Covid -19 prevention measures at the Playhouse a complex issue
REDWOOD PLAYHOUSE MEETING NOTES:
The Thursday January 20th, regular monthly meeting of the Redwood Playhouse Board of Directors was took up the issue of Board policy around Covid-19 protocol. A petition was delivered by Shirley Gray on behalf of 83 signatories.
The Petition presented called for the Redwood Playhouse Board “to set a policy for attendance to indoor performance events.” Specifically; “masking, physical distancing, proof of vaccination, and/or proof of negative test within 48 hours.” And that these requirements “must also pertain to the performers, stage hands, and others involved with the Production.”
The petition went on to state: “When these requirements are in place, we can attend a performance knowing that we are entering a space made as safe as possible. Such a policy would show that the Redwood Playhouse Board is concerned for the physical health of the community and is fulfilling its vision of “fostering and supporting the performing arts.”
The partition was in response to the perception that a lengthy letter received by the board in August last year was responsible for the cancelation of the play ‘On Golden Pond.’
It was clarified by board members that that cancellation was actually in response to Humboldt County recommendations during the Delta variant surge that public events be postponed or canceled, postponement was not practical for the production team, so the show was canceled.
There was controversy generated by the August letter which expressed that “community members are gravely concerned about the vaccination requirement for attendance at the play” and concern that “Requiring proof of vaccination to enter your show is discrimination” and made the claim that it would be “unethical and illegal, and will only serve to further divide and segregate our community with no benefit to community health.” The letter signed by 19 community members went on to cite reasons for their concerns, and their “desire to live in a community that promotes empathy, kindness and inclusiveness. We support all peoples right to choose.”
While the board struggled with attempts to continue their sponsorship of that play, allowing measures the actors and crew of the production desired, it led to divisive public dialogs about science, medicine, politics, fairness, and discrimination. Cancellation became a solution, but it was recognized that the issue had been dodged, and failed to create a definitive policy.
Shirley Gray expressed to the board that the petition represented the voices of theatre patrons that had felt unheard and that the cancelation had been a disappointment to them. She was unaware that the letter of concern was not directly responsible, and it was acknowledged that this was an unfortunate misunderstanding, and community perception may not have been entirely accurate.
Marylyn Foote, a Redwood Playhouse community advisor and actor in the cancelled play attending in support of the petition added “In fairness, the letter did have something to do with it.”
Board member Peter Atherton said he was “Very encouraged by the community support represented by the petition, and that people are paying attention.”
Outgoing Board Treasurer Ed Clark expressed his anguish by noting that the political climate of the “last four years of crazy nonsense has normalized division” and he “just wants everyone to get along.”
Board member Charley Custer sought clarity to find “How to balance the desires of community and the playhouse as a community space.” And that “Rather than anguished discussion, we find a path of inclusion.”
Board Secretary Cynthany Windwalker agreed that “Our whole society has become divisive” and interjected that “As a part of the whole community we need a policy”
Discussion went on at length and a motion was advanced that the petition advocates present agreed in principle was satisfactory.
The board voted and passed this motion:
“Our public health policy is to adhere to County guidelines.
Tenants will follow at the minimum,
all applicable covid policies and restrictions.”
With this policy it is left to the discretion of leasing tenants of the playhouse to determine what public health guidelines are followed for their events, so long as they meet the minimum required by the county.
As of this date The county still requires masks and distancing for large indoor gatherings, and recommends postponement of indoor public events.
There was some concern by Dan Miller, President of the board, that this policy would continue to invite division and controversy, however the majority decision was seen as the best alternative to satisfy the requirement of community acceptance, allowing those who use the space to determine how that is done rather than impose restrictions or requirements beyond lease agreements, supporting the right of tenants to choose guidelines they are comfortable with.