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'America's Got Talent' holding virtual auditions

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Do you think you have what it takes to be on “America’s Got Talent” but don’t want to go through the hassle of auditioning in front of judges in a crowded room?

This may be your lucky break as producers of the NBC hit talent show are taking tryouts online this season. Live virtual auditions are taking place for East Coast residents today and Feb. 5.

You can also submit a 90-second audition to them anytime. Full details and appointments to meet virtually with a producer can be found at AGTauditions.com.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues and the show, which has produced winners such as ventriloquists Darci Lynne and Terry Fator along with magician Shin Lim, goes into its 16th season, the show is not able to travel across the country finding talent.

So the show has had to find other ways to carry on and is going the virtual route this season.

They have been holding live virtual auditions for the last few weeks now and the show’s executive producer Sam Donnelly said it’s been an eye-opening experience.

“To be honest with you, I love traveling around the country and meeting people in their hometowns and I wasn’t sure how it was going to go technology-wise but it’s worked brilliantly. I was really pleasantly surprised,” she said Wednesday afternoon by phone from Los Angeles.

"There are so many pluses to it. You get to meet people in their own home, which is kind of way more intimate. So you get to know them a little bit better, which is great. Of course, anybody can audition. You’re not asking people to make a big drive somewhere and line up and take the whole day. So, people I think are more relaxed a little bit and less nervous."

Ms. Donnelly said this way producers are able to make a more personal connection with performers trying out for the chance to appear on the top-rated show and possibly win $1 million and have their own show in Las Vegas.

“It’s been great to meet other members of their family. There have already been some great moments where somebody told us something about, let’s say for example their mom, and the mom is there. So you’re able to say ‘Hey Mom, come and tell us about this.’ You feel like you make a connection with people better. They haven’t had to wait and wait and wait in great, big long lines.

“We’ll probably still keep it as a way that we audition going forward. We haven’t decided yet but when we finally get back to normality, we’ll definitely be back out on the road. But this is such a good thing to allow everybody to have access.”

The uniqueness of “America’s Got Talent” is that it features a variety of different acts and talents. It’s not limited to singers. This past season’s winner was spoken-word artist Brandon Leake. Ms. Donnelly said she was apprehensive at first that larger acts were not going to get their due by auditioning virtually.

“I was worried about how are the variety acts going to do their act in their living room but I knew we had to try. But what you find is that people are incredibly resourceful,” she said.

“We’ve had people audition who do aerial acts that have managed to go to their local school hall and socially distance and do it under all the guidelines to stay safe. Or they set something up in their backyard and they’ve been able to show us a video and talk us through something that they’ve done previously before COVID. So it’s just fascinating to me how technology has allowed us to do this and how resourceful people are as well.”

Ms. Donnelly encourages everyone to try out for the show no matter what their talent is.

“The thing I love about the show is that it’s all sorts of things. The other thing that we love is that we have these people who are quirky and have these never-before-seen talents. You have some people at home who perhaps in the normal year are busy. They have a job. And they don’t have the time to dedicate to this kind of thing and now we’re in their homes and it doesn’t take a great deal of time for them to audition and they just give it a shot,” she said.

“So we’re finding all sorts of fun things and lots of regular people who’ve got a talent that they want to share with us and we definitely want to see that.”

Another factor in the show’s success, she feels, is that “the only rule is that there are no rules.”

“Whatever we think is the most entertaining thing we can put in front of the judges. It could be somebody who plays the kazoo with their nose because they’re super entertaining. This is their genuine dream or it can be some incredible kind of person like Darci Lynne. I’m real happy to look at it all as long as it’s entertaining and as long as we think the judges are going to enjoy it. That’s what our job is — to select from the entire country the most entertaining people for the judges to have a look at,” said Ms. Donnelly who has been one of the executive producers of “America’s Got Talent” since 2014.

Although there has been no premiere date announced for this season, the show usually airs in the summer months. Ms. Donnelly said she doesn’t know how the show will be presented yet, whether it will be in a live theater with an audience or in a Zoom format or, such as last year’s finale, outside with no audience.

“I’m an optimist. I’m hopeful that the vaccines will continue to keep ramping up and that will kill it by the summer. Certainly we’re going to be in a much more what we would consider a normal kind of world. But we’re just going to have to do what we did last season, which is we watch the news all the time. We constantly stay in touch with the unions and public health officials and we just we pivot our plans accordingly and we do what we can because the most important thing is that we have not just a fun show but also that it’s safe for everybody,” she said.

“So we’re just kind of balancing those two things out on a daily basis. I feel sometimes like this is the plan, the A plan. Then there are plans B, C and D. So that’s kind of what we’ve been living in for the last year really.”

She hopes this season will go a bit smoother than last season did.

“I may not be 100 percent accurate on this but I think we taped nine of our 13 days of auditions with audiences. We started off with a full audience and then we were hearing about this — remember it was a completely different world back then — we were hearing about this kind of virus from China and we didn’t really know what it was and then our audiences were diminishing and then eventually we were like ‘it doesn’t make any sense anymore to have the public here’ so we finished out the auditions with no audience at all,” she said.

“In amongst that, (judge) Heidi Klum got ill. She thankfully didn’t have COVID but she wasn’t on the show. And then we brought in Eric Stonestreet as a guest judge to replace her and then he wasn’t there anymore and we had three judges. So we started off with four judges and a whole audience and we ended up with three judges and no audience. So it was a wild ride.”

Ms. Donnelly said the show will go on for its 16th season in some form or another.

“We’ll roll with it. We’ll make it great. We’ll make sure that ‘AGT’ is a really great tonic so people can take a break away from the troubles that we’ve had over the last few months.”

Biggs reopening

The Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover announced Thursday that it will reopen next month after having it closed its doors Dec. 16 due to concerns over the coronavirus.

During the first phase of reopening, Feb. 3-6, the Biggs will open its doors to members and Biggs Society donors only, by reservation. From Feb. 10 onward, the Biggs will welcome reservations from the general public.

There is still time to see the exhibition, “Stairway to Heaven: Life and Death in the Visions of Salvador Dalí” featuring illustrations for “Les Chants de Maldoror” and “The Divine Comedy.” Due to high demand, the popular Dalí exhibition will be extended the maximum allowable time, an additional two weeks, through Feb. 20. Upon reopening, the Biggs will return to the operating hours of Wednesday– Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

In addition to the Dalí exhibition, the Biggs has installed “Toni Frissell: In Italy with the Tuskegee Airmen.”

The imminent fashion and society photographer, Toni Frissell (1907-88), held several official positions with the American Red Cross, the Women’s Army Corp and the U.S. Air Force to document World War II. This exhibition highlights her images of the Tuskegee Airmen, the 332d Fighter Group, from the collection of the Library of Congress.

This exhibition is being held in conjunction with the Annual Citywide Black History Month Celebration which happens each February. It is a series of events highlighting local Black history, culture, art, music, and theater.

For tickets and reservations to the Biggs, call 302-674-2111.

Anyone interested in seeing these exhibitions who cannot visit in person can access free walk-through tours of both featured exhibitions and more at Biggsmuseum.org/virtual-biggs/.

Healing message

Local hip-hop artist Amillion the Poet has teamed up with Jet Phynx Films to deliver a music visual and healing message to start the new year.

Amillion the Poet

In the video also co-starring Amilllion’s daughter Aaliyah Adams-Mayfield, the soulful song entitled, “The Quarantine” features national recording songstress Stacy Barthe and J’ne Indigo. The song can be found on the album “Covid-1NA” out now. It currently has over 500,000 streams.

The music video will be featured in hospitals and medical centers around the nation. It can be viewed at youtu.be/BzBbg5B5V4U. For more information on Amillion, visit AmillionThePoet.com.

Now showing

New in theaters this weekend is the Denzel Washington thriller “The Little Pieces.”