Crash Course for Famous People

Reading the Room 101: A Crash Course for Famous People

By Emily Knepple

Global pandemic? What better way to appeal to the masses than with an Instagram live, or a majorly tone-deaf video of people singing “Imagine” whose net worth could probably pay for you and I’s (out-of-state) tuition, combined

Look, I’m the first one to admit that I gladly follow a long-list of A-list, B-list and even C-list celebs and genuinely get lost in their profiles. I had posters of singers taped up on the walls of my childhood bedroom and I spent actual money to see them. I get the appeal, celebrities are fun, they offer fantasy, a small glimpse into what life could actually be if you woke up with enough talent to get you noticed or knew someone at the top. 

                                                     @Kofromatatf (Twitter)

   Going on Instagram these days seems like an instant invitation to over 20+ celeb lives. 

I get it, okay? I’m not “anti-celeb” for the most part. But, when it comes to something that impacts everyone, gets in the way of our and their daily lives, I wonder just how talented they are at empathy. 

If it’s not Ellen DeGeneres coming at us live from one of her larger-than-life rooms telling us to keep the faith, it’s Kylie Jenner posting about how this is driving her crazy and she misses simpler times when she could go on a $3 million vacation with her sisters. 

With over 17 million Americans filing for unemployment over the past four weeks, I’m not sure if stars are facing similar challenges. Their roles on the big screen will be there when this is over. For us, the future of our jobs in places like retail, the food industry and more remain up in the air. 

Famous people have failed to learn how to read the room. The first time we really saw someone openly ignoring the plight this pandemic brings on so many was the infamous yacht photo. That’s right, someone actually wished everyone well from their $5 million yacht, where they were quarantined. 

               Billionaire David Geffen sent the world good wishes off his yacht early in the COVID-19 chaos. 

Jennifer Lopez really took the time to show us how her family is coping and yes, it did include one of her sons on a hoverboard, in her expansive backyard. Jeremy Renner, best known for his role of Hawk-Eye in The Avengers, really thought now was the best time to kick-start his music career with a single titled “Medecine.” YEP, he really had people telling him that that was a good idea, he really got the go-ahead. 

I’m sorry but I  know I’m not alone in the frustration right now. As much as I love seeing people like Chrissy Teigen on my timeline, I don’t necessarily know if we’re on an even playing field. 

So, I guess that leaves us with nothing else to do but teach. I’ve compiled a list of  the five biggest to-dos for celebrities that missed the ball on understanding the difference between us and them. 

  1. Don’t EQUATE: There’s no hiding that we lead different lives, that your backyard could easily be the size of my house. Instead of trying to be one of us, acknowledge that you aren’t and recognize your privilege. Madonna called the virus the “great equalizer” from a bathtub of rose petals while I’m trying to schedule my showers with my family so we can all use some hot water. 
  2. Go easy on the Lives: Look, I see the appeal of musicians streaming shows and honestly think that’s a great way to keep people engaged. However, if your live is just you and another celebrity talking back and forth about how you’re coping, or just yourself documenting daily life, maybe recognize they’re a bit overdone and if you need someone to talk to, call your friends like the rest of us. 
  3. Pleas for Money: Look, charity is great and it does a lot of good things for those that need it. However, when I see celebs post links to places we should donate, my gut instinct is to say: Well, have you? Not that it’s my business and it’s likely they have, but just forcing charity’s down the links of your followers can be a bit much. 
  4. You’re not a Scientist: Look, we’re all on the same boat here when it comes to how much we know. Leave the science part to scientists. Stop offering your suggestions on when this could be over. And for the love of God, please avoid doing anything close to what Vanessa Hudgens did a few weeks ago and go on some sort of rant about the ridiculousness of serious measures. 
  5. READ THE ROOM: Last and most importantly, please read the room. I know social media might be a way to cope, or your means of maintaining a following both on and off the screen. But, recognize that people’s timelines are overflowing with bad news. Trying to add to that with a complaint about how your significant other is starting to drive you crazy or how you don’t know what day it is and your losing mind can often reek of a lack of empathy. Now might not be the best time to launch a new press campaign, just a thought. 

Not to say this applies to all famous people. I’ve seen some good things come out of this. Like John Krasinski’s Good News weekly show that brings people together and steers away from the general narrative. Artists that have gone forward with their album releases also provide solace for me. New music is fun and if you’re able to share it without trying to evoke copious amounts of sympathy, gold star. 

I think there’s a time and a place for everything. Obviously, celebrities are deeply ingrained into our culture. And honestly, it’s such an ambiguous term that it no longer applies to just movie stars and singers. They’re people, too. I think this virus can definitely impact them, whether it’s consequence can be as serious as it is for us common folk, which I think is what puts them at fault. When they start to act as if the implications are the same is where I begin to feel frustrated. 

But, feelings are feelings and as people, we try to validate them, even when they belong to  people who have salaries with a numbers of digits I will never see in my life. So, at the end of the day, all we can ask of our highest-profile friends is to just please, read the room.

Effects on Madison Art

Local Madison arts scene put on pause due to COVID-19

By Emily Knepple

The Majestic Theater in Madison
The Majestic Theater, located on King St., is one of the many Madison venues impacted by COVID-19. Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons.

One of the first things I remember hearing about Madison was their art scene. Growing up just outside of New York City, art has always been important to me. I like to associate albums with parts of my life and find solace in a classic trip to the movie theater. 

Needless to say, I couldn’t give that up when choosing where to spend my next four years, and with Wisconsin being somewhat foreign to me, to hear they had live music, a theater that housed Broadway shows and much, much more, my liking of the city grew exponentially. 

Places like The Sylvee, the Majestic, the Overture Center for the Arts, the Chazen and the New Orpheum (just to name a few) bring all kinds of artists from all over the world to decorate Madison and bring it to life. When the Coronavirus began to threaten our favorite pastimes and dim the lights of their stages, there came a time when decisions had to be made. And like most Madisonians, I didn’t doubt their ability to make the best out of the situation. 

Matt Gerding, President of FPC Live, the booking company that overlooks Madison’s biggest venues like The Sylvee, High Noon Saloon and the Majestic Theatre, said that everyone wanted to make the call in the best interest of the safety of their staff. 

It became clear that closing the doors was their best option and with Gov. Evers issuing a stay-at-home order in the middle of March, the decision appeared to be made for a lot of Madison employers. Gerding shared that most performances are looking to be postponed until a later date rather than canceled, hoping to instill excitement for the future. 

Kirstin Pires, Editor of the Chazen Museum of Art, says that the Chazen began looking at responses to the pandemic as early as January. 

“We developed a plan to have reduced hours over spring break. We knew we would follow guidance from campus,” said Pires. “We have always had a disaster plan in place, so to some extent it was just reviewing those plans.” 

Most Madison art venues are finding ways to stay engaged with their audiences online. Gerding tells me that FPC Live has launched a Facebook livestream series with the Isthmus titled “Social Distraction,” where local artists are given a chance to perform and raise money. 

At the Chazen, finding ways to turn galleries of artwork digital has allowed them to be innovative and take advantage of these testing times. Trying to make their art as accessible online, Pires says that they are using their website and social media to offer newer content and “experimenting with whatever might work.” 

But, as most art-lovers will understand, removing the in-person experience of walking through a gallery is a hard thing for tech to recreate. “It’s pretty dramatic when you take the ‘in real life’ part away,” said Pires. “On the other hand, all our staff are being really creative and thinking about how to deal with the restrictions.” 

COVID-19 has a mass impact on all of us and for the arts scene more specifically, those that make our Saturday night trips out for a show possible are also feeling the consequences of this shutdown.

The Chazen Museum of Art virtual events
A list of virtual events being held by the Chazen to keep their audience engaged is displayed on

Max Flanagan, a sophomore at UW-Madison, is an usher at the Overture Center for the Arts. Flanagan, who has seen the virus unfold as an employee first-hand, shares that the Overture was “committed to serving patrons for as long as ethically feasible.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, while still at work, Flanagan tells me that his management was very understandable. There was no questioning of volunteers that did not feel comfortable coming in anymore. 

“Most of our employees and volunteers fall into the particularly vulnerable age range, so many did not want to take unnecessary risks,” said Flanagan. “Shifts were easily swapped or cancelled.”  

Due to a halt in revenue, Flanagan is currently not getting paid, but he shares that the Overture has continued to host weekly meetings to check-in on their staff and try to keep high spirits. He also sees additional safety protocols being implemented upon their return, whenever that may be. 

“Personally, I expect our capacity size to reduce dramatically getting back into the swing of things,” said Flanagan. He adds that the Overture has always taken sanitation and maintenance very seriously and he anticipates their “amazing work” to continue once they return. 

Like most people involved in the Madison arts scene, Flanagan admits that normalcy will take some time to get back to. However, he’s hopeful, as the Overture Center did just release their 2020-2021 season. While things might be different, Flanagan shared that “hopefully once this world overcomes this pandemic together, we can resume attending our beloved shows and performances.” 

With uncertainty lingering for all, I firmly believe that the arts scene in Madison will bounce back. For a community that so strongly values their own musicians and opens their arms to many, I have a feeling that this pandemic will only further the appreciation for the arts. Similar sentiments came from those involved, like Gerding and Pires, who see Madisonians rallying behind art once this comes to a close. 

“I’m not sure about the how, but I am sure it will recover,” said Pires. “This community values art highly, and will begin making it and seeking out as soon as it’s possible.”