A second performances of the New Albany Ballet production of “The Nutcracker,” scheduled for last Saturday night, was cancelled due to a COVID-19 infection, which quarantined much of the cast.
Director Justine Stewart said they had gone back and forth in deciding whether to have the ballet performance in the first place.
“We did think a lot about not doing it,” she said prior to the performances. “We lost so much revenue and the kids were so disappointed about not being able to do our May show, I thought that if we could give the kids a December show we could return to some sense of normality.”
“That’s the biggest thing and I think that most people are ready to get out and do something even if they have to social distance,” she continued in an interview with NEMiss.News prior to the first performance. “And it feels like Christmas is a good time to do that because it’s the holidays and we need something to feel good about because this year’s been so frustrating.”
COVID precautions were taken with the size of the audience being greatly reduced, skipping rows between seating and having empty seats between families. Masks were required.
The virus still hit the production the week before the performance as guest artists slated to dance were quarantined in Alabama. That meant finding replacements at the least minute with very little rehearsal time.
Then, the afternoon before performance day Gov. Tate Reeves cut the seating limit for such events in half.
That meant that Stewart would have to arbitrarily tell half the people who had already bought tickets they could not attend. After consulting with management it was decided to try to go ahead since the event was already committed and happening almost immediately.
The first night’s production went smoothly. Then things went off the rails as Stewart relates what happened.
“One of the backstage parent volunteers, who wore a mask the entire time but had close contact with around six people backstage, was diagnosed with COVID Saturday morning,” she said. “Two of my Senior Company girls had been exposed to her directly at her home as well, and those girls had been exposed to all my older dancers. They were not showing any symptoms during rehearsals or Friday night’s show, though.”
“There were no good solutions and I didn’t arbitrarily cancel,” she said. “The doctor that diagnosed the parent called me and explained his interpretation of quarantine protocol, which, instead of taking out only the few girls she exposed, would basically take out the majority of the cast.”
Although the performance had to be canceled due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, she said they were able to film Friday night and a digital ticket be made available for Saturday ticket holders.
“This whole experience has been the pits,” she said.
“I have COVID now. I do feel lucky we were able to get one performance in before we shut down.” I’m just hoping for good health and a normal performance season in 2021.”ballet, COVID-19, New Albany, Northeast Mississippi, quarantine, The Nutcracker, Union County