Life has been anything but normal at Logan’s Eccles Theater this year, but banners are up on Main Street just like old times as the second installment of a special local performance series gets ready to launch.
The series, titled “Random Acts,” will feature eight shows throughout December, all involving local performers and all conducted under careful social distancing protocols intended to protect the audience from the novel coronavirus.
“Some of these artists would never otherwise be able to perform on the Ellen Eccles stage,” said Wendi Hassan, director of the Cache Center for the Arts, which operates the theater along with the adjoining Bullen Center and Thatcher-Young Mansion. “Because of the virus, many of the touring artists we had lined up have postponed their performances until the 2021-2022 season, but this has also opened up new possibilities.”
The summer Random Acts series — featuring a diverse lineup ranging from theater revues to mimes to an indie rock — expanded the center’s patron rolls by nearly 100, Hassan said, which indicates the center is connecting with a new audience.
The December shows are equally diverse. The series opens Dec. 2 with an evening of Christmas music by Cache Valley musicians and singers, followed on Dec. 4-5 with a local concert version of the Broadway musical Bright Star. Also on slate are the Cache Valley Good Times Marching Band (Dec. 11), the Logan High School theater troupe (Dec. 12), “A Cowboy Christmas” by the Major Family Ranch Hands Band (Dec. 14), the alternative rock band Mjolk (Dec. 17), “A 1940s Holiday” with the Benson Sisters (Dec 18), and “Our First Christmas” with singing duo Katie Fay Francis and Scott Fuss (Dec. 23).
Ticketing and show details are available at cachearts.org.
Hassan said the Cache Center for the Arts has taken a “huge financial hit” during the coronavirus pandemic, which forced cancellation of most shows since last March and most of the center’s many visual- and performing-arts classes.
“We got payroll protection (through a federal-state grant) at the beginning that helped us keep people and keep our community together, but as the shows went away, all of your hourly workers, the people who are the house managers, the security officers, the technicians, the artists who teach the art classes — there was nothing for them to do, so we lost a chunk of folk,” she said.
She said many of the arts classes — which include ceramics, dance and acting lessons, among other subjects — are now resuming, and she hopes the center can slowly build back up its overall program to give the community some safe activity and entertainment options.
“We have been very fortunate in Utah that we as an industry are considered a vital part the economic recovery. We have a pathway to proceed with caution so that we can have shows, so that we can put artists to work, so that we can build that confidence in safely gathering,” Hassan said.
“When you don’t have safe gatherings, you know we’ve all seen you have unsafe gatherings because people pop, so if we can find ways to have them safely, that’s what the state is trying to do. We’re really hoping people will follow the guidelines so we can keep doing that whole ‘stay safe, stay open’ thing.”
Safety precautions at the theater will include a mask requirement, entrance temperature checks, “no-touch ushering,” hand-sanitizer stations, elimination of paper programs and a distanced-seating schematic that allows only 30 percent the facility’s 1,100 capacity to be filled. An electro-static sprayer will also be used throughout the building before each show.
One group of traveling performers that hasn’t cancelled its 2020 Cache Valley stop is the Bar J Wranglers, scheduled for Dec. 19. Hassan said she hopes to bring in a couple of other traveling performers in the early part of next year, but booking acts has been an on-again, off-again proposition all year.
“We hope to add the bluegrass duo Ickes & Hensley and the antics of Popovich Comedy Pet Theatre in January and February, though those are still tentative,” she wrote in an email to The Herald Journal before doing a phone interview. “Collision of Rhythm is still planned for April 2021 as originally scheduled, just a couple days before our third attempt at Sons of the Pioneers, one year to the day from our original plan. (If we have to shift it two more times I’m going to buy every audience member a Take 5 candy bar — sheesh!)”