New state guidelines won’t close Ellen Eccles Theatre

CacheARTS director Wendi Hassan has confirmed that the celebration of the popular Utah podcast "This is HER Place" will be staged Wednesday at the Ellen Eccles Theatre.

LOGAN  – Despite new coronavirus restrictions taking effect today, “the show will go on” at the Ellen Eccles Theatre.

We dodged a bullet,” said Wendi Hassan, the executive director of the Cache Valley Center for the Arts, referring to the fine print of a new directive from the Utah Department of Health announced Tuesday.

“I think these guidelines will be easier to communicate (to audience members),” Hassan added. “And I love, love, love that they are metrics-based and that, even with Cache County in the high risk category, we are not just shut down.”

The CacheARTS 2020-21 road show production series will kick off Wednesday, Oct. 21 with “This is HER Place,” a behind-the-scenes look at the popular Utah podcast of the same name.

In compliance with the new statewide health directive, Hassan explained, seating for groups of ticket holders for that event will be spaced six feet apart and all patrons will be required to wear face coverings.

Under the state’s new guidelines to battle the ongoing pandemic, Cache and five other Utah counties have been designated as having high levels of coronavirus transmission because their seven-day positive COVID-19 test rate is 13 percent or higher.

In areas with high transmission rates, social gatherings of more than 10 people are banned. But that limitation does not apply to organized, public gatherings in theaters, sporting events, live concerts or weddings, according to Rich Saunders, the acting director of the Utah Department of Health.

At those events, the state mandates that “spectators, guests, employees and patrons” must wear masks and observe social distancing precautions. Performers and athletes are exempt from those requirements, however.

But Hassan said that groups set to perform at the Eccles Theatre had already agreed to observe similar precautions prior to Tuesday’s announcement.

“With the exception of one private corporate event that had already been on our books,” Hassan explained, “everything that we have scheduled will be in compliance.”

The celebration of the “This is HER Place” podcast on Wednesday will be an unusual multi-media event.

Each episode of “This is HER Place” highlights two Utah women, one a historical figure and the other a contemporary female, whose lives make Utah uniquely theirs.

The podcast series is co-hosted by community advocate Naomi Watkins and longtime Utah Public Radio broadcaster Tom Williams. Produced by Allison Pond, with executive producer Patrick Mason, the podcast is generously supported by funding from private donors and Utah State University’s “Year of the Woman” initiative.

Hassan said the “This is HER Place” celebration will recapture the excitement of creating the podcast through stories, video clips and audio bites with some of its creative team appearing live and others streaming in their observations.

“We’re bringing in a whole streaming technical package to pipe in the podcast’s team members from across the country,” she explained. “Naomi Watkins will appear in-person Wednesday evening and will also be a speaker at the 7th Annual Cache Business Women’s Conference being hosted by the Cache Valley Chamber of Commerce the following day.”

The new state health directive will also allow CacheARTS to move ahead with other plans for live performances in the near future.

“We’ve been talking about launching another round of Random Acts shows,” Hassan said, referring to the successful summer partnership between CacheARTS and local artists to stage low-key events to entertain Cache Valley’s performing arts community during the pandemic.

“We’ll probably move ahead with new Random Acts shows over the holidays because so much else has been cancelled,” she added. “I’ve also been talking to several agents about shows that are usually too small for the Eccles that we might be able to figure out how to bring in January through May of next year.”

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