Written by Daphne Liu
Translated by H. B. Qin
Edited by Diana Chang, Ida Eva Zielinska
“Micro-Reflections on the Pandemic”
A blog series presenting the stories of three American households facing different aspects of the pandemic together, with wisdom.
Bart and Amy Shatto
It’s 2021, and America is gradually recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic – excellent news for so many business sectors. In New York City, the cultural and entertainment industries were severely impacted the year before, hit with a dramatic reduction of nearly 70% of jobs and the closing down of Broadway theaters, with their shows suspended for months at a time.
The situation was most alarming for Bart Shatto, a veteran Broadway theater actor-singer, as the shows he was in were affected. Instead of despairing, he tried to change lanes by investing his efforts into charity fundraising performances, which ended up bringing him new gains.
A scene with Bart Shatto, starring in a home-made musical production.
Bart returns home, takes off his mask, and breaks into song:
It’s a beautiful day in the apocalypse.
It’s a beautiful day for quarantine.
Wash your hands now.
Scrub your hands now.
With his job opportunities reduced, Bart began experimenting with free online performances to raise money for charitable or religious organizations. Some blatantly presented the reality of life in the U.S. during the pandemic, while bringing wit and humor to the situation.
But Bart is not alone in these ventures, as his wife, Amy Shatto, is on board as well. For instance, for one online musical raising money for synagogues and low-income families, Bart and Amy did the planning then brought together a group of non-professional performers and volunteers to be part of the show.
The new frontiers that opened up for Bart during the pandemic also include a novel opportunity…
Bart has been introducing films and guests as the Host of Mindful Eye: Film at Tzu Chi Center, a new program launched by the Tzu Chi Center for Compassionate Relief in February 2020. His invitation to take on this role emerged from past participation in a Tzu Chi USA project: He starred in Love Saves, a dramatic short produced in 2016.
As host, Bart introduces the films, guides discussions, and exchanges ideas with film directors and guests from different countries. The Mindful Eye program, which screens every two months, features films and conversations on global issues connected to core concepts in Buddhism, including compassion and mindful living.
The two documentaries – Honeyland (Director: Tamara Kotevska) and Stung By Climate (Director: Nils Aucante) – that screened during the premiere episode of the Mindful Eye program explored the crisis of climate change from the perspective of beekeepers. They touched Bart personally, and he appreciated the chance to be in conversation with the two directors during the Q&As that were part of the show.
The April program of Mindful Eye, celebrating Earth Day 2021, also featured environmental issues with a screening of Tea Mountain: A Life Steeped in Gratitude (Director: Ting Fan) about organic farming. The show was filmed at Hepworth Farms, a 7th generation family-owned organic farm in upstate New York, taking Bart on site.
Bart’s passion for the environment and nature comes from the inspiration and influence of his wife, Amy. They’ve been married for ten years and have traveled to Africa, the Middle East, India, the Pacific Islands, and the North and South Poles. During their globe-trotting, they’ve had the opportunity to personally learn about many endangered species, various conservation issues, and more.
“My wife and I have a passion for animals, and a passion for travel; and also, a passion for keeping cultures alive. All these things are huge parts of our lives,” Bart explains.
Their home is filled with elements of the African savannah, and the husband and wife are true animal conservationists. Amy, in particular, has been a vegetarian for more than ten years; she stopped eating beef burgers in 1988, chicken in 2006, and finally gave up seafood.
While Amy was preparing a veggie steak, she recalled a terrible dream she once had: “Chickens were chasing me; giant chickens were chasing me. And they were bleeding. It was so upsetting. And I knew I should never eat chicken again.”
“My wife reminds me every day, ‘Are you going to do this (be vegetarian) or not?’” Bart said, smiling, “She always says animals are friends, ‘Don’t eat that pet!’ ‘It has a face; it’s cute!’ She’s always been inspirational to me.”
Bart was influenced by Amy and gradually reduced his meat consumption, and the couple even decreased their number of daily meals from three to only one during the pandemic. Inspired by his beloved wife and Tzu Chi’s call for environmental protection and advocacy for a plant-based diet, Bart feels that Americans should wake up during this pandemic.
In response to the impact of the pandemic, Bart and Amy Shatto have been channeling their passion for the performing arts towards environmental protection, animal rights, underserved groups, and even friends in need around them, energetically showing their care through action. Inspiring, indeed.