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Hale Centre Theatre temporarily suspends ‘Mary Poppins’ after 2 crew members test positive for COVID-19

The theater announced the decision in a Facebook post Thursday afternoon

People wait for the start of Elton John and Tim Rice’s “Aida” on opening night of the new Hale Centre Theatre in Sandy on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. The theater has temporarily closed its doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.
People wait for the start of Elton John and Tim Rice’s “Aida” on opening night of the new Hale Centre Theatre in Sandy on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. The theater has temporarily suspended its production of “Mary Poppins” as two members of the cast tested positive for COVID-19.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Hale Centre Theatre has temporarily suspended its production of “Mary Poppins” after two crew members tested positive for COVID-19, the theater announced in a Facebook post Thursday afternoon.

Prior to Thursday’s announcement, one actor tested positive for COVID-19 on July 8. Working closely with the state and county health departments, the theater continued with “Mary Poppins,” having a double fill in for the sick actor.

A few days later, the theater canceled three consecutive productions scheduled for July 13, 14 and 15, saying on Facebook that one of the actors was out of town and the double was taking care of a sick family member.

“The production was halted on Monday, July 13, for a reason unrelated to COVID-19,” the theater wrote. “We have since learned of the two symptomatic company members and have taken appropriate action. Contact tracing for all individuals potentially exposed has occurred as per our safety plan and in close consultation with the Salt Lake County Health Department.”

As of now, “Mary Poppins” is scheduled to return July 28.

Performances of “Bright Star” — the Steve Martin/Edie Brickell musical that reopened on June 26 — remain “unaffected and will continue,” according to the theater’s Facebook post.

“We appreciate your patience while we try to bring happiness to families and keep artisans employed in an unprecedented time,” the theater posted. “We are working continuously with the state and county to do so as safely as possible.”

Earlier this week, Hale Centre Theatre confirmed with the Deseret News that an actor in “Mary Poppins” had tested positive for COVID-19 on July 8 — a week after the Sandy theater opened the production.

That actor had last been in the building on July 2, and began experiencing symptoms on July 6, the Deseret News reported. The cast member believed they contracted COVID-19 from a family member who tested positive on July 7.

At that time, discussions with the Salt Lake County Health Department determined that “no contact tracing was necessary,” according to Mark Dietlein, the theater’s president and CEO.

“There has not been any impact on the theatre or anyone working there,” Dietlein wrote in an email to the Deseret News earlier this week. “The actor has been at home recovering with ‘mild flu-like symptoms.’”

Meanwhile, Hale Center Theater Orem, which reopened mid-June, recently posted on Facebook that it has delayed its production of “Little Women” because a cast member — and potentially that actor’s partner, who is also in the cast — contracted COVID-19. The theater was informed on July 10 of the COVID-19 cases.

Hale Center Theater Orem said in an email to the Deseret News that it hopes to have test results before the weekend. The theater will resume its production of “Little Women” when it can confirm “cast members are comfortable and healthy,” according to the email sent Tuesday.

As Hale Centre Theatre continues forward with its production of “Bright Star,” safety measures that meet state guidelines for the low-risk yellow phase remain in place.

While the performers don’t wear masks, the theater has made adjustments to ensure appropriate distancing between the actors and audience. Physical distancing is also enforced in front of restrooms, concessions and other locations where lines typically form.

Patrons, however, are required to wear masks from the time they enter the building through the time that they leave — a stipulation that allows the theater to currently seat at full capacity, Dietlein previously told the Deseret News. With reserved seating in place, a theatergoer is able to be notified if a patron who sat nearby contracted COVID-19.

According to the most updated state guidelines — which the Salt Lake County Health Department confirmed with the Deseret News — indoor venues like the Hale Centre Theatre that are in the low-risk yellow phase and don’t exceed 3,000 seats can fill every seat as long as wearing a mask and reserved seating is enforced.

In an earlier interview with the Deseret News, Dietlein reiterated that patrons who are part of a high-risk population, or feeling compromised or sick, should not come to the theater.

“We just have to stress the fact that there is individual responsibility on the part of everybody who’s hoping and does attend, that they do so with full knowledge of their health and their willingness to comply with all of the health regulations — especially the wearing of the mask,” Dietlein previously told the Deseret News. “That’s extremely important to us. And if they’re not willing to adhere to that, then they need to wait.”

For additional safety measures, visit the Hale Centre Theatre’s website at hct.org.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that two actors tested positive for COVID-19. Two crew members recently tested positive for COVID-19, while one actor tested positive on July 8.