January 25, 2022

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Twin Cities theaters, concert venues welcome loosened restrictions, but doors won’t open right away – Twin Cities

Though Gov. Tim Walz announced the easing of coronavirus restrictions on entertainment venues and events, reopening will come slowly, with tour schedules and actor union rules still presenting roadblocks. But festival organizers and venue operators were optimistic Friday.

“It really feels that we are on a path to reopen for real, and we are all excited,” Chris Sagstetter, interim president of the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul, said Friday.  “We’re working with agents and artists that were postponed to get new dates.

“We’ve missed our seeing our Ordway family in our venues. Stay tuned.”

The loosening of capacity restrictions won’t change things in the short term for First Avenue and its venues. General manager Nate Kranz said that even after April 1, First Avenue’s capacity would be limited to 365 people and it’s not possible to maintain social distancing in the venue at that number. Kranz did say these were steps in the right direction and he’s hopeful for the future. First Avenue will continue to host some live in-person shows with a severely limited capacity. The venue has also started to put full-capacity concerts up for sale in September and beyond, with a Sept. 14 Dinosaur Jr. show at First Avenue and a Nov. 1 Purity Ring concert at the Palace Theatre now on sale.

Outdoor music festivals Twin Cities Jazz Festival and Lowertown Blues & Funk Fest are looking at changing up some dates. The jazz fest, which usually takes place in late June in St. Paul, is looking at possible September dates, according to a spokesperson.

And the Lowertown Blues & Funk Fest, which usually takes place outdoors in St. Paul in late July, is looking at monthly concerts in June, July, August and September outdoors at Duel Citizen Brewing Co. with capacity following state guidelines.

Twin Cities theaters called the loosening of restrictions good news, but still face challenges before setting firm dates to reopen.

Dale Stark, public relations manager for Hennepin Theatre Trust, said Friday: “We are encouraged by today’s news as it reinforces our existing plans of bringing shows back to Minneapolis.” Because HTT works with national promoters and tours to bring shows to the Orpheum, State and Pantages theaters, statewide guidelines throughout the country have an influence on when shows can be presented. “Locally, as restrictions are lessened, we’re able to move forward more confidently with plans to ensure the safety and wellness of our patrons.”

Twin Cities union theaters are bound by Actors’ Equity requirements, “and those still preclude us from doing any in-person work, due to the overall state COVID levels,” said Robin Gillette, managing director of the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis. “They require a local community rate of less than 5 per 100,000 population, and Hennepin County is currently sitting at about 15, I believe. So we’ll keep focusing on work we can do safely, and we’ll look forward to getting back in the theater as soon as we can.

“While I hope the relaxation on restrictions signals that we’re finally turning a corner, I don’t foresee immediate changes in what we’re doing at the Jungle,” Gillette said on Friday.

The History Theatre’s artistic director Ron Peluso said the governor’s message was good news. “If all goes well, we’d love to open in the fall. Of course, all our plans are tentative – and I’m sure that we’ll all learn a lot more in the coming weeks.”

Elizabeth Deacon, associate director of marketing at the Guthrie Theater, called Walz’s announcement exciting news for the Guthrie and all Minnesotans. “Our planning toward reopening continues and includes numerous factors such as timelines for rebuilding our staff; the runway required to design, build, cast and rehearse productions; and finalizing protocols to help ensure the health and safety of our staff, artists and patrons. We are optimistic for the future and look forward to sharing our next steps as soon as we’re able.”

On the festivals front, Cinco de Mayo – West Side St. Paul has already made plans to present its events virtually, as it did in 2020, but will discuss the governor’s changes.

A spokesperson said Friday that as of a couple of weeks ago, IndiaFest was planning for the annual event to take place Aug. 14 on the grounds of the Capitol.

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