Stissing Center’s Summer Variety Show safely entertains audience virtually
From left, performing inside The Stissing Center building at 2950 Church St., soprano Chelsea Fingal DeSouza lent her vocals for the Summer Variety Show while Sophia Zhou accompanied her on piano. Photo submitted

Stissing Center’s Summer Variety Show safely entertains audience virtually

PINE PLAINS — Rising to the challenge of producing an unforgettable night of talent from a distance, The Stissing Center successfully entertained the community with the Summer Variety Show virtual benefit on Saturday night, Aug. 29.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Brian Keeler, executive director of The Stissing Center (TSC), said they originally planned an entire series of events to be held inside before TSC was forced to close in response to the pandemic. After examining their options, he said it became clear that “going virtual and videoing performances inside the building was the way to go.”

Between The Chair Series and the Live! From The Stissing Center! series, Keeler said the performing arts center decided to forge a path forward that ultimately led to Saturday’s show.

“It soon became clear that the variety show format was the best way to present some of the talent that was supposed to appear at The Stissing Center,” he said, “and it was also a way to engage our board and the local community.”

Yet the TSC team had much to accomplish before it could get the variety show on the road, from gathering video footage of performances from across the country and filming inside the center in the midst of the pandemic to handling the editing, sound, lighting and other production details. By Saturday night, TSC invited viewers to witness a show that featured more than a dozen performances from artists across the U.S., from music and vocals to dances and spoken word presentations.

Starting at 5 p.m., the show was live-streamed to its website at Playing host to the summer variety show, Emmy Award-winning actress Margo Martindale (“Justified,” “The Good Fight”) was delighted to welcome everyone to the show.

“This has been a difficult time for everyone, and The Stissing Center is no exception,” Martindale said. “However, they’ve changed course by going virtual.”

Kicking off the night with a spellbinding rendition of “My Favorite Things,” jazz harpist Edmar Castañeda and jazz harmonica artist Grégoire Maret transported their music as contralto Andrea Tierra provided the vocals. No matter their artistry, the performers held their audiences’ attention throughout the course of the night, delighting them with their talent. 

“We were very proud of the amazing talent that appeared,” Keeler said. “We will be asking these people to come back to Pine Plains and perform for the public once we are allowed to open. It should be something that we all can look forward to.”

Between the performances, the show streamed well-wishes spoken by various board members and community members — all of whom spoke highly about TSC’s mission to positively impact the community “by partnering with arts, individuals and organizations to create meaningful programs, events and opportunities as a center for diversity, culture and civic life in a small town.”

All donations received from the Summer Variety Show will be matched dollar for dollar. The show itself can be viewed online at

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