The show must go on, and safety is key

It’s been quite some time since the pandemic changed the landscape of everyone’s daily lives and activities. Here, at Enter Stage Right in Port Huron, we’ve had our fair share of challenges and obstacles as well.  Due to the high rate of Covid-19 cases in St. Clair County, we are taking all necessary safety precautions, just as we’ve done since March of 2020. 

As we work to bring live theater to audiences again, we're maintaining a certain protocol across the board. All of our artists are required to wear masks on stage until the last two days of rehearsals. At this time, as well as for our actual performances, vaccinated cast members have the option to unmask. For those who aren’t vaccinated, or who prefer to perform masked regardless of their vaccinations, we’re creating face coverings that coordinate with their costumes. All of our cast members are required to be masked anytime they are offstage.

Despite these safety measures, sometimes performers get sick or have an emergency. When this happens, we’ve often been able to fill their spot at the last minute with another cast member. I myself have performed double duty a few times, where I’ve acted out a scene as one character, and then done a quick costume change to perform the role of whomever is missing. This can get a bit challenging, but we’ve managed to make it work so far.

Keeping our audiences comfortable and safe is another top priority for us. Since September, we’ve required our guests to wear masks, and we’ll continue to do this as long as we’re at an orange or red threat level, as we are now. We’ve also spaced out our seating so no one is close enough to touch their neighbor. Thanks to grants we've received, we’ve been able to install medical grade ventilation and filtration in our building. 

As for concessions, we're no longer selling food during our performances, although we do allow for drinks. We figure our guests can take a quick sip and put their masks back on, but allowing food would just give people an excuse to keep their masks off for two hours. We’ve definitely lost some sales at our theater due to our strict masking policy, but those who still attend, and look forward to our events, have been thanking us for caring about their safety the way we do. 

Our doors have remained open during this pandemic because of the generous grants we’ve received. They've been a tremendous help to our organization. We’ve received grants from the Community Foundation of St. Clair County, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and Culture Source, who helps to advance the work of organizations that encourage creative and cultural expression. We’ve also received funding from the Michigan Stages Survival Grant Program, an initiative from the State of Michigan that’s given aid to over 100 live music and entertainment venues affected by COVID-19. It’s safe to say that without all of this outside help, we would be in quite a different position. I’m extremely grateful for the support.

Live theater is more than just a creative outlet for those involved. It provides a creative space and a sense of connection for the community as well. Over the past two years, we’ve been faced with days where we wonder how we'll ever get through this, and then there are days where we feel as if we're on top of the world. It's been a roller coaster for sure. 

Something that has us extremely excited right now are the plans for a Port Huron Theater District, which we'll be officially announcing in June. The district will include The Citadel Stage, McMorran Place, and St. Clair Community College (SC4), and will help attract people to our downtown. Our goal is to increase tourism to our city while also providing our local community a designated area where they can enjoy the performing arts.
 
On March 25, our spring season will open with Anne of the 1000 Days, an exciting drama of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn full of love, deceit, and murder. This is one of several shows we’re presenting this year that were postponed in 2020. Others are The Hiding Place and The Three Musketeers. Summer at The Citadel Stage will bring in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Shakespeare’s The Tempest. We hope that more of our community will join us for these shows! 
    
Regina Spain is the executive director of Enter Stage Right at The Citadel Stage. This entry is part of our Nonprofit Journal Project, an initiative inviting nonprofit leaders across Metro Detroit to contribute their thoughts via journal entries on how COVID-19, a heightened awareness of racial injustice and inequality, issues of climate change and more are affecting their work--and how they are responding. This series is made possible with the generous support of our partners, the Michigan Nonprofit Association and Co.act Detroit.