Entertainment Foundation continues work despite pandemic

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A Hot Springs-based entertainment group has found ways to continue entertaining veterans, the elderly and underserved populations despite the ongoing pandemic, offering both socially distant and virtual performances.

The Entertainment Foundation is a nonprofit organization that was formed in 2019. Audrey Findlen, founder and president of the foundation, said its mission “is to enrich the lives of veterans, senior adults and the underserved by providing quality, live entertainment, and excellence in music.”

In the year and a half since they started, Findlen estimates there have been over “1,900 individuals who have experienced our shows.”

Findlen said their first year “went better than we anticipated,” with around 1,200 people viewing the shows. She said part of viewers’ connection to the shows is how they become participants.

“What resonates with these individuals,” she said, is how the performers engage the audience.

A lot of the performances are “mostly music,” Findlen said, noting they do a lot of sing-a-longs and dances. By interacting with the crowd, she said “they feel a part of the program.”

This interaction is important for the audience members, “especially in a pandemic” when they are “unable to even have family come in,” she said.

The shows have slightly slowed down since the start of the pandemic, but a silver lining has been that it has forced the organization to become more creative, she said. “Much of the theater world has been shut down, while we have been able to continue our work, just not as often,” she said.

To keep the audience safe, the performers have started doing shows outside which Findlen referred to as “sidewalk serenades and patio performances.” To accommodate social distancing, they have done shows where they go from “window to window (and) door to door,” she said.

If there is room for a spaced-out show outside, Findlen said they do those too, noting one show where the performers were behind a fence that kept them socially distant from the audience.

Another memorable show was one in Hot Springs Village where the audience members each sat on their balconies while the show was performed under them in the parking lot.

If not for the pandemic, “we’d probably have never known” about these ways to hold shows, she said, noting it’s “fun for us to find new ways to do what we do.”

The group has also started doing virtual performances which are held just for one person or family, and they have been well received so far.

Those interested in shows or donating can reach The Entertainment Foundation at their website, https://theentertainmentfoundation.org. Findlen said as they have to pay their performers, they are planning a fundraiser in the future, possibly in October.

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