Performance center uses creativity to overcome COVID


EFFINGHAM, Ill. (WCIA) — The Effingham Performance Center attracts local, regional and national performers, but was shutdown in March – like everything else – because of COVID-19.

Now, thanks to some creativity, and by closely following local, state and national health guidelines, it’s been able to reopen.

“The last regular show we had here was REO Speedwagon,” explained Kim Jansen, the executive director of the EPC. “It was on March 10. It was right before the lockdown for COVID.”

That’s when some 1,500 people packed the auditorium.

Days later, the pandemic hit and shutdown the EPC.

“We’ve been pretty creative over the last few months,” Jansen said.

That meant welcoming a different audience to the EPC.

“We started in the parking lot under the stars,” said Jansen. “We had three movies out there. We provided fan pods for our guests.”

Fast forward to Aug. 1 and the doors reopened.

“We had a Scott Waddles show here on August 1, which is a regional performer, and then last weekend we had Austin Edwards, who was on America’s Got Talent,” Jansen said.

It’s part of a social distancing series.

“What we have done is our auditorium usually hold 1,518 people and we really went through and blocked out seats so that our social distancing seats just have 400 people,” Jansen explained.

People who attend the show together are seated together, but away from others.

“What the fan pods are, is we have fan pods of one, two, three, four and five,” explained Jansen. “So, you and your friends would book a fan pod together and you would socially distance together and your pod would have two seats empty to the left and two seats empty to the right and then a row in front of you empty and a row behind you empty.”

But that’s not the only thing that’s different about performance night.

“The first thing that happens is we make sure you have a mask on,” said Jansen. “You have to have your mask on, you have to have it properly covering your nose and your mouth. They take your temperature. Once you pass those two stations, you’ll have your ticket scanned.”

Intermission has been eliminated and when the show ends, you can’t simply get up and leave.

“We know how people love to get up and hurry out to their car,” Jansen said. “Well, everybody actually has to stay seated and at the end of the night I get up onto the stage and dismiss row by row.”

Jansen says they expect the social distancing series to run through the end of the year.

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