Utah Shakespeare Festival, Actors’ Equity reach agreement on COVID safety protocols for 2021 season

A scene from "Hamlet" at the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s 2019 production of "Hamlet," Cedar City, Utah, date not specified | Photo by Karl Hugh, courtesy of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — The Utah Shakespeare Festival recently finalized an agreement with Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States, regarding COVID-19 health and safety protocols for actors, artists, and audience members.

A production of “Merchant of Venice” at Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Utah Shakespeare Festival, St. George News / Cedar City News

According to a press release from the festival, the agreement 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,” Utah Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Brian Vaughn said in the press release. “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.”

Frank Mack, executive producer for the festival, agreed and said the agreement represented 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,” he said. “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.

Production photo from “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat,” Cedar City, Utah, date not specified | PHoto courtesy of Utah Shakespeare Festival, St. George News / Cedar City News

For audience members, this means that theaters, 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 the current Utah Department of Health requirement of masks for any group of 50 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 the Utah Shakespeare Festival website. 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, 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. The Utah Shakespeare Festival is a cultural institution, and we’re excited to support its safe return to the stage so Utahns can once again enjoy the arts.”

Vaughn said everyone involved in the festival is “eager to get back to work while safely continuing to create powerful and moving drama for Utah audiences.”

“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.”

Mack added that patrons are already buying tickets for the upcoming season, which runs June 21 to Oct. 9 and includes “Pericles,” “Richard III,” “The Comedy of Errors,” “The Pirates of Penzance,” “Ragtime,” “Cymbeline,” “Intimate Apparel” and “The Comedy of Terrors.”

“I could not be more joyful in anticipating welcoming our guests back to the Festival after a too-long absence,” Mack said.

Tickets are available by calling 800-PLAYTIX (800-752-9849) or online.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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