After a year of stage-less plays and empty auditoriums, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis has announced its return to in-person performing.
As described in a press release, Mlima’s Tale is “the story of a majestic and powerful African elephant murdered for his tusks. From beyond the veil of death, Mlima’s spirit follows the path of his tusks on a captivating and haunting journey through the dark world of the international ivory trade.” The play comes from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage.
After an odd year, the Rep’s return to in-person theater comes with a safety plan approved by the St. Louis County Health Department. Mlima’s Tale will show at COCA’s Berges Theatre, a first-time venue for the Rep, and seating will be limited to 30 percent of capacity. Guests will sit in pairs according to household with at least six feet between them and other pairs. Audience members are required to wear a mask at all times, indoors or out. Performers won’t be required to wear masks onstage, though they’ll don them everywhere else and will be extensively tested for COVID-19 during the weeks of rehearsal.
“We have been working tirelessly behind the scenes with our various partners to safely bring the magic of live theatre back to the stage and cannot wait to welcome everyone home,” Hana S. Sharif, Augustin Family Artistic Director at the Rep, says.
That tireless work, naturally, involves the implementation of a lot of COVID safety measures. The Rep has released what it calls a comprehensive, County-approved plan to keep actors, staff and attendees safe, developed with help from Dr. Stephen Liang and Dr. Joseph Cherabie of Washington University Medical School’s Infectious Disease department. Capacity will be reduced to just 30 percent, with at least six feet of empty seats between groups. Masks will be required for all guests, and temperature checks will be conducted on everyone that steps foot in the building. (For more on the Rep's COVID safety measures, visit repstl.org/visit/covid-faqs.)
“We have learned as an organization how to be more adaptive, nimble and innovative than ever before,” Sharif says. “We are so grateful for our Rep family that stood by and supported us during the pandemic and encouraged our safe return to live theater.”
The last time the Rep presented an in-person performance was in March of 2020, showing only a few presentations of The Cake. Since then, the Rep has been in perpetual discussion with St. Louis government as well as five labor unions to bring in-person theater back, safely, to the public.
As the 2020-2021 season concludes, and plans for the 2021-2022 season near an end, the Rep promises to be vigilant in making ongoing changes, creeping back to normal as the situation allows.
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