Zoe Clements

Talent on the Home Front

Hult Center’s virtual Stay Home Talent Show shines light on local talent during the lockdown

In one video, an average dad, or perhaps a youthful grandpa, dances the “Banana Cabana” behind a black curtain, with only his hands and face visible. He periodically ducks from view, only to reappear wearing sunglasses and a hat. Soon, he is joined by a banana. But with only one set of hands, who’s holding the curtain? Who’s holding the banana? It’s the ultimate dad joke, with a visual punchline.

This video is but one of about 150 entries in the Hult Center’s Stay Home Talent Show, a virtual event in which talented locals submitted to the Hult their best music, comedy and even magic tricks, all produced from home while locked down due to the coronavirus. Submissions wrapped up at the end of April, followed by a week of people’s-choice voting. The winners will be announced May 8 on the Hult Center’s website. 

The idea for the Stay Home Talent Show event came shortly after the COVID-19 lockdown. People were going to have a lot of time on their hands, and Hult staff sought a way to make good out of the situation. “Let’s at least keep them creative,” says Rich Hobby, Hult Center director of marketing, referring to homebound Eugeneans. 

Finalists were selected by a panel of 12 judges, using a point system, but also giving extra attention to any entry deemed extraordinary — such as a performance in which two young women play John Legend’s hit “All of Me” arranged for xylophone. What’s remarkable is one of the musicians, physically challenged and with limited use of her arms and hands, plays the bass notes holding the mallet in her mouth.

In another, a spritely singer plays what seems at first like a pleasant, acoustic original folk ditty urging everyone to stay indoors to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The song soon turns comically dark, though, as she sings: “I hope someday we can play underneath the trees, but till then stay the fuck away from me.”

Possible prizes include Hult Center merchandise and gift cards from local businesses. But Hobby is quick to point out the event is not just about competition. Instead, the show is meant to bring the community together during a difficult time. 

Furthermore, the Hult wanted to shine a light on local talent, something the venue hasn’t done very much of in the past, Hobby says. In fact, the response has been so positive the Hult Center is now in the early stages of planning a free weekly live stream in which artists are paid to perform. How much they would be paid and when the project will launch are yet to be determined.

For his part, Hobby says working on the show is a nice reprieve from the existential dread of COVID-19.

“We at the venue can see on a daily basis the impact of the arts on people, the benefits of people having a communal experience, a shared experience,” he says.

The talent show has proven there are so many ways to stay creative, invigorated and imaginative, even during an unprecedented experience like the COVID-19 shutdown. “Working on this has really given us that outlet,” Hobby says.

See the finalists and vote for your favorite until 11:59 pm Thursday, May 7, at SurveyMonkey.com/r/CYRYH36.