICKR)
Merav Sheffer Hyman
Capsule Performances in Condo Courtyards
“I am an actress with a Bachelor’s degree in Teaching Performance and Directing. I started off with children’s shows eight years ago, and since then I have expanded my activities—whether its theatre groups, stand-up on request, shows both small and large and lectures. We work with companies and municipalities. My partner—the actor Yoav Hyman—and I have an improv and playback theater, which ironically is called “Capsule”, as well as a play entitled “Pumi—The Tapir That No One Knows” with which we won an award at the Haifa Festival and which has seen us nominated for a theater award. We were the first to be impacted by the coronavirus, because all the shows and cultural events were frozen without warning. When that happened, it was like a domino effect. We woke up one morning and received a wave of cancellations.
“During the first lockdown we were worried, because Yoav had been furloughed from the Khan Theater in Jerusalem and almost all of our independent projects had been put on hold. I carried on with my lectures on Charlie Chaplin, people who succeeded against the odds and on creating female characters in animation, and adapted them for Zoom. To start with I advertised on Facebook, and it turned out there was a certain amount of demand because people were sitting at home, bored and apparently waiting for such initiatives.
“In recent months we adapted our improv games and playback theater to suit the Zoom format, and I also perform for capsules of up to 20 people in courtyards of condos, thanks to an initiative by the Tel Aviv Municipality. Children and adults are desperate for cultural events, and the first event we did ended without a dry eye in the house. Soon the winter will set in, and then you’re at the mercy of the weather. On the one hand, it’s disappointing that there is no timeline for returning to the stage, and there is an abiding feeling that the decision has not been properly considered. On the other hand, I do want to note the response from our friends in the culture department in the Tel Aviv Municipality. They are always checking in to see if everything is OK and whether we need vouchers for the holidays, which is genuinely touching.”
The writer is an actress, director and theater and drama teacher. Tel: 052-3772766, [email protected]
Sharon Gavrielov
Opening Night Over Zoom
“I am an actress and independent creator of children’s shows. In recent years, together with a partner, I have led the ‘Mekomot Shmurim’ (‘Reserved Seating’) initiative, through which we create and adapt content to make it accessible to children with autism and cognitive disorders. In addition to that, my partner—who is also an actor and independent creator—and I have children’s shows that we put on around the country through ‘culture baskets’, municipalities and institutions. Before the coronavirus, we had approximately 200 different shows a year, morning and afternoon, and then all of a sudden it plummeted to zero. I remember we were supposed to have a morning show at a kindergarten in Tel Aviv on a Friday, and then the teachers said they would not be opening the kindergartens—and everything came to a halt.
“When the first lockdown started, I took a deep breath and sat at home. Two months previously we had begun rehearsals for a new play called ‘Zohar’, and those were put on hold too. In the end, we held an opening night for it in August over Zoom. We have kept up the ‘Reserved Seating’ project too, and even though there are no performances, we are in touch with a festival in Turkey and we are helping them to make their content accessible via screens. At the same time, I have started to work in a private company as a social media manager, so that we at least have some kind of steady income.
“Since the start of October, I have created and launched a weekly reading club over Zoom that focuses on the Harry Potter books. At the moment we have 13 children, and I am opening another group for children aged six and over. In every session I read them a chapter from the book, spicing it up with anecdotes and acting out the parts of characters from the book. As language is very important to me, I pause on idioms and focus on them, because for them this is a wonderful opportunity to learn something new. What is disappointing at the moment is the public’s attitude to the state of the culture industry in Israel—it’s just a matter of priorities and educating in support of culture.”
The writer is a theatre creator and actress. Tel: 054-7911309, [email protected]
Dan Cristal
Personal Training through Videos and Courses
The coronavirus situation has led to a sudden freeze of all cultural activities. As time passes, more and more artists and creators are being forced to reinvent themselves, as has been the case with Merav and Sharon. At the same time, the reality of the pandemic has also resulted in new offerings and creative solutions.
So what can and should be done to return to activity and to make a dignified income from the arts? There are a few other options to consider alongside those raised by the creators above, such as charging for courses. People have become used to consuming high-quality content online and are ready to pay for it. So—offer paid courses with personal mentoring. Another option is training videos which can be created through a variety of mediums, some of which are very simple.
Share simple training videos based on your knowledge and what you will then teach in your course. It is definitely feasible to create a few eye-catching trailers that will guide people to your paid training content.
You can set up a YouTube channel for the purpose, and they can also be embedded on your website. But above all—identify your target audience and adapt your content for them.
The writer is a business and management consultant and an expert in human capital development
Bruriah Zamir
Creating an Alternative Cash Flow
The pandemic has made 2020 a particularly challenging year for small business owners. The first ones to be affected were those in the culture, arts and stage industries, and often the impact meant they were going from full speed ahead to a complete standstill all at once. The crisis has also demonstrated how even businesses in this sector are managing to find creative ways to adapt to the new situation, to change and create alternative sources of cash flow to help them pull through. Once more we are seeing freelancers and business owners reacting quickly to a dynamic situation and daring to think outside the box, successfully overcoming the crisis and even growing as a result.
Alongside these steps, it is important to address cash flow management and to provide a solution for any gaps in income that have emerged—whether from personal capital or from specially adapted solutions: deferring existing loan repayments, taking out state-backed loans and additional solutions that banks are able to offer. Bank Hapoalim is offering freelancers, small businesses and students a support package entitled “Thinking Ahead” that offers solutions and special offers to customers whose income has been affected. This includes meetings with a banker, a discount on career-change courses with Jolt, deferral of payments etc. For more information, search for the “Thinking Ahead package” on Google.
The writer is the manager of the Pinkas branch of Bank Hapoalim in Tel Aviv