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January 11, 2021

“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” ― Maya Angelou

“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” ― Oscar Wilde

It feels like an eternity since any of us has walked into a theater or club and seen a live performance. We miss being part of the moments when that magic comes to life. Our performing artists in theater, dance and music miss the hours of creativity that lead to those moments when the lights go on. They have been deprived of their communities and their livelihoods. Our performing arts organizations are in peril. Their civic-minded boards are seeking ways to keep their artistic companies afloat, while embracing the critical role the arts have in advancing racial justice and parity in our society. Through all of this, the spark of creativity is kindling innovations, support and hope.

Please join us on Monday, January 11 at 7pm EST, for When the Stage Goes Dark: Performing Arts in Covid Time

Moderator Marion Dry '73, Co-Chair of ClassACT, opera singer and former Director of the Wellesley College Music Performance Program will moderate our panel: Jerome Harris '73, jazz bassist and recording artist; Peter Kazaras '73, leading opera director and Director of Opera UCLA and the Inaugural Susan G. and Michel D. Covel MD Chair at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music; Emily Mann '74, former artistic director and resident playwright of the McCarter Theatre Center, Princeton University; and Charlene Jones Marchant '73, faculty member at Music Academy of North Carolina and member of the board of the Greensboro Opera. Together they will explore the impact of the pandemic on the performing arts and its artists, describe creative solutions they have found for continuing their work and engaging audiences, and offer some innovations and hopes for the future.


We have created 9 videos from this forum--one of the whole event, and 8 others, divided by topic. They are all available by clicking on the playlist in the YouTube video screen below. The playlist is very hard to see! You will find it along the top of the screen just to the right of the title of the forum.  It looks like this . 

Click on the ≡ button. That will open a drop down menu. You can then scroll down the menu and choose individual videos to play. 




Marion Dry ’73, Co-Chair and founder of ClassACT HR73, is a concert/opera contralto who has sung with major opera companies and orchestras in the United States and Europe. She is faculty emerita of Wellesley College where she served as Senior Music Faculty in Voice, Chair of the Music Department, and Director of the Music Performance Program. In addition to her role as ClassACT Co-Chair, she serves as the executive producer of the ClassACT Forum series, and as the Director of the Benazir Bhutto Leadership Program.


  • Think about supporting the performing arts organizations that you depend on in your community. Donate the money you would have spent on tickets. Support the efforts of individual artists as they create new ways to perform for their fans.



Jerome Harris’s first major professional performing experience came as bass guitarist with jazz icon Sonny Rollins in 1978; from 1988 to 1994 he played guitar with Rollins. Harris has performed on six continents, working with Jack DeJohnette, David Krakauer, Bill Frisell, Paul Motian, Leni Stern, Martha Redbone, Ray Anderson, Julius Hemphill, Amina Claudine Myers, Ned Rothenberg, and many others.

Jerome Harris appears on over sixty recordings; his formative musical experiences include blues, folk, gospel, and a full range of other American music genres. He has taught at Lehman College (City University of New York) and Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. Harris's published essays include "Considering Jaki Byard" (Sound American SA22; New York: Anthology of Recorded Music, Inc., 2019), and "Jazz on the Global Stage" (The African Diaspora: A Musical Perspective; edited by Ingrid Monson; New York: Garland/Taylor & Francis, 2000).


  • Support financial relief efforts for the performing arts community



Peter Kazaras is the Director of Opera UCLA, Professor of Music, and the Inaugural Susan G. and Mitchel D. Covel MD Chair at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. A stage director and teacher, he was also Artistic Director of the Seattle Opera Young Artists Program from 2006 to 2013.

As an operatic tenor, he has performed worldwide at The Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin, Vienna State Opera, L’Opéra National de Paris, and other venues. Recent directing assignments have taken him to Washington National Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Glimmerglass Festival, The Dallas Opera, the Merola Program at San Francisco Opera, The Juilliard School, and Seattle Opera. In the summer of 2018, he directed A Quiet Place for Tanglewood as part of the Bernstein Centennial celebration.

Peter Kazaras has worked on numerous world premieres of new operas both as a singer and as a director. As part of his mission at UCLA, he has produced two world premieres of works by female composer/librettist teams, with another on the way by UCLA Composition faculty composer Kay Rhie. Other plans include a new opera by Richard Danielpour, also a member of the UCLA Composition faculty.

A frequent panelist on the Toll Brothers Metropolitan Opera Quiz, Kazaras is also in demand as a judge for international competitions.

Peter Kazaras holds a JD degree from New York University School of Law, and resides in Los Angeles with his husband, Armin Baier, and the occasional long-term live-in poodle.


  • Consider donating to smaller opera companies committed to creating new work, especially those dealing with issues of social justice, diversity and equality.



Emily Mann is a Tony nominated playwright and director and Tony Award winning Artistic Director. In her 30 years as Artistic Director and Resident Playwright at McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, New Jersey, she wrote 15 new plays and adaptations, directed over 50 productions, produced 180 plays and musicals, supported and directed the work of emerging and legendary playwrights, and received the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theater. She has directed world premieres by Nilo Cruz, Danai Gurira, Edward Albee, Christopher Durang, Ken Ludwig, among others, and is known for her classic productions of Williams, Chekhov, Shakespeare and Ibsen. On Broadway she directed her plays Execution of Justice and Having Our Say; Anna in the Tropics, and A Streetcar Named Desire. Her plays: Having Our Say, adapted from the book by Sarah L. Delany and A. Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth; Execution of Justice; Still Life; Annulla, An Autobiography; Greensboro (A Requiem); Meshugah; Mrs. Packard, and Hoodwinked (a Primer on Radical Islamism). Adaptations: Baby Doll, Scenes from a Marriage, Uncle Vanya, The Cherry Orchard, A Seagull in the Hamptons, The House of Bernarda Alba, and Antigone. Currently in development for Broadway: her adaptation of The Pianist and a new musical, Prairie Rose, with composer Lucy Simon, lyricist Susan Birkenhead, and director, Victoria Clarke. Her play, Gloria: A Life about the legacy of Gloria Steinem, ran Off-Broadway and aired on PBS’ Great Performances. Awards: Peabody (for her teleplay of Having Our Say), Hull Warriner, NAACP, 6 Obies, Guggenheim; Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, WGA nominations; Princeton University Honorary Doctorate of Arts; Helen Merrill Distinguished Playwrights' Award; Margo Jones Award; TCG Visionary Leadership Award; Lilly Award for Lifetime Achievement. She was recently inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.


  • Advocate for an Arts New Deal and re-establishment of the WPA.
  • Give to your local arts institutions.
  • Give to the Actors’ Fund.
  • Lobby your representatives in Congress for arts advocacy.
  • Read about the initiatives being created every day in arts journals and become an advocate.
  • A great society is remembered by the art it leaves to the world.


Charlene Jones Marchant is a retired operatic soprano. She sang professionally in many opera choruses, beginning with the Glyndebourne Festival Opera revival of Porgy and Bess in 1987 and including Washington National Opera and Virginia Opera. She taught voice for fourteen years at Hampton University, Hampton, VA, and eleven years at The Governor’s School for the Arts, in Norfolk, VA, before moving to Greensboro, NC, in 2012. She is currently a voice faculty member of The Music Academy of North Carolina and a member of the Board of Trustees of Greensboro Opera.


  • I urge you, wherever you live, to financially support your local arts organizations.
  • I am quoting author Peniel Joseph: “Everyone has to lose some privilege if we want a fairer society,” and paraphrasing him “We want a society where you can be wealthy, of course, but where your wealth should not have such weight that justice is denied.” I urge opera boards to invite not only those who can give great financial support to their organization, who may or may not be people of color, but to invite also those with imagination and proven arts records in their communities. I urge boards to commit to being as racially diverse as possible. The boards must commit to audience-building and reach out to the entire community so that we can ALL see people who look like us on the stage and in the orchestra pit. There are many, many stories to be told and they are equal to those of Verdi, Puccini, and Mozart.

    ClassACT HR ‘73

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