Walking on Water Productions, with Priscilla Hummel
(2021 GAP and SOS Grants)
Walking on Water Productions (WoW) is a non-profit musical theatre company in Tompkins County. Their goal is to encourage the expression of local artists through musical theatre and provide opportunities for the community to come and enjoy new and existing works.
Pandemic Challenges: Like many other theatre companies, WoW had to turn to the unfamiliar medium of virtual theatre. The company decided to put together a cabaret-style video, reprising some performances of WoW’s past, showing behind the scenes of their creative team, and teasing at a potential production to come.
This first production was meant to be one special show for the interim, but it soon became apparent that the interim would be much longer than originally anticipated.
Production of Comfort Food: WoW’s second production during the pandemic would be something different: Comfort Food - a three-act musical featuring a solo performer in each act, written by Rachel Lampert and Larry Pressgrove.
Reimagining Theatre: The musical had to be reimagined as a kind of “movie musical” according to WoW founder and producing artistic director Priscilla Hummel (image left). Due to COVID-19 restrictions, actors were given direction via zoom and had their pod members film them, using their own kitchens as their sets. A CAP SOS Grant helped with production costs.
"A Year with Frog and Toad" went live!
As the restrictions have been lifted, WoW set its sights back on live productions. Like many other theatre companies, their most recent production, A Year with Frog and Toad, opted for outdoor performances that took place at the CRS Barn Studio.
“Outdoor performance just seemed to be the best way to transition back,” Hummel said. “The community could feel more comfortable and safe as they ventured back into crowd settings, especially families.”
More Family Friendly Productions: Based on the classic book series by Arnold Lobel, Frog and Toad was intended for more of a family demographic than some of WoW’s past productions. Hummel said that this was a conscious choice for their return to live theatre, “We had a lot more time to re-examine our mission statement and our vision [during the pandemic].”
“One of the things that we had discovered, in terms of our commitment to creating multi-generational theatre, is that most of the work we had done up to that point had catered a little more toward the adult demographic. So, we wanted to more actively seek out a production that would cross more generational lines. Frog and Toad really came to the surface because it had the potential to cater to kids who are young readers, and there are a lot of adults who would recognize those books from when they were kids.”
Hummel said that WoW will look at more family-oriented musicals for their next productions, continuing the work to recenter their focus on multi-generational content. However, as things open up more and Walking on Water can put on more shows, they are hoping to have a healthy mix of productions for adults and children. WoW is hoping to expand its education programming outreach with middle and high school students as well. From assisting schools with their drama programs to writing and acting workshops, WoW hopes to help foster a passion for theatre in students.
NEW: WoW's NoW (New Original Work) Program: Walking on Water plans to shine the spotlight on new musicals which haven’t been put on stage before. Their new program, WoW’s NoW (or New Original Works), will allow new works to be submitted for consideration. A panel of diverse theatre artists will narrow it down to a selection of three musicals which WoW will produce in a series of staged readings. Audiences will also have the opportunity to vote on which piece they’d like to see as a full production and the winning musical will be produced by WoW as a world premiere the following season. This program will launch sometime in the summer or fall of 2022.
For information on Walking on Water Productions and to get the first update on their upcoming shows, visit their website: https://www.walkingonwaterproductions.org/ or follow them on FaceBook or Instagram.