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When Days Become Weeks Become Months–And All The Moments In Between

As The Muny gets ready to welcome you back to live performances, we are excited to share some insights from Artistic Director & Executive Producer Mike Isaacson and Managing Director Kwofe Coleman about all that’s happened since the last time we saw you in person.

“That’s easy; opening the gates!” President & CEO Denny Reagan’s response to “What are you most looking forward to this summer?” during last month’s Muny Partner Preview. Denny’s five-word response speaks for the entire Muny team. Getting the James S. McDonnell Stage open and ready for your safe return is our first priority.

Would you believe when the booms slide open on July 26 it will have been…

…714 days since there was live musical theatre in Forest Park;
…414 days since officially postponing our 2020 in-person season;
…225 days since first announcing our 2021 season plans;
…69 days since confirming our return this year;
…54 days since celebrating the reality of full-capacity in theatre; and just
…31 days since all of our full-time staff returned to working in Forest Park?

As you can see, we are literally counting the days until we can open the gates and see you again. Getting to this point has been a case study in patience and flexibility.

“While it might be interesting to see the actual number, I’m pretty glad I haven’t kept a running total of every decision, every pivot, every question and every uncertainty we’ve considered since first hearing the words COVID-19,” says Kwofe Coleman.

He adds that from the very beginning every decision has been made by answering one question: “Is this choice the safest, best thing for the people who come here and for the people who work here?”

After nearly two years, Mike, Denny and Kwofe are counting the days until the gates open.
Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Community Collaboration

Conversations that started in early 2020 as “Will we have to send everyone home for a couple weeks?” grew into a COVID Team that includes Muny staff from across our operation, a COVID compliance officer and two local medical doctors who are also infectious disease specialists. This group has been meeting regularly since March 2020 and at least weekly since January 2021.

In addition, they have been in frequent, sometimes daily, conversation with the mayor’s office, the health department, the labor unions represented on our campus and our partners at the Blues, the Cardinals, the Fabulous Fox and other area venues.

“We’re all trying to do what we can to serve this incredible community,” Kwofe says. “We’ve been freely sharing best practices, tools and other resources to stay ahead of the information curve—this has truly been a collective effort. I am grateful for the partnerships we have forged, and strengthened, across the city.”

After 16 months of challenging conversations, the Muny’s COVID Compliance Team is able to share smiles as protocols for returning full-time staff to the administrative offices and getting production areas fully operational are finalized.

Getting Everyone to the Stage

In addition to protocols and logistics, you likely won’t be surprised to learn Mike Isaacson and the production team also have been in constant communication with cast members and creative teams across the country.

“From the beginning, we have tried to be very honest about every potential scenario and how each option could impact an individual,” Mike says. “We ran out of tabs on the spreadsheets for what we were calling ‘the plan’ because we had so many scenarios. Everyone who works with us has been extraordinary with their patience and has given their best to help us figure out how to make this work.”

Mike adds now that they are confirming jobs and locking in logistics, the response has been nothing short of magical: “Every single phone call and Zoom meeting is filled with such joy. They CAN.NOT.WAIT. to come to The Muny. It is going to be thrilling; the energy will be flying off the stage.”

He shares that finding that joy and getting back on stage is critical for far more than you may have imagined.

“For the performing arts community, for our entire Muny family, this has been a reallytough 16 months. They simply haven’t been able to do what they do, which also for many means, they weren’t able to be who they are. It’s very much like that lyric from A Chorus Line, ‘God I’m a dancer, a dancer dances!’ Also, theatre people—particularly musical theatre people—thrive on community and the life of being together.”

Mike and Kwofe—and the entire Muny team—agree that the limits of the past 16 months are an important reminder of the incredible power of this shared experience under the stars. We CAN.NOT.WAIT. to see you in just a few short days.

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