The weekend of Oct. 9 not only provided a glimmer of hope that we might be opening back up when it comes to entertainment events in the area, it gave us a look at what things might look like, at least for the foreseeable future.
In case you missed it, on Oct. 2 Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke made it possible for venues such as the Tivoli Theatre to reopen under certain guidelines and restrictions, and that weekend the historic venue presented three movies in the Bobby Stone Film Series.
That same weekend, The Signal presented honky-tonk artist Whitey Morgan, and up the road a bit, The Caverns in Pelham, Tennessee, hosted Grammy Award winner Jason Isbell for four nights in a new amphitheater owner Todd Mayo created to complement the beautiful cave venue there.
The Caverns show was a one-off for the year, but we can expect more shows there this spring, summer and next fall, says Mayo.
It was just coincidence that all three had shows that weekend, but the similarities between them were telling. I spoke with people in charge at all three and they all said essentially the same things when it came to how the events would be presented.
Everything is about safety — real and perceived — and make no mistake, perception is very important. Allison Ciccarelli, the new venue manager at The Signal, said what everyone else in the entertainment industry has been telling me for the last several months: Artists and patrons will begin coming back to live events "when they feel safe."
For many, that will be when and if a trustworthy vaccine becomes available, but for others, it means when they can attend an event and feel comfortable in the knowledge that everyone around them is of a like mind when it comes to following the guidelines that have been put into place.
At the Tivoli, The Signal and The Caverns, temperatures were taken at the entrances, and everyone sat in pods or sectioned-off areas marked off by tape or paint and designed for just a few people. The seating capacities of the venues were reduced by at least 80%, masks were required except when seated in your area and eating or drinking, and pathways were marked to control traffic flow.
For the foreseeable future, the Tivoli will be offering just the film series, as well as photo sessions that allow people to essentially rent the theater and lobby space to take photos for whatever occasion one might think of, such as holiday or family portraits. The sessions come with a list of extras such as movie tickets and concessions vouchers.
Any event besides a movie or photo session currently on the Tivoli's and its sister venues' schedules (Walker Theatre and Memorial Auditorium) is simply yet to be rescheduled.
The Signal does have some live music shows scheduled for this month, including 10,000 Days: A Tribute to Tool on Nov. 14. When we last spoke, Ciccarelli said she will be scheduling more as they become available.
Perhaps the most important thing I heard from each of the venue operators was their hope that everyone who attends the shows understands what is at stake, which is that we are all in this together and if we want to keep having such events, we all need to follow the guidelines.
In other words, be cool, be kind and be considerate of others.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.
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