JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) – A week after reopening to the public, Jonesborough Repertory Theatre is putting a halt on production after at least three people associated with the theatre tested positive for COVID-19.
The theatre announced on Facebook Tuesday that three people involved with its latest production, “Dearly Departed,” tested positive for COVID-19. The theatre said in the announcement that the weekend’s showings of the play would be on hold.
In the post, JRT leadership states that they believe the cases were isolated and came from outside sources, but others in the theatre community say that more people involved with the production have tested positive.
A member of the “Dearly Departed” production, who spoke on the condition of anonymimty, told News Channel 11 that they know of at least 10 members of the cast and crew that have received a positive COVID-19 test result this week.
The member said they tested positive this week after hearing about three colleagues who tested positive.
They continued that they and others on the production didn’t feel comfortable beginning production of the show several weeks ago, but that they “didn’t have much of a say.”
“I would just like to see them postpone show until it’s acutally safe to do so,” they said. “(JRT leaders) canceled Shrek back in march halfway through the production, so I don’t understand why they’re resuming shows now when it’s less safe now than it was then.”
News of the first case among the JRT cast and crew reached the production member a week before “Dearly Departed” was scheduled to open to the public. They heard about the second case two days before opening night, and news of the third case reached them on September 3, the first showing of the play.
The production member said they think audience members who saw “Dearly Departed” over the weekend should receive a COVID-19 test.
“If members of the cast and crew are testing positive, there’s absolutely no doubt that a member of the audience could have contracted a case,” the production member said.
Kelly Wolfe, the president of JRT’s Board of Directors, said on Friday that he was only aware of three COVID-19 cases among cast and crew of the production. He said that JRT officials took precautions guided by recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before opening operations to the public.
“We have tried to do a very good job with safety, tried to continue our mission in the community during this tough time,” Wolfe said. “Just like sports teams and colleges and pretty much any other activity that you’ve got going on nowadays there are all kinds of variables you can’t predict.”
News Channel 11 reached out to multiple other members of JRT’s leadership for comment, but did not receive a direct response by Friday evening.
Jonesborough Town Administrator Glen Rosenoff said Friday afternoon that he is aware of more positive cases than the original three announced by the town, but couldn’t confirm how many cast and crew members tested positive.
Rosenoff confirmed that JRT staff members took appropriate precautions as they reopened to the public last week, adding that officials with the Northeast Tennessee Regional Health Office appeared satisfied with planned operations.
The anonymous production member said that staff had temperature checks before entering the buildings for rehearsals, and that guests are required to wear masks in the building. They said most actors don’t wear masks on stage, but some opt to wear face shields during productions.
Rosenoff said JRT and town officials opted to postpone JRT shows until December and postpone classes scheduled to begin next week.
He said the health department is handling contact tracing from the positive COVID-19 cases, and that the town of Jonesborough takes COVID-19 into consideration with every step.
“As far as we know currently, the town is not aware of any audience members testing positive or exhibiting symptoms this week,” Rosenoff said.
“Even with all these protocols and minimizing the risk, COVID-19 is a variable in almost anything to do with the public.”
The Jonesborough Repertory Theatre has stated in a Facebook post that several people associated with a play over the weekend have tested positive for COVID-19.
The Facebook post states that three people associated with the play “Dearly Departed” tested positive for the virus.
The theatre wrote that they believe the cases were from outside sources and not spread internally.
In a comment on the post, Jonesborough Repertory Theatre said “There was NO exposure during a performance. Once those associated with our theatre discovered they might have come in contact with the virus, they distanced themselves from the theatre.”
Due to the positive cases reported, the theatre said they will not hold shows this coming weekend.
If you have purchased tickets for this weekend, the Threatre says their box office manager will contact you.