A trio of East Hawai’i creatives recently kicked off a new performance-based video series filmed in the auditorium of the shuttered Hilo Palace theater.
Titled Live From the Empty Palace, the series features live solo performances from local musicians and artists looking for a way to stay creative while adhering to recommended social distancing protocols. The first episode premiered Wednesday (April 22) with several more slated to release throughout the upcoming weeks.
The idea behind the series was born through discussions between producer Zoe Eisenberg, musician Drew Daniels, and Hilo Palace Executive Director Phillips Payson, who were eager to stay creative and engaged within the confines of social distancing regulations.
“For nearly a hundred years the Hilo Palace has served as a gathering place for our community to connect, engage and find entertainment,” says Payson, who signed on as Executive Director in 2019. “Seeing as it’s currently unsafe for an audience to gather, we were looking for alternate ways to continue to engage and entertain our community while also respecting the severity of the current global pandemic.”
The historic theater officially closed to the public Monday, March 16th to comply with safety regulations, just five days before the much-anticipated Spring production of Beauty and the Beast was scheduled to open its doors. As the theater continued to remain dark, Payson and Eisenberg wondered how they could build something positive out of a situation that felt grim and approached Daniels to come on board and produce alongside them.
Together, the team hopes the series can serve as a positive reminder that creativity can be heightened by limitations and it’s possible to remain inspired using what you have.
“For us, that meant an empty theater and a locker of camera equipment,” says Eisenberg, a film and performing arts producer who has been running productions out of the Hilo Palace since 2017.
“For many artists, the stage is their second home,” says Daniels. “So, projects like this are important for artists to prevent creative atrophy. And for viewers, it’s a way to stay connected to the artists that make our community special and a venue that has been a creative hub for decades.”
The first episode of Live From the Empty Palace features Daniels himself performing the track Find Our Way. For as long as quarantine rules remain in place, the project’s total production team will cap at three individuals–including the artist–and the six-foot distance suggestion will be maintained to uphold safe social distancing practices.
“I think we as a society are going to see more and more challenges and new parameters to work within as the global and political climates continue to change and Creatives of all kinds will be the ones working to come up with the solutions,” says Daniels, who is no stranger to relying on his own creativity as a balm during difficult times. His 2018 track “Our New Life” quickly became an anthem for residents of Puna who, like Daniels himself, lost their homes to lava.
Upcoming episodes of Live From the Empty Palace will feature musician and storyteller Trill LeBeau of Cosmic Serenity and aerialist Bella O’Toole. The creative team is excited about potentially growing the series once the pandemic passes.
Courtesy photos provided by the Palace Theatre.