A small Utah theater company shuts down after six COVID-19 cases among cast and crew

(Photo courtesy of Hopebox Theatre) The Hopebox Theatre in Kaysville has shut down the rest of its 2020 season, after six members of the cast and crew of its upcoming production of "The Sound of Music" tested positive for COVID-19.

A cluster of COVID-19 cases has forced a Kaysville theater company to shut down its productions through the end of the year.

The Hopebox Theatre in Kaysville — a small, largely volunteer theater company whose mission is to provide entertainment and hope for cancer patients — made the decision to shut down just before the July Fourth holiday, said Ryan Bruckman, the company’s marketing director.

The company was in rehearsals for its next production, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music,” when they learned some members of the cast and crew had tested positive for COVID-19. In all, Bruckman said, six people with the production tested positive.

“We couldn’t maintain a safe environment,” Bruckman said. The company’s board decided to not only shut down “The Sound of Music,” which was set to run from Aug. 28 to Sept. 19, but the productions of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” in October and “She Loves Me” in December.

A spokesman for the Davis County Health Department said the Hopebox was “proactive” by stopping production.

Among the concerns was that “The Sound of Music’s” director, and the company’s founder, Jan Williams is a four-time cancer survivor — giving her a higher risk of a more severe illness if she caught the virus. Though the board discussed Williams’ health in their deliberations, Bruckman said, “she’s not one to make this about herself.”

More important, Bruckman said, is Hopebox’s mission of “bringing hope to families battling cancer through the performing arts,” quoting its mission statement.

The company provides a block of its tickets to people with cancer and their families. “We asked ourselves, ‘Do we want to do that to them [now]?’” Bruckman said.

Hopebox’s 130-seat theater in Kaysville has been dark since the company produced “Guys and Dolls” in February — before the coronavirus pandemic disrupted lives across the country. The company had begun work on a spring production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” when the shutdown began.

That production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” is getting a second chance, Bruckman said, in an outdoor production at the Syracuse Arts Academy’s amphitheater.

The amphitheater can seat 800, but the company is selling a maximum of 250 tickets. Empty rows and buffer seats will separate family groups. Theatergoers are strongly encouraged to wear face masks and maintain social distancing.

The production had its previews this week, and was scheduled to premiere Friday. Performances are set on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays through July 25. All performances start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 for most shows, and $17 for the closing-night show on July 25. Tickets are available at hopeboxtheatre.com.

The Hopebox also has a GoFundMe campaign running, to help keep the company afloat while its closed.