Odyssey Dance Theatre’s ‘Thriller’ returns to Park City after a scary year of COVID-19
Three-week run opens Friday
In the past 25 years of putting on Odyssey Dance Theatre’s Halloween show “Thriller,” nothing has been scarier for Artistic Director Derryl Yeager than dealing with the pandemic in 2020.
“Normally we do 45 performances and we wound up with 15 last year, because Park City and other venues canceled runs due to safety concerns,” Yeager said. “It was a crazy set of circumstances.”
This year, however, Yeager and his dancers have planned a fall season that will include three weeks at the Egyptian Theatre, starting on Friday, Sept. 24.
“We’re ready to do it, so it just depends on whether or not the venues want us to do it or not,” Yeager said. “I’m holding my breath day-to-day, and keeping myself prepared to change things if we need to.”
Last year, Yeager said he was changing performance plans every two to three days.
“When we started rehearsals we created our own little bubble,” he said. “We sanitized the studio, wore masks and installed some UV-C light bulbs that emit ultraviolet waves that sterilize surfaces.”
Although the company did everything it could to avoid people contracting the coronavirus, one of the dancers’ wives got it a few days after rehearsals started, Yeager said.
“She got tested and the test came back inconclusive, so she had to get tested again,” he said. The second test came back positive, so Yeager sent all the dancers out for their own tests.
“We had two waves of COVID,” he said. “Half of the company got it in the first wave, and the rest got it on the second wave.”
Luckily, Yeager and his wife, Cheryl, the company’s costume designer, never contracted the disease.
“I don’t know how we lucked out, but we did,” he said.
Still, Yeager didn’t know what to do moving forward and consulted his doctor.
“He talked me off the ledge and through some of the process,” Yeager said. “He told me to quarantine the dancers for two weeks, and then come back and start again.”
During those two weeks, Yeager held rehearsals for four people in the studio and the rest through Zoom.
“Most of the company were asymptomatic, and didn’t even know they had COVID,” he said. “The crazy thing about that was the quarantine for the second wave ended the day we had our first performance scheduled in Ogden. Luckily we had some dancers who had performed ‘Thriller’ before, so they knew what they had to do.”
In addition to adjusting rehearsals to accommodate pandemic protocols, the company also got creative with the live performances.
In a hip-hop piece called “Curse of the Mummy,” the women wore protective masks as veils, and the zombies that dance the production’s title piece made their own gruesome masks, Yeager said.
“Everyone liked making their own masks, because they didn’t have to put on a lot of zombie makeup,” he said with a laugh.
Another fun segment was the rhythmic and humorous “Jason Jam,” which has masked serial killers venture into the audience to find a victim.
“Just before they went out into the audience, they stopped and used hand sanitizer,” Yeager said. “Then they stopped again and put on those blue masks over their hockey masks, which was really funny to see. I think we’re going to leave that bit in this year, because the pandemic is still with us.”
Right now, Park City is scheduled to be the first full performance of “Thriller” this season, according to Yeager.
“We’re fortunate as far as the company’s concerned, because we’ve been through a week and a half of rehearsals and we haven’t had any problems or cancellations,” he said. “We’re ready to do this, and we’re looking forward to coming up to Park City.”
When: Sept 24-Oct. 10
Where: Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St.
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City Hall and the Arts Council of Park City and Summit County presents Pumpkin Fest at Bonanza Art Park next week.