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Culture » Culture Features

Stay Off My Lawn

Bend Park and Recreation District prohibits all outdoor events, to the frustration of local thespians

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As of July 15, Oregonians are required to wear masks outdoors if unable to maintain a safe 6 -foot distance from other people. Still, anyone driving by Drake Park on Saturday afternoon might assume these additional guidelines were not in place. Throngs of swimsuit-clad, tube-toting locals (and tourists) finish floating the river there—face coverings absent. And there are as many of them as in other years, park officials say.

Socially distanced thespians rehearse "Songs For a New World," which actors will perform drive-in style in the New Hope Church parking lot. - MUSICAL IMPRESSIONS STUDIOS
  • Musical Impressions Studios
  • Socially distanced thespians rehearse "Songs For a New World," which actors will perform drive-in style in the New Hope Church parking lot.

"Bend appears to be as busy as in past summers, based on river use data we've collected so far, and distancing with this level use is challenging," explained Michael Egging, Bend Parks and Recreation District's recreation business manager. "Encouraging voluntary compliance is our most effective tool, and we ask for everyone's help to maintain safety for the community. Our park stewards are regularly visiting all river parks as well as other parks and trails to encourage enforcement. Stewards are out to educate and encourage compliance. This summer, we have a couple additional park stewards, beyond what we've had in recent summers."

But as outdoor fun continues full steam ahead, other happenings in the parks are a no-go.

Local choreographer Michelle Majeski said she reached out to BPRD with a compliant plan for a local arts fundraiser, but didn't get the answer she'd hoped for.

"I thought it'd be a great idea to organize an outdoor fundraiser for Cascades Theatrical Company," she explained. Bend's only black box theater has been closed since Gov. Kate Brown first imposed restrictions this spring. "I tried to get a hold of the woman at Bend Parks and Rec who's in charge of booking. I left her a voicemail and she never returned my call. Still, to this day. Weeks have passed since I first reached out. I have a friend who works with Parks and Rec, and I asked him if there was anyone else I could speak with. He gave me an email, and I reached out to this gentleman and asked for a meeting to discuss a fundraiser for the arts, specifically for CTC. This has been an extremely hard time for local theater, and CTC has suffered severe financial hardship. The arts need community support right now."

Majeski said she'd hoped to host 200 people, but would have settled for 100.

"The event would easily follow guidelines, with no more than eight people on the stage, all 6 feet apart. The show itself consists of one soloist singing a song with a collaboration at the end, it would be very easy for the cast to follow protocol. Ushers would seat people on blankets that could be up to 15 feet apart, masks would be mandatory, we would have sanitizing stations. I put all of this into the email. I didn't have the opportunity to meet with anyone. An absolute, hard, 'no,' that was my answer."

Egging says BPRD has the best interest of community members at heart. "We look forward to being able to host events again in our parks," he said. "We recognize and appreciate the value that these events have in connecting people to each other and our community, providing enriching activities, and preserving our culture, among other benefits. Still, as this pandemic continues, we encourage residents to follow the guidance that says avoiding large gatherings is the safest option and the fastest way for our community at large to get back to normal."

Some local thespians have been successful in thinking outside of the box. Local director and owner of Musical Impressions Studios, Angelina Anello-Dennee, organized a thematic musical, to be performed drive-in style in the New Hope Church parking lot Aug. 14.

"Theater is really difficult to do at all right now, we definitely had to get creative," she said. "Our cast is very small, there are only eight of us so we can rehearse within guidelines. Everyone is 15 feet apart." She noted that her heavy involvement with the church made the process easier. "I'm renting the stage and paying their sound person, but they're not charging me for the grass space or the radio signal. They read the show and they loved the theme; they've been very accommodating."

But beyond private locations, Majeski believes having outdoor theater in a public setting would be beneficial to the community. "What we need during this time is art. Connection, experience," she said. "The one way we could do that is in an outdoor venue with guidelines in place, and knowing we can't do that—that there won't even be any consideration —is really very saddening."

Songs for a New World
Aug. 14, 7:30pm
New Hope Church
20080 Pinebrook Blvd., Bend
Mtishows.com
$15/person

About The Author

Cayla Clark

Cayla graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting, soon after realizing that playwriting is not a viable career option. Fortunately, this led her to journalism, and she is thrilled to be part of such a unique and fun-loving team. Upcoming local events? Send them her way!

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