How A One-Man Cabaret Is Benefiting Rutland Businesses Through The Coronavirus
Wearing a sparkly black sweater, a pink backwards hat and matching high-tops, 30-year-old Jacob Patorti began his one-man cabaret with Elton John's "Circle of Life" in Merchants Hall on Saturday night. As for the audience, his two parents took up the front-row seats, and the rest watched from home over a Facebook livestream.Like in other towns across the country, Rutland's local sources of entertainment have largely shut down since the coronavirus outbreak. So Patorti and his brother Lane created a fund called "Donate A Brew" to support bars and nonprofits in Rutland impacted by the pandemic. Every week, viewers can give song requests in exchange for donations or simply buy virtual drinks on the initiative's website.
Patorti is the Artistic Director of Merchants Hall, a local venue owned by his family and co-managed by Tanya Durant and Linda Otto. He also has a career in New York City, where he had been working on three shows before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Spooked by the growing number of cases, Patorti fled his Manhattan apartment for his hometown of Rutland.
"I just packed my bag and sent an email to the entire production company and said... 'I have a gut feeling that I need to go to Vermont,'" he said. That same day, all Broadway shows canceled their performances.
Patorti drove straight to Merchants Hall to close it down. Drag shows, dance parties, private events-everything scheduled to take place in the venue was called off for the foreseeable future.
But Merchants Hall didn't stay empty for long. Patorti's friend Lauren Norris challenged him to put his talents to good use and host a cabaret on Facebook. So on March 29, he sat at one of the venue's elegant pianos for his first livestreamed, one-man show. He said that partway through, he realized it would be the perfect platform to encourage donations for the newly-founded Donate A Brew.
Patorti had just created the fundraiser with his brother, Lane, a 40-year-old proud "Rutlander" who said he worries about local bars not reopening after the pandemic. He described the local bars as social hubs where all the regulars know each other, and Megan Cioffi, a bartender who splits her time at Muckenschnabel's and the American Legion, said that patrons are often like family. She said she is now "concerned about them at this time."
"It's a culture of its own in the city of Rutland," Lane said.
This isn't Lane's first fundraising effort in Rutland. For the Alzheimer's Association's 2015 Walk to End Alzheimer's, he captained the winning team, raising over $4,600. He said his past success is due to his willingness to ask friends for donations.
"If they're willing to give up a few bucks, I'm not afraid to ask them for it," Lane said. "I'm also not afraid to ask people who don't live here anymore."
So far, Donate A Brew has raised nearly $1,000. The Donate A Brew website says that 50% of the funds they raise will go to bars, 30% to non-profits, 10% to Merchants Hall, and 10% to administrative costs. The brothers said that they are open to including other businesses as beneficiaries of the fund, but the more they add, the less money there will be for each.
Their initiative focuses on places of gathering and entertainment that cannot stay open to sustain themselves, like bars that do not have curbside pickup services, the Paramount Theatre and Wonderfeet Kids' Museum. Wonderfeet's executive director Danielle Monroe said that organizations like hers rely on income from ticket sales, and the inability to host events has been concerning.
"We also know that the donors who have supported us over the years-that have kept our doors open-they are experiencing a financial hardship right now, as well as we are," Monroe said.
When it's safe to do so, Patorti plans on reopening Merchants Hall with a final cabaret for a live audience. He mentioned his friends and colleagues Amy Littler, James Lorentz, Heather Minch, and his uncle, Rick Reddington, as potential talents to join the show.
"Whoever wants to is going to get in that damn room and perform ... a big live-jam cabaret together," he said.
Patorti has already begun finding ways to collaborate with fellow musicians. During last week's livestream concert, he accompanied a recording of Norris singing "If We Hold on Together" from Land Before Time.
He also performed one of his anthems: "Time Warp" from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The Facebook heart-reactions streamed in, and his dad hopped on the stage, shaking his hips at the camera.
"If somebody donates a hundred bucks, he'll learn a new dance move for next week! And if you donate a thousand, he'll even learn the chorus!" Patorti joked and took a swig of beer."Shout out to your favorite bartenders... and let's drink for them and enjoy... Here's to small towns! Here's to community!"
Correction 4:30 p.m. 4/17/2020: This story has been updated to reflect the correct name-spelling for Danielle Monroe and James Lorentz.