Mixed Magic goes outdoors, virtual to beat pandemic

Mixed Magic goes outdoors, virtual to beat pandemic

Performers in Mixed Magic Theatre’s outdoor performance space.
Concert and vendor fair planned for Saturday

PAWTUCKET – The Pitts-Wiley family, of Mixed Magic Theatre on Mineral Spring Avenue in Pawtucket, is accustomed to working hard for success, so they see a pandemic as just another challenge in that journey.

Ricardo Pitts-Wiley lobbied six years ago to convert an outdoor space at the Lorraine Mills, 560 Mineral Spring Ave., into an alternate performance space, and that decision paid dividends over the summer.

This Saturday, Oct. 17, the theater will host its rescheduled Peace Concert titled “Where Love Is Possible,” welcoming patrons to the show and a vendor event with other businesses in the transformed mill.

While the spontaneity of musicians being able to jump into performances with each other won’t be possible this year due to restrictions, the family is excited to continue showcasing the work of performers during the event.

Pitts-Wiley and his son, Artistic Director Jonathan Pitts-Wiley, have also taken their efforts in a digital direction, pairing their popular outdoor events with new and vibrant online programming, all part of an effort to expand the theater’s reach and hopefully draw people from across the country and even around the world if they ever happen to be in the area. There’s nothing like live programming, said Jonathan, but expanding online programming to build the foundation for the future, all while gaining a few bucks from audiences along the way, has been valuable.

The idea is similar to someone watching football on TV for 20 years and then finally getting to go to a game, said Ricardo, where they can finally “see the magic happen for real.”

In the age of COVID-19, it’s been fun to pull back the veil on what goes into performances and show audiences “how the sausage is made,” said Ricardo of the open theater concept.

The most challenging aspect with an outdoor concert during a pandemic is getting everyone on and off the stage with their gear, and Mixed Magic’s staff is thinking about those aspects in ways they never have before. As with NASCAR, it’s absolutely key to keep the show moving along, they said, as even a small delay can throw everything off. The delay in the concert gave a bit more time to make sure everything is buttoned up, said the father and son.

The pandemic has been difficult for everyone in the performing arts, said Ricardo, as well as those in a restaurant industry that relies on the arts to bring in patrons. Many are trying to take this time when they’re not “hurtling along at a hectic pace” to have the difficult conversations that they haven’t had time for, including how to be more diverse and inclusive, he told The Breeze. Many, such as Mixed Magic with Jeff Church at Burbage Theatre or Tony Estrella at The Gamm, are getting creative to collaborate on performances and facilities to build each other up.

There’s definitely a seller’s market for outdoor events right now, said Jonathan, as people are missing and craving live music. Mixed Magic turned its popular Greatness of Gospel event into a follow-up series called Jammin’ Frequencies.

Businesses that are part of the Lorraine Mills and the Oct. 17 event include food trucks, a kimchi maker, sculptor, diner, breweries, a distillery and others. It all adds up to “a collective and collaborative artistic destination.”

The Oct. 17 event, with a vendor market to start at 1 p.m. and Peace Concert to start at 3 p.m. is designed to showcase the revival of the old mill.

The event features some of the area’s best singers, dancers, poets and musicians. This family-friendly Peace Concert is a pay-what-you-can event, but advance reservations are highly recommended due to regulations limiting seating. Temperature checks and contact tracing information will be required to enter the amphitheater, and masks will be mandatory at all times.

Visit www.mmtri.com for more.