The talent shows must go on!
In different circumstances and different parts of the country — and even for different age groups — efforts to share talents on videoconferences share a spirit of unity and service.
Illinois: Junior youth group’s talent show fills void after school event is canceled
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of a school talent show, it turned out that a Baha’i-initiated junior youth group was in a position to step in and help.
The group serves middle-schoolers in communities north of Chicago. Its May 23 show ended up enlisting young people who would have performed in the school show, plus others in the area.
Earlier in the spring, the junior youth group had decided on its own that an online talent show was a good idea, says Nicole Zamir, a Baha’i in Northbrook. It could give young people a chance to bring themselves and others joy by showcasing their talents, while raising money for charities that aid people affected by the pandemic.
When they got in contact with the Kindness Club at her son’s middle school, they discovered that its much-anticipated talent show had been canceled when classes were suspended.
“Then the biggest confirmation for planning this gathering came when after sharing some intense general family prayers including for youth, and another individual prayer — praying for confirmation, something we had been discussing in our junior youth group — my son, 12-year-old, Andre Zare, looked out the front window and saw the district’s superintendent walking down the street with her son,” Zamir recalls.
Andre called out to Zamir and her husband, Arash Zare, and they hustled outside to tell her about the planned fundraiser. Turns out the superintendent had just moved to the neighborhood; they had never seen her out walking before.
With the help of the superintendent and a school principal, the word went out far and wide via email and social media.
And when the event went live on the evening of May 23, dozens of people on 65 devices tuned in to the Zoom call.
The 17 performers sang, played instruments, did magic tricks and danced. Oh, they danced: an aerial dance using suspended scarves, a dance by twins, a dance with glow-in-the-dark clothing.
Several local charities were suggested, says Zamir, but attendees could give to any organization of their choosing.
When the donations were tallied, they amounted to more than $2,500.
Florida: Talent showcase lifts spirits of the pandemic-isolated
A May 30 virtual talent showcase staged “to boost morale and lift the spirits” of Baha’is and friends in the Gainesville, Florida, area during the COVID-19 pandemic was slated to last a half-hour.
Ninety minutes in, it was still going strong.
Through the internet, Baha’is and friends of various ages enjoyed singing, guitar, piano, storytelling and comedy performances.
People shared works in the media of painting, kaleidoscope, graphic art/mixed media, woodworking and mosaic tiling, says Kamyar Frank Samandari, a Baha’i in Alachua County.
Before each presentation, a prayer or passage from the Baha’i writings was offered concerning the spiritual importance of artistic expression.
Following the showcase, says Samandari, the 25 attendees “caught up with what’s happening in our respective lives and said healing prayers for some of the members of our community who are sick and/or in hospital.”
Such regular interaction is necessary for people to grow and thrive — even if it’s via an online platform, he reflects.
That was especially true for Samandari, who had just moved to the area when the state ordered residents to stay at home.
“I was feeling very dour and distraught about the whole thing, so I prayed and meditated and through that was inspired to create a morale-boosting event that could demonstrate solidarity, and also showcase the wealth of talent and creativity we have in this community,” he explains.
“Moreover,” says Samandari, “Baha’is have both the honor and obligation to help build the Kingdom of God on earth.
“That goal is achieved partly through fellowship gatherings such as this where we experience the majesty of God’s Word, forge special bonds that can last a lifetime, and embrace opportunities by which to demonstrate the unifying power” of the teachings of Baha’u’llah, prophet-founder of the Baha’i Faith.
Now, “We’re planning more such virtual gatherings, not only for the Baha’is here but also as a way to … encourage fellowship with the greater community,” he says.
“So despite being physically apart, we all remain very much focused on exalting God’s Word and spreading the healing message of our Faith.”