Council of Regents decision on mask puts Hancher at odds with stakeholder fairness security protocols

Following the cancellation of two performances due to COVID-19 concerns, Hancher Executive Director Chuck Swanson shares his plans to mitigate future cancellations while ensuring the safety of cast, crew and public.


The Hancher Auditorium canceled one of their performances last week because the theater, operating under the University of Iowa’s COVID-19 guidelines, was unable to meet the guidelines of the Actors’ Equity Association requiring artists to perform in places requiring a mask.

Hancher Executive Director Chuck Swanson announced on September 23 that performances by the Boston Pops Orchestra and comedian Bill Irwin were canceled due to concerns related to COVID-19.

The Boston Pops Orchestra has canceled its entire Midwest tour due to general concerns over COVID-19. Bill Irwin’s performance, scheduled for Nov. 5, was canceled because the Actors’ Equity Association – a union that represents more than 50,000 actors, managers and crew members in the United States – demands that companies that do not require proof of vaccination must require spectators to wear masks in the performance space at all times.

“We cannot meet the requirements for Actor’s Equity, so the performance has also been canceled,” Swanson said in a video message to the community.

Hancher returned $ 151,017 in reimbursement for Boston Pops and $ 8,342 in full reimbursement for the Bill Irwin show.

“We got the word and then unfortunately had to share the disappointing news with our audience which is difficult,” Swanson said. “We don’t want to disappoint our audience. We’re here to bring people together, but we must follow [the Board of Regents’] advice.”

According to state board of regents guidelines released May 20, “masks may not be required on campuses of public universities in Iowa, except at transportation, research, or health care facilities on. campuses ”.

While Hancher is working on a self-sustaining model, the company still receives university funding and is classified as a university building under the jurisdiction of the regents.

Actors ‘Equity represents individuals, so negotiations for cast and crew are on a case-by-case basis, making it difficult for Hancher to predict which upcoming shows might be affected by regents’ politics, said Swanson.

It is difficult to predict which terms may be negotiable, he added, as the COVID-19 performance conditions are also fairly new for groups like Actors’ Equity.

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Swanson said, for now he knows the next one Waitress The tour, which has currently generated $ 168,618 in gross sales, will not require members of the public to wear masks. The tour has several behind-the-scenes security requirements, however, which Swanson says can be met.

“I am very optimistic that we will not have to [cancel Waitress], “he said.” There is also, as we all know, uncertainty. I do not know what will happen in a month or two months, with the sciences. I hope we have a successful season. So you know I can’t promise but I’m really optimistic.

Waitress toured with the same production company as another highly anticipated musical, The group’s visit. Swanson said if all goes well with Waitress, The group’s visit will also remain on the program.

Swanson said that to ensure touring operations are run safely, Hancher hires students from the IU College of Public Health to work as infection mitigation coordinators. Swanson said Hancher plans to have students administer COVID-19 tests during the Waitress’ period of racing at the theater.

“It was an opportunity that we had to face and neither of us are excited about, but at the same time, it presents a learning opportunity,” Swanson said. “Hancher’s point of view is that we find ways to connect with students and give students opportunities to learn and really experience real life situations.”

Hancher is also working with UI Legal Services to ensure that all COVID-19 performance conditions are met without breaking the rules set by the regents.

While balancing advice from the Regents and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can be complicated, Swanson said, between help from the College of Public Health, advice from the UI Legal Services and the work of the staff. de Hancher, he feels optimistic about Hancher’s ability to continue welcoming artists.

“I’m trying to be as positive and optimistic as possible in the face of all of this uncertainty,” he said. “I think that’s the problem with this big, big world, it’s uncertain. Every day is new. But, I’m really proud of the fact that we involve students from our university to really help us, and in return, they are learning. It’s good for all of us. I am looking forward to this season.

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