Vermont Arts Council

Art in the Time of Covid: Lauren Larken Scuderi

Discovering ways to stay connected has been a difficult task for many this past year, but Lauren Larken Scuderi and the Artner Project have strived to maintain connections through individual and collaborative creative endeavors. Through the Artner Project, Lauren and other artist friends can provide support for one another by challenging and inspiring each other’s creative efforts. Just one of the ways Lauren invigorates her Artners is through her work with the Very Merry Theatre in Burlington. There, she helps to build a strong theater community for youths in the area. In fact, she has helped to write a young adult musical called Will and Whit, a production that was remade during the pandemic. The musical is based on the graphic novel by Laura Lee Gulledge, one of Lauren’s Artners, in which a young girl named Wilhelmina must face her fear of the darkness in the aftermath of a hurricane named Whitney.

Reimagining the theater experience has been particularly challenging this year, but Lauren was able to find a new home for Will and Whit by shifting from an in-person showing to a virtual one, directed by Melissa Charles. Though the production was originally made for the Virginia Theatre Association Youth Festival, the virtual structure allowed the show to bring together actors and viewers from across the world—a testament to the importance of the arts during trying times, and Lauren’s steadfast commitment to bringing people together through her creative ventures.

Lauren shared with the Council how her Artners have helped her to keep the arts at the forefront of her life through the pandemic.

How has the pandemic challenged your creative practice?

Really continuing to focus on self-care healthcare and also understanding how to be an ally to BIPOC was challenging in the midst of the pandemic. And, of course, instead of in-person, 2020 and 2021 have been mostly virtual. So the young adult musical we wrote, Will and Whit, got adapted to a virtual space. Waterway Stages (a collaborative youth theatre project I co-facilitate with Very Merry Theater and Echo Leahy Science Center with Vermont schools) has also become virtual.

How have you found strength or support since the pandemic began?

We got a phone call from the amazing youth director Melissa Charles asking if she could direct a virtual version of the young adult musical we wrote for Virginia Theatre Association Youth Festival, Will and Whit. We were particularly excited because Melissa directed the debut production of Will and Whit for stage with her theater group Dreams Made Real Productions. She understands the material and was able to cast youth from Virginia, California, Vietnam, and Vermont, and she created a beautiful virtual production. With her help and expertise we were able to adapt our show into an hour-long virtual youth musical that is now ready to license.

Watch Lauren and friends on a musical bike ride in Burlington.

What are your plans or hopes for the future?

I just opened Songbird Aerial Arts and Music Studio at the Railyard Apothecary and am leading weekly Floating Song Baths on Sunday Afternoons and Circus Arts Exploration for people of all ages. A Floating Song Bath is laying in a cocooned, womb-like fabric, surrounded by healing music. We also offer weekly creative musical bike ride adventures in and around Burlington, VT and collaborate with amazing artists, creatives and herbal healing allies. You can email me at [email protected] to find out how to get involved.

When did you first come to Vermont?

I came to Vermont on tour with Mickey Western, who is also active in the Burlington arts community, in 2008 and knew then that I wanted to move here. A series of magical friends and Artners appeared to help me make that dream a reality 7 years ago, and I currently live in the New North End of Burlington and enjoy the bike path everyday. We love creating opportunities for people to hop on bike and find adventure.

You are also a recent addition to the Council’s teaching artist roster. Can you describe one of your in-school residencies?

The Waterways Stages is a project of the Very Merry Theater that the Vermont Arts Council supported through a three-year partnership grant. The project’s goal is to bring the joy of scientific inquiry and the creativity of storytelling to students, ranging in age from Pre-K to high school, and help them to write and perform original theater productions. This year, I became a Vermont Arts Council Teaching Artist in Residence and worked virtually with Hunt Middle School and their para-educators. We made a time travel mystery musical film about adaptations found in nature, self-care and local species preservation. We are looking to expand the project to include more aspects of Earth Stewardship, and also perhaps a greater reach beyond Vermont. We are seeking new partnerships and schools to collaborate with in 2021-2022.

Lauren dancing in a field with a willow tree behind her.

Lauren Larken Scuderi has been involved with music her entire life and writes songs everyday.  She majored in Theatre at University of Southern California and holds an MFA in Performance and Interactive Arts from Brooklyn College.  In 2002 she founded not for profit, Artistic Evolucion, Inc. in order to incubate social issue campaigns using creative means. Larken is passionate about singing everyday, developing daily non-toxic beauty rituals, and enjoying dance retreats in nature.

Visit the Artner Project website.
Visit the Will and Whit website.
Watch a recorded Waterway Stages performance from Lauren’s Hunt Middle School residency.