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Eau Claire Children’s Theatre paves the way for performing during a pandemic

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EAU CLAIRE (WQOW) - At the Eau Claire Children's Theatre passion and love for the community are the driving forces keeping performers motivated to put on shows during a global pandemic.

"Well, it's interesting to see what you can do what you can't do," the theatre's Executive Director Wayne Marak said.

For Marak, a show with actors wearing face masks and staying six feet apart was never in the playbook. But now it is the new norm as the theatre works to keep everyone safe.

"What about musicals with orchestras?" Marak pondered.

The team at the theatre began planning for their return to The Oxford before they even knew when they would be able to come back.

"Those kinds of plans were put in place where we were able to have rehearsals with a very small cast and then plan for how that would be presented on stage," Marak said.

The show, of course, must go on.

So to do this they are taking precautions Marak said are probably pretty normal in other public spaces. Like taking temperatures at the door, offering masks and reminding audience members to socially distance with seat dividers.

A Disney-themed seat divider at the Eau Claire Children's Theatre.

They even created a portable sink for handwashing to minimize the number of people in the restroom.

"It should feel like a pretty safe, comfortable experience for everybody involved," Marak said.

When it comes to the performers, Marak said they have changed blocking on stage, removed scenes that require contact and costume designers create custom masks for every show.

There are even live stream options for shows that allow for those rights to be obtained.

"Live streaming is the ability to purchase a passcode to watch the live stream. It's actually the live show that was going on so you're watching it in real-time. Some options for those people who would rather stay at home or are out state and would never get here. So it kind of opens up your audience," Marak explained.

The safety techniques implemented at The Oxford are even setting examples for other theatres.

"We've had many inquires about the masks that we made for Disenchanted," Marak said.

"'Where do you find them? Did they work? Just -- how did it all work?' Because that could be something that other groups can look at in order to present something. I think theatre people, in general, tend to be creative problem-solvers so there might be some great solutions that come out of the theatre world as they look at some of the problems that are being presented."

The Eau Claire Children's Theatre is still holding opening auditions this summer for their shows. If you would like more information you can visit their website at ecct.org.

Stephanie Rodriguez

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