Local shows adjust to clear masks to stage live shows

Youth Arts Ambassadors performers are wearing clear masks while performing in this weekend's production of "Les Miserables" at the John Legend Theater. Photo by Brett Turner
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Youth Arts Ambassadors performers are wearing clear masks while performing in this weekend's production of "Les Miserables" at the John Legend Theater. Photo by Brett Turner

Casts able to keep with safety requirements while still allowing the audience to see their expressions.

Those attending live theater performances at the John Legend Theater beginning this weekend and the following two weekends will notice something different about the performers. It isn’t their makeup or costumes, but a special clear mask to encourage safety.

The masks will be used by the casts in the Friday and Saturday Youth Arts Ambassadors performances of “Les Miserables,” next weekend’s “All Together Now! A Global Event Celebrating Local Theatre” and the following weekend’s Springfield High School show.

Those in charge of the shows are in favor of promoting such safety measures in accordance with building rules and guidelines if that means they can perform. Springfield City School District, which operates the Legend Theater, has a policy requiring those entering its buildings to wear masks, including audience members as a safety measure.

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Terry McGonigle, operation manager of the Legend Theater and director for “All Together Now!” was upfront with his cast about the use of masks during casting.

“Once you get used to them, they aren’t very obtrusive. I’ve seen amateurs and professionals wearing them. It depends on the rules,” he said.

An advantage of the masks being clear is the audience can see the performers’ facial expressions. They have small vents in the front.

“I get the reason and I appreciate that it’s clear so you can see our faces,” said “All Together Now!” cast member Karen Staffiera. “Safety is a priority.”

The mostly teen cast of “Les Miserables” is making the adjustment with ease. They used recent rehearsals to get used to them.

Natalie Berry, one of the leads, said the clear masks are more comfortable than cloth ones and not hindering her in any way.

Springfield Arts Council education director Krissy Brown said COVID has made it a challenge and sometimes frustrating for everyone, but getting the clear mask suggestion from Springfield High drama teacher Jeff Horst helped and even added value in one way.

“We are making it work and I am thrilled that we have been able to do what feels normal again,” she said. “(The masks) have been fabulous. They are almost invisible to the audience so we can still see all of the facial expressions, and we have actually found them to be helpful for microphones because they keep all of the sound in one focused spot rather than picking up sound from all around.”

“Les Miserables” will be presented at 7 p.m. today and Saturday. “All Together Now!” will be 7 p.m. Nov. 12 and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Nov. 13, and Springfield High’s “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind!” will be 7 p.m. Nov. 18-20.

Tickets can be purchased from the Legend Theater box office or online at the Legend Theater website.

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