Nevada County has always been known as a hot spot for artists and creators, a place that seems to inspire imagination and beckons to those who express themselves creatively.
However with the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these folks have had to adapt, and those once performing in music halls and performance venues have had to find new ways to exercise their craft.
A pair of best friends – Erin Beatie and Devin Cameron – were feeling distressed by the closure of nearly all arts-related industries and decided to turn their hopelessness into something positive. The two conceived and now serve as executive producers of “The Summit,” a nine-episode filmed anthology series of performances by local actors, singers, musicians, aerialists, and dancers.
The series will begin tonight at 7 p.m. and continue every Tuesday and Thursday through August 20. Each episode is about 30-45 minutes in length, and serves as a bit of an homage to the classic variety television shows of days past.
“With so many unknowns ahead of us, we quickly went from feeling helpless to inspired as we began to discuss different ideas of how to safely create a stage for our performers, an outlet for those who live to tell their stories, and a show for people at home who have been missing their concerts, plays, and dance performances,” Beatie and Cameron said in an email. “What started off (as) a small idea quickly grew into filming much more than one performance worth of material and is now nine episodes worth of entertainment for our community – and beyond – to enjoy.”
“The Summit” will feature a cast of 53 performers ranging in age from 12 to over 70. The episodes are prerecorded and are broadcast online at thesummit.watch. Beatie and Cameron said in a joint statement that in addition to providing some much-needed entertainment, they hope the series will help viewers feel a sense of normalcy.
“We feel with the performing arts closed down that there is a large void. Not only the performers/designers/directors/technician’s lives but also for the would-be audience members who are no longer planning an evening out, dressing for the occasion, meeting with their friends, and experiencing something spectacular together. This is our gift to the community.”
Two local arts organizations – Sierra Stages and The Aerial Lab – are serving as partners in the venture while all involved have volunteered their time and efforts.
Local author and actor Sands Hall said she was drawn to the project from the beginning.
“I was really struck by the degree of organization Devin and Erin demonstrated at every step of this unprecedented production,” Hall explained. “The letter of invitation laid out not only their motives and their goals, but the care they planned to take to make sure that every aspect of safety regarding the virus, including sanitation, masking, and distance, would be attended to. They had a specific schedule in mind, and they were very clear in their expectations. Each communication and meeting—the first ones on Zoom—were clear and friendly and made me, and I think I’m not alone, feel special; that each of us taking part in the series was contributing something unique and important.”
“’The Summit’s’ motto is rhetorically satisfying, and theatrically apt: we perform apart to come together.”
Nevada City based singer/songwriter Brett Shady will be featured as well. Shady said that the concept of having a concert from home was beginning to make him feel a disconnect from the audiences, for obvious reasons, but that participating in “The Summit” has done much to boost his mood.
“When the shutdowns began, I started playing a live song from home every day and posting it on Instagram, mainly to keep a routine and to just have an outlet since live shows were not happening,” Shady said. “After a while it was getting a little depressing just seeing bands and artists sitting at home. I felt like the home concert idea was good but extremely limited and kind of sad.”
Shady continued, “When I heard the concept of what Devin and Erin were going for, I was really excited and intrigued. I’m a big fan of old variety shows from the ‘60s and ‘70s and this project feels like a modern version of that.”
There is no cost to view the series, and an encore presentation of each episode will stream every Tuesday and Thursday at 6 p.m. and every Sunday at 1 p.m. Organizers are quick to point out that new and encore presentations can only be viewed at the detailed times.
Executive producers Beatie and Cameron stated in their email that they’ve learned much about the artistic community in Nevada County while planning and executing “The Summit.”
“In the midst of a pandemic, where money is tight and – for many full time artists – their entire way of living has been stripped away, Nevada County artists are still willing to give their time and their art for what they feel is a good cause,” the duo’s email read. “Despite everything, these artists still told their stories, sang and played their music, danced their hearts out, and entertained in hopes to provide an audience with a sense of normalcy and an escape into a world of their creation picked specifically for you to view in your home.”
Jerusha Horlick of The Aerial Lab will be performing as part of “The Summit,” and said that the project is a sign of the times as well as a labor of love.
”’The Summit’ stands apart in this time because it is a project fueled with an altruistic desire to provide an outlet to artists, and to bring inspiration to the community of observers near and far. Its uniqueness also stems from the incredible talent and dedication of its creators (Beatie and Cameron).
“These two versatile individuals have taken on every aspect of production, direction, creation, and marketing all on their own, all motivated by a love of the arts and a world view which understands that arts are vital to the continuation of a healthy society. They are inspiring to no end, and each of my performers, after meeting them, and participating in their filming sessions, has left changed for the better.”
For episodes, a complete list of performers, and more information regarding “The Summit” please visit thesummit.watch.
Jennifer Nobles is a freelance writer based in Grass Valley. She can be reached at [email protected]