March 17, 2020
It’s likely you’ve been following the news and finding yourself in many conversations about how to plan, when to act, what to expect. The reality, of course, is that we don’t know what tomorrow holds, but we do know who holds tomorrow. As a staff, we have talked and prayed much over the last two months about how we should proceed. (SEE BELOW FOR YOUR OPTIONS.)
Concordia University, where we intended to perform Sense and Sensibility, is closed for the summer. If we were to finish the run of An Inspector Calls or open Sense and Sensibility, we would have to do so in the Norvell Commons. In looking at the state’s Badger Bounce Back Plan and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corps’s Reopening Guidelines, there are three phases in opening. Phase one would have 10 people gathering maximum. Phase two would have 50 maximum. The progression through phases is determined by statistics, not time, and even if we reach phase two this summer, Sense and Sensibility has a cast of 16. Adding in support staff, the number is at 20. So that would allow for an audience of around 30, which, all health and ethical issues aside, poses financial questions.
COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus with insufficient testing and no vaccine, wherein a significant number of those infected will show no outward symptoms of illness (and are the source of at least 44% of infections). A recent article concisely summarizes the risks of reopening, written by Erin S. Bromage, Ph.D., a Comparative Immunologist and Professor of Biology (specializing in Immunology) at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. We encourage you to read the article in its entirety, but Erin cites an example that directly applies to Acacia performing at the Norvell Commons: “[At] a church choir [practice] in Washington State, [where] people were aware of the virus and took steps to minimize transfer; e.g. they avoided the usual handshakes and hugs hello, people also brought their own music to avoid sharing, and socially distanced themselves…a single asymptomatic carrier infected most of the people in attendance. The choir sang for 2.5 hours, inside an enclosed church which was roughly the size of a volleyball court.” As you know, this is also roughly the size of the Norvell Commons, and the same muscles are used in projecting as in singing.
It is our responsibility, especially as a Christian organization, to behave in such a way that loves “the least of these” – the elderly, the chronically ill and the poor, to name a few – who are disproportionately impacted by this virus. To ignore how our actions might affect them is not the way of Jesus.
We believe that An Inspector Calls and Sense and Sensibility are wonderful shows, worthy of an audience. Our goal is to complete the current season, if and when circumstances allow us to do so. With that in mind, we are offering some options to you:
1. Hold your tickets to An Inspector Calls and Sense and Sensibility. They will be honored if and when we revisit both of those shows, or if neither of those are possible, a future production.
2. Donate your tickets, for which you will receive a receipt.
3. Lastly – and we ask that you consider your financial health and the company’s as you contemplate this option – request a refund. If all of our patrons chose this, the withdrawal would destabilize Acacia. If you are struggling to make ends meet, do not hesitate to request the refund.
What should we do in the interim, to continue our ministry for artists and audiences? We have discussed this at length and keep praying and waiting. God has proven himself so faithful in the history of this company. We can trust Grace to lead us home.
The staff and board of Acacia Theatre Company