By Doni Dondero
GiGi’s Playhouse in Annapolis was among the leaders in responding to the challenging situation of suspending Playhouse programming in response to the pandemic. Within days, GiGi’s At Home LIVE and On Demand programs were online. Thank goodness for technology.
Annapolis Fantastic Friends (18+) LIVE first met online to update each other on what they were doing at home, learned to manage the new technology-based meeting platform, and reestablished important social connections during an unsettled time. In their weekly LIVE meetings the adults have enjoyed interacting in a casual and fun setting, exercising (PiYo) with a certified instructor, playing BINGO and karaoke singing, their favorite activity. Friends also talked about where they work, what they like to eat, and music they enjoy. They are working on a collaborative Pen Pal letter to GiGi’s Playhouse Cleveland Fantastic Friends!
What is great about using a live chat platform is that everyone can see and hear all their friends who are logged in, bringing a sense of community and normalcy. Though online gatherings will never replace being together at the Playhouse, it is a valuable time supporting mental and emotional health, socializing with peers, and learning new things.
It didn’t take the Mad Hatter or Alice falling down the rabbit hole to know that hosting an “Untraditional Tea Party”, where friends make their own tea and snacks, would be a hit. Some Fantastic Friends dressed up for the occasion, while others followed the stay-at-home-come-as- you-are dress code. Friends talked about the food they had prepared, the type of tea they were drinking, and felt the warmth and comfort of familiar relationships.
Technology has opened opportunities for many to stay connected in a time when going out with friends is not permitted. Laila, Jamie, Kristen, Emma, and Sharon take their Monday afternoon singing lesson from a Naptown Sings and Plays teacher using Google Hangouts. The teacher recorded warm-ups the class can access on a private YouTube invite. Together they practice their solos and cheer each other on just like they do when they are actually in a studio together. All of these young women are tapping into technology to create a new way of living while staying at least six feet apart. In addition, Sharon is working from home creating activities and worksheets for the teachers at the school where she works to post online for at home learning.
Special Olympics athlete leadership director Jason Schriml knows that Amanda loves to cook, so he suggested she do a live cooking class which he set up for athletes, and many of the GiGi’s participants also are athletes, so they tuned in to make Amanda’s version of macaroni and cheese with tomato sauce. Cooking is an activity many GiGi’s friends are listing as something they are spending more time doing. Emily and Carmen are cooking and baking. As a matter of fact, GiGi’s Playhouse Annapolis’ Ginger and Carmen will be leading the GiGi’s Kitchen Adults LIVE program on the GiGi’s At Home national platform from April 22-June 3.
Walking is a favorite for many GiGi’s friends. In addition to being the cooking instructor, Amanda is offering encouraging words with her Facebook posts created while she walks. She chooses locations along the way as her backdrop. Olivia tried an online meditation class, GiGiFIT, and a cooking program where she learned to make a special coffee drink! Jamie is spending some outdoor time riding her customized bike by V-LINC and creating a Vlog! We are socially-connected friends, join us!
We want to share what you and your family are doing to create a positive atmosphere and maintain high spirits while staying safe at home. Let us know about your ideas and activities, and if you can, include photographs. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.