From ‘King Lear’ to ‘Godspell,’ three Utah theater productions are taking COVID-19 precautions

(Photo courtesy of Renaissance Now Theatre & Film) A production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," by the troupe Renaissance Now Theatre & Film, at the Rock Canyon Trailhead Amphitheatre in Provo. The troupe is alternating between that comedy and "King Lear," from July 17 to 25.

With Broadway and many of Utah’s live theater companies going dark because of the coronavirus outbreak, some troupes are experimenting with different ways of letting the show go on.

Something they all have in common: The audiences will be small, spaced well apart, and wearing masks.

Here are three stage productions happening now or in the works:

(Photo courtesy of Renaissance Now Theatre & Film) Actors for "King Lear," a production by the troupe Renaissance Now Theatre & Film. The troupe will alternate between that Shakespearean tragedy and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Rock Canyon Trailhead Amphitheater in Provo from July 17 to 25, 2020.

Renaissance Now Theatre & Film, a troupe founded by New York theater director Kathy Curtiss, is staging two of William Shakespeare’s better-known titles — the comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and the royal tragedy “King Lear” — four times each over the next week, outdoors at the Rock Canyon Trailhead Amphitheater in Provo.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” directed by Matthew Herrick, will be staged July 17, 20, 22 and 24. The Curtiss-directed “King Lear” will hit the stage on July 18, 21, 23 and 25. All performances begin at 7:30 p.m.

Seating for “Midsummer” starts at 7:15 p.m. Herrick will lead a post-show talk-back, “Love & Identity,” after the July 20 performance of “Midsummer.” Seating for “Lear” begins at 6:45 p.m., to accommodate a pre-show talk-back that starts before each performance of that play at 7 p.m.

Attendance is limited to 40 people per show, and reservations are required. So are face masks, and seating will be arranged for social distancing.

Admission is a suggested donation of $15, or $10 for students and seniors; reservations and donations can be made through the company’s website, renaissancenow.com. The amphitheater is at 1502 E. 2300 North, Provo.

(Photo courtesy of Wasatch Theatre Company) Actors Davis Underwood, Katelyn Johnson and Pauline Mendes, from left, rehearse outdoors and socially distanced for The Box's production of "Godspell," to be performed on an outdoor patio at The Gateway in Salt Lake City, July 29 to Aug. 2. Mendes' dog, Suzie, listens in.

The Box, a performing arts space in The Gateway shopping center, is planning an outdoor, socially distanced performance of Stephen Schwartz’s musical “Godspell,” to run for five nights, July 29 through Aug. 2.

“Godspell” was Schwartz’s first musical, and it imagined circus performers enacting the Gospel of Matthew, from John the Baptist declaring the coming of a new messiah to Jesus’ crucifixion. Its best-known songs are “Prepare Ye” and “Day by Day.” Schwartz went on to write the scores and songs for such musicals as “Pippin” and “Wicked”; he also wrote lyrics for Disney’s “Pocahontas,” “Enchanted” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

The movie version, released in 1973, starred Victor Garber (“Alias,” “Titanic”) as Jesus, in a huge afro and with a “Superman”-like “S” on his shirt. Garber was in the cast of the musical’s 1972 Toronto production, sharing the stage with stars-to-be Gilda Radner, Martin Short, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Dave Thomas and Paul Shaffer.

The show will be performed concert-style on the upstairs patio at The Gateway, adjacent to the Discovery Gateway children’s museum. Each performer will have their own microphone, and will be spaced apart. The cast is rehearsing outdoors, where the chance of spreading the coronavirus is lessened, and each cast member has their temperature checked at the start of each rehearsal.

Tickets will be limited to 50 per show, so audience members can maintain 6 feet of space from one another. Audience members must wear masks, and masks will be provided for those who don’t have one. Hand sanitizer wipes also will be provided. Patrons will be admitted in a staggered manner, to prevent overcrowding.

Each show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20, available at theboxgateway.org. Proceeds are going to The Box’s efforts to foster cross-genre art experiences by providing space for community members and organizations. The Box is located at 124 S. 400 West, in The Gateway.

(Photo courtesy of SONDERimmersive) Actors rehearse a scene from "The Carousel," a new production by the experimental theater group SONDERimmersive. It debuts at Dreamscapes, in The Gateway shopping complex, on Monday, July 27.

• Also at The Gateway, the experimental theater troupe SONDERimmersive and the art installation Dreamscapes are joining forces for “The Carousel” — an “immersive theater experience.”

SONDERimmersive originally scheduled the production for Mondays and Tuesdays, from July 27 to Aug. 11. However, “due to the ever-increasing spike in COVID cases in Utah,” the company has opted to delay the opening to Oct. 26.

People who attend will walk through the many art-filled rooms of Dreamscapes, in groups of three or fewer. Groups will be spaced five minutes apart, each time going through the route twice — accompanied in each lap by one of 10 characters, intersecting with the other nine.

The characters are The Dragon, The Bereaved, The Lost, The Architect, The Pathfinder, The Janus, The Jester, The Rave, The End and Brandi.

Audience members will be given face shields and a cloak-like covering to wear as they walk through the installation. The actors will be masked and socially distanced from the audience members. There will never be more than nine people in one room at any time.

“The Carousel” is SONDERimmersive’s follow-up to “Through Yonder Window,” their adaptation of “Romeo & Juliet” staged in The Gateway’s parking garage, with audience members staying in their cars and the cast all wearing face masks.

Tickets for “The Carousel” are $35 each, available through sonderimmersive.com. People can also buy out the full show, for between 10 and 30 people with a post-show reception, for $1,000. Dreamscapes is at 110 S. Rio Grande St. in The Gateway.

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