The Utah Shakespeare Festival recently finalized an agreement with Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States, which sets up COVID-19 health and safety protocols for actors, artists, and audience members and opens the door for the Festival to finalize the hiring of actors and stage managers for the 2021 season.
“This puts a feather in our cap and the wind in our sails as we move forward building the 2021 season,” said Artistic Director Brian Vaughn. “I’m thrilled we have finally reached an agreement with Actors’ Equity and look forward to our full company gathering in a few short days.”
Producing Director Frank Mack agreed: “This is the last step in ensuring that we have an absolutely great 2021 season. We start rehearsals on May 10 for what I expect to be one the best seasons at the Festival ever. It’s our 60th anniversary, the season is dedicated to our founder, Fred C. Adams, and it marks a return to producing after missing the 2020 season.”
The goal of the agreement is to provide a safe and healthy working and performing environment not just for actors but for all artist, technicians, and audience members. Both organizations agree that goal has been reached.
“The staff of the Utah Shakespeare Festival has been working with the staff at Actors’ Equity Association for two months to find a way that we can create the work on our stages in a way that actors, artisans, technicians, and audiences all stay safe,” said General Manager Kami Terry Paul. “We now have that plan and will begin implementing it immediately.”
The plan is based on the entire Festival company being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and regularly tested. In addition, work and performance areas will be sanitized regularly and all company members will be required to wear masks at all times except when performing on stage.
For audience members, this means that theatres, seats, and high-traffic areas will also be sanitized regularly. Also, all patrons must wear a mask at all times in the theatre and other performance and seminar spaces (including at The Greenshow). This is in line with the Equity contract and a Utah Department of Health requirement of masks for any group of fifty or more. Because people can’t eat or drink without removing their masks, concessions (including water) will not be sold or allowed in the theatres.
Up-to-date health and safety information is available at bard.org/health-and-safety. Playgoers should check the site often as they prepare for their visit to Cedar City.
All testing for the Festival company will be provided by Nomi Health. “Nomi Health is proud to partner with the Utah Shakespeare Festival to bring the arts back to life in Utah,” said Mark Newman, founder and CEO of Nomi Health. “Our COVID solutions were born in our home state of Utah, and since then, we’ve deployed millions of tests and hundreds of thousands of vaccines across the country. We’re thrilled to support the Utah Shakespeare Festival in its return to the stage, supporting them with a customized COVID testing solution to help ensure safety as their employees and talent return to work and as Utahns can once again enjoy the arts.”
Of course, all of this is required to keep our actors on the stage and allow our audiences into the theatres again. “Each and every one of our talented artisans is eager to get back to work while safely continuing to create powerful and moving drama for Utah audiences,” said Vaughn. “After an incredibly bleak year, I look forward to a resurgence of unity, positivity and possibility as we celebrate sixty years at The Utah Shakespeare Festival.”
“Our patrons have been so supportive, already buying lots of tickets for the coming season; and I could not be more joyful in anticipating welcoming our guests back to the Festival after a too-long absence,” concluded Mack.
The Festival’s 2021 season is June 21 to October 9. Plays will be Pericles, Richard III, The Comedy of Errors, The Pirates of Penzance, Ragtime, Cymbeline, Intimate Apparel, and The Comedy of Terrors. Tickets are available by calling 800-PLAYTIX or visiting www.bard.org.