Big Stars, Bright Nights concert series hits its stride after a year of postponements
Artists and audiences inspire each other
Park City Institute finally presented its first Big Stars, Bright Nights performance with Parsons Dance on July 3 at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts after a year of postponements.
Since Parsons dancers, including Utahn Zoey Anderson, wrapped up their night nearly three weeks ago, independent roots band Uptown and sibling rockers Jocelyn and Chris Ardnt have serenaded local audiences from the Eccles Center stage.
With three shows under his belt, Park City Institute Executive Director Ari Ioannides feels the series has hit its stride, even with COVID-19 protocols in place.
“Our initial thinking and the thinking of the staff was that we would start with straight COVID-19 conditions that would exceed state and local guidelines in the theater,” Ioannides said. “We thought we would be able to ease those guidelines up over time, but the Delta variant of COVID has put a pause on our plans to ease up on those restrictions.”
As of now, all of Park City Institute’s staff, including volunteers and stage hands who work at the theater, must be completely vaccinated in order to work a show, according to Ioannides.
“We also ask that they wear masks as well,” he said. “This is to help keep the patrons comfortable, but it also is because the staff members work closely with the artists’ tech crews to get everything going.”
Also, all areas of the theater, including the artists’ green room, have to be cleaned and sanitized before and after each performance, Ioannides said.
“We also have hand sanitizer stations backstage, and we’re going to keep all of those things in place until things loosen up a little bit,” he said.
Park City Institute is also asking patrons who haven’t been vaccinated to wear masks while they are in the theater.
“I know that’s hard for us to regulate, but we do ask them to do so for the safety of others,” Ioannides said. “We also have paperless ticketing, and thanks to PC Caps, we have paperless online programs. Patrons come to the show and use a QR code to pull up the programs. That’s not only safe for our patrons, it’s good for the environment.”
While the performing arts nonprofit is trying to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, the Park City School District, which oversees the Eccles Center, is also taking precautions, Ioannides said.
“They installed touchless faucets in the restrooms, and we all plan to maintain a lot of those mitigations going forward,” he said.
Going forward, let alone opening the theater for live performances for the first time in more than a year, was both exciting and nerve-wracking for Ioannides and his staff, but the feedback from the concert-goers and performing artists have been nothing but positive, he said.
“The crowds have been very enthusiastic to return to live shows, and the artists have expressed a great deal of joy about getting live-audience feedback again,” Ioannides said. “All three of the acts we have presented had been shut down from performing live shows due to the pandemic, so they have all just exploded with energy during their shows here.”
Parsons Dance, Upstate and the Arndts also gave their Park City audiences added bonuses during their respective performances, according to Ioannides.
“Jocelyn and Chris Arndt introduced two new songs they had written during the pandemic, and that was pretty exciting,” he said. “Upstate also introduced some new music, and Parsons Dance previewed a new piece for our audiences. So there have been little creative nuggets that have been given out to those who have attended the shows.”
The next show on the docket is country superstar Justin Moore, who will perform on Saturday, July 24.
Getting that show scheduled was a surprise for Ioannides, because he and his staff weren’t actively pursuing the booking due to the size of the Eccles Center, which only holds 1,200 seats.
“Chances are, you’re not going to see Lady Gaga perform here unless we charge $1,000 a ticket,” Ioannides said with a laugh. “So having Justin Moore, who is in the middle of an arena tour, is a treat.”
The smallest venue Moore is playing on the tour, other than the Eccles Center, holds about 7,000, and most of his shows are booked in venues that seat 14,000 or more, Ioannides said.
“So it was a surprise that his people called us, and made us a special deal, because they were literally driving through Park City,” he said. “They called and said Justin would like to perform on July 24.”
Ironically, Moore’s people didn’t know that July 24 is Pioneer Day, the day Utah celebrates its statehood, so they were even more excited to have Moore play that night, Ioannides said.
Once the booking was finalized it was Ioannides’ turn to get excited.
“We just did the tech work with them, and they are pretty much putting on the full arena show here,” he said. “It’s incredible to think that we are going to have a country superstar on a stage in a venue where you can hear every single note. If you can imagine being in the first 1,000 seats from the stage at the Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, you will be able to imagine what it will be like at the Eccles Center on Saturday.”
Ioannides knows how fortunate the Park City Institute is to present the Big Stars, Bright Nights summer series this year after shutting down last year.
“I would like to say thank you to everyone — individuals, state and county officials — who sustained us during COVID-19,” he said. “There were times when we thought we weren’t going to be able to reopen, but the Park City Institute is stronger now than it was before COVID, thanks to the support of the community. And now is the time for everyone to take advantage of the support. So we invite you all to come see a show.”
For ticket information about upcoming Big Stars, Bright Nights concerts, visit parkcityinstitute.org/2021-main-stage-event-schedule.
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