Cultural Park Theatre setting safety policies for 58th season
While every performing arts organization in the area, and across the country, will need to make their own individual decisions about how and when to reopen given the huge impact of COVID-19, for our community theaters, those decisions arrive sooner than most other arts groups, since their seasons begin in September or even August, rather than in October or November.
So how will the shows go on — if indeed they do — with maximum safety for audiences, cast and crews? And how will they pull in enough money to make presenting them financially viable? For sure, we’re all in the same storm, but in different boats. Each theater leadership has, at the moment, plans in place with some variations.
Beginning with the cancellation of the last three shows of our 57th season and then our canceled, summer season, we instead presented some virtual performances. We’ve been doing a deep clean of the theater, far beyond the normal, and happily produced a very limited size summer camp, successfully keeping our staff and theater campers safe while they discovered the merits of live theater and often for the first time. From that program we have learned new creative ways of even social distancing stage blocking for our cast as well as the audience and still keep productions thoroughly entertaining.
This season Cultural Park will continue virtual entertainment and like other theater companies, we are also looking to possibly present some shows in outdoor venues.
But beyond that, there is the question of what types of shows we can present live on stage? Community theaters like us are used to doing great big musicals with large casts and demands on technical staff, how do we keep them safe?
Our 2020-21 season was set to open Sept. 10 with a large-scale show, We are now opening with a much smaller cast musical revue. Even then, in a theater with almost 200 seats, at the mandated 50 percent occupancy, is it financially viable? Will people come? Other concerns: what to do about restrooms and volunteer ushers, who tend to be part of an older, susceptible demographic. So we have to ask ourselves, though it’s possible to produce, is it really safe? Would it be worth the risk if even one person got sick? What is the cost of entertainment? I’d suppose the same responses we see across the county hold true here, some won’t feel comfortable for a long while, some will sooner, and some will right now. I hope that enough will feel confident enough to give us a try.
We realize it is impossible to guarantee we can eliminate risk of people catching the virus outside of staying at home but with our plans for reopening that are posted on our website along with continuing super sanitization of the building costumes, props limited contact with staff. We are taking every step to insure our patrons of the safety precautions when they enter Cultural Park. Our theater is daily fogged and sanitized with hospital grade disinfectant. By selling no more than 71 seats per performance, we will do social distancing, with seating groups of two, three or four spaced socially distanced apart from each other. There will be temperature checks at the door; along with many other businesses in the county, we do require our patrons to wear masks. There are no concessions and our main theater doors will be open for seating when the building opens to reduce the risk of infection in crowded lobby areas.
We are still trying to keep as much programming as possible. Of course, plans are subject to change, things are in flux, and any information can change on a daily basis.
The Cultural Park Theater is located at 528 Cultural Park Blvd., Cape Coral. Call the box office for more information 239-772-5862.
Michael Moran is executive director of the Cultural Park Theatre Company.