What We Learned from Proper-Distanced Events – Part 5 of 5

This is the fifth of five parts on setting up proper-distanced events. While focusing on storytelling, the information applies to any performing arts or proper-distanced event. Our blog as well as our proper-distanced house concerts with rental of recordings are wonderful sources of information and entertainment.

5-Parts:

  • Part 1 – Distancing & Spacing – REVEALED
  • Part 2 – Sanitation & Other Safety Measures – REVEALED
  • Part 3 – Test Runs & Early Set-Ups – REVEALED
  • Part 4 – Relief to Potential Audience – REVEALED
  • Part 5 – Audience Isolation Behaviors – TODAY

You have an event…and the audience arrives. Nervous for how the audience will react after being in isolation or limited social contact?

Every audience is different. That has stayed the same during this Historic Time.

You must be ready to “warm up” the audience.

You need an energetic emcee. The emcee needs to prove that safety measure were made for this proper-distanced and masked event while giving permission for people to express themselves through laughter, sighs, cries, and applause.

Some people will say, “No! The audience cannot laugh! At least not as much.”

True, when people laugh, more water droplets are expelled. Thus the need of masks. You already worked out proper-distancing and had 15 or more feet from the microphone to the front row. If you are worried that the audience responses will be a danger, then increase the distance of the microphone to the front row.

Before Halloween, I was invited to a live event to perform. I already explained what I expected so to feel safe as a performer. When I arrived, they doubled the distance between me and the front row. It was 30 feet–at least. I did not move that front row. I was plenty happy.

Now, I knew that distance could make a difference in the audience response. This is where the performer can help warm up the audience even before the emcee. I welcomed people–while wearing my mask and being at least 15 feet away–and did a type of informal survey of where people were from or how many times they had attended this type of event. Being talkative psychologically told the audience that people did not have to be “hush, hush” when it came time for me to perform.

I have seen the extremes in audience behavior at the Story Crossroads proper-distanced events.

Our Story Camp held at the International Peace Gardens in Salt Lake City, Utah had a quite bunch of youth. We spanned a wide area despite limiting our group to no more than 20 people (we ended up having 15 youth and 3 adults). When our two professionals led them in songs or story activities the youth held back. They looked around to see how loud the other kids reacted. The camp was in August while the quarantine had occurred from March until that moment. Five months. Five months of limited or no social interactions besides their families.

We still had wonderful interactions and growth and learning…but the energy level was much lower than any other youth gatherings I have seen with storytelling–or any arts or topic.

Why is that? Hmmm.

Then I saw the starved audience member. When we resumed our house concert series in August 2020, I asked for much applause and whooping to celebrate live art while doing so in a safe manner. For many, it was the first live performing arts event for them since March 2020. They were ready to celebrate!

These are some comments shared with permission from our audience members–

“Be honest, I did not know what to expect so I came totally open. I just had a wonderful time. It was wonderful to get out and be around like-minded people, lovers of stories….My husband commented that it really lifted his mood to participate in that evening.” – Elizabeth, Utah

“We do appreciate your dedication to proper distancing. Thank You!!!” – Lenore, Utah

“I believe it would be well to implement the same safety measures as does Hale Center Theatre. If a a “group” of two or three people come together–or wish to sit together–they seat them together. It is up to the people involved to determine what they feel safe with in that regard. Much the same as in CDC restaurant guidelines: ‘Change restaurant and bar layouts to ensure that all customer parties remain at least 6 feet apart (e.g., marking tables/stools that are not for use).’ Emphasis on the word ‘parties.’ Other than that, the safety measures were lovely–plenty of space–markers to remind people to be distanced and to wear masks.” – Karla, Utah

The trickiest time was when two different households of the same family attended an event.

These groups were hard to remind and enforce to keep the distancing. I had to be more firm and diligent in those situations. I learned it was best to remind of the “different household” rule as people checked in…all while saying it with a smile.

I searched around for articles connected to audiences – for live or digital events:

You can make this live event happen. Think with logic and love. Enjoy the energy from a proper-distanced event. Thank you for joining in this particular blog series.

Besides our usual “Cap’s Off to You!” series, we will be doing a 9-part blog series soon called “What We Learned from Timpanogos Storytelling Festival & Virtual Offerings.”

Become a member with Story Crossroads with exclusive content and connections.

Find our E-Newsletter and Email List Sign-Ups.

See our already-streamed/recorded The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities. See our 5-video playlist from the Story Crossroads Spectacular by clicking here.

Join us for our proper-distanced house concerts such as with Katherine and David Hurley featuring Karl Behling in Murray, UT on December 28, 2020…or get the recording afterwards.

What We Learned from Proper-Distanced Events – Part 2 of 5

This is the second of five parts on setting up proper-distanced events. While focusing on storytelling, the information applies to any performing arts or proper-distanced event. Our blog as well as our proper-distanced house concerts with rental of recordings are wonderful sources of information and entertainment.

5-Parts:

  • Part 1 – Distancing & Spacing – REVEALED
  • Part 2 – Sanitation & Other Safety Measures – TODAY
  • Part 3 – Test Runs & Early Set-Ups
  • Part 4 – Relief to Potential Audience
  • Part 5 – Audience Isolation Behaviors

You know that hand sanitizer is a must but there are MUCH MORE to understand and have available.

In fact, this part will be long…but important. You can see an even longer version as a type of checklist by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Order your sanitation supplies early.

Lysol has been extremely popular and hard to get unless you order online or find a local smaller store. While Lysol wipes have been popular, we have loved the spray better. It is faster and not only helps to sanitize the object-in-question but also the surrounding air near it, as COVID-19 is spread through water droplets.

All hand sanitizers are not made equal so be careful whenever buying “off” brand.

You can still get “off” brand, but look at reviews from other people before committing to purchasing it. And…sanitizer does not have to smell pretty. It only has to work. Click here for “Best Hand Sanitizers of 2020” put out by Healthline.

We already warned about performing indoors in a classroom-sized or smaller area in Part 1. Though, what these rooms do have for many Kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms is a sink. Hand-washing has been proven to be MUCH more effective than hand sanitizer. So…if you are working with classroom students, then ask for the teacher to make sure they all wash their hands with soap before walking out of the classroom to the larger indoor or outdoor space.

For festival-sized events, you will want to purchase or rent portable hand washing stations with paper towels (NOT the cloth ring that gets re-used).

Even after this historic time, you may wish for a few of these stations to be part of your regular festival inventory. For example, the Utah Arts Festival has always had many of these portable hand washing stations near the portable toilets. This has always been a smart way for good hygiene. Click here for “Top 10 Portable Handwashing Stations” of 2020 that can be found on Amazon.

Back-up masks must be made available…even if you have already told your attendees to wear masks.

Well-intention audience members could forget. People who prefer not to wear masks could also arrive. You must be insistent and be firm and be willing to guide people in a loving way. Already discuss as an organization/individuals of what the policy would be if someone refuses to wear a mask. There are medical reasons…but rare.

Even someone with asthma can wear a mask. We allow if someone is on the spectrum for Autism or other mental needs. However, someone who purely refuses – despite knowing from all your advertising that masks are required – needs to be politely dismissed. Work out together on the right words to say in that moment.

You will also need to be clear that masks must cover the mouth and nose. Certainly not the chin or chin/barely-the-mouth. Any people who are monitoring the event (emcees, volunteers, etc.) need to know how to nicely remind people how to wear them. If someone is a repeated offender, then, again, know how to politely dismiss someone. It is better to be firm than lenient in this case. We have not experienced this level of refusal or inadequate wearing of masks yet…but have the verbal/mental preparation, if needed.

Discuss with your story artists on what they plan to do for masks.

Performers are allowed to take off their masks if all other safety measures are followed. The performers will still want to wear masks before and after…possibly during.

Many singers are loving the singer’s mask while in the Deaf community you see masks with a window covering so that facial expressions can be seen. Here is a link on how to make one while here are seven kinds one can purchase.

Remember that a face shield only works in combination with a mask.

Only wearing a face shield is not approved in certain buildings or workplaces due to the ineffective way to prevent as does the classic cloth mask. Click here is a study from researchers connected with Florida Atlantic University.

When it comes to sanitizing microphones, please make sure it happens.

People will cringe if there is an emcee followed by a performer and nothing has been done. Well, not everyone will cringe. We would!

We like the quick spray of the Lysol. Some people wipe down with Lysol wipes or something similar. As shared at the beginning of this post, we love the idea of the microphone and the air around it to be sanitized. You miss that part when it is only a wipe-down. If you are worried about stickiness, then you can wipe after the event is done. We have not seen any problems yet.

A microphone is practicaclly required now whether your event is indoors or outdoors. The rule before COVID was always have a microphone outside no matter the size of the audience.

We forgot our own rule when it came to our live Story Camp. We properly distanced the 15 youth (we could not no more than 20 at the park and that included the adults) that took up at least 2-3 classroom sizes. We did not bring a portable microphone. Our two facilitators/presenters had to project and we worried if their voices would last for three days of this camp. Somehow, their voices held. However, this is a different safety measure beyond sanitation: protecting the voices of your talented and valued performers.

The other microphone rule is to have a microphone indoors if there are at least 25 people. The fact that properly spacing 15 youth already takes up 2-3 classroom sizes, then the spacing alone means you need a microphone and a way you will sanitize between people.

Whether indoors or outdoors with a microphone, you will want the minimum 12 feet (or perhaps 13ish feet/4 meters) from the front row as already shared in Part 1.

But you ask, how do we best indicate to the audience of the spacing? What equipment do we need?

The following can work to give visual cues:

  • Wooden stakes, both 3′ and 1′ ones – found at hardware/home improvement stores and really affordable
  • Bright sports discs – used often by little league sports such as soccer and weaving balls around and such, we found a set of two discs for $1.00 at the dollar store and only spent $10 for 20 discs
  • Regular Safety Cones OR Collapsible Safety Cones (our favorites), bit of an investment) – more bulky than the sports discs but can still do the trick
  • Hula Hoops with Carrying Case (holds up to 12 per Case)– think of them like light-weight carpet squares that works whether you are a kid or an adult BUT expensive and ones found in dollar stores sometimes are too small OR the hula hoops are seasonal and found only at certain times of the year
  • Marking Spray Paint – find out if you have permission

By the way, if you do order any of these items on Amazon, please choose Smile Amazon instead and give back to our nonprofit, Story Crossroads.

Of all these options, we LOVED the bright sports discs and the wooden stakes. We cannot always use the wooden stakes or anything that would mark the grass.

With the Story Camp, it was held at the gorgeous International Peace Gardens in Salt Lake City, Utah. No staking or painting of any kind could be used. We used the bright sports discs…but a bit of warning. While setting up, the grounds crew was mowing the grass. We did not think they were mow towards us since we had the space officially reserved. The lawn mower ran over two of our discs before he realized what was happening. And this is why you need more than you need in any situation. We had extra and all was good. Except for bits of orange plastic everywhere. Glad we got that cleaned up before starting!

What of Liability Insurance?

No, we would never use our liability insurance to replace two orange discs worth $1.00.

When Story Crossroads first existed, we focused on special events liability insurance. Since 2018, we have general liability insurance so that it covers beyond our main festival in mid-May and any and all events we do as well as day-to-day volunteer work. Our liability insurance does not cover any vendors. They have their own signed agreement that either they prove to us that they have their own or sign a waiver to hold us harmless.

Yet, COVID-19 has brought up this topic on if it is covered. The answer? No.

When we renew our general liability insurance in February 2021, we will be curious to see if rates are suddenly much higher or there will be some mention of COVID within the policy or at least for an additional premium. For example, “acts of terrorism” is an optional coverage that became more prevalent after September 11, 2001 (also known as 9/11).

Whether free or for a cost, we have people read our Liability and Indemnity Agreement (COVID) and checkmark that it was read and understood. This is during our required pre-registration, which is easier to set-up with a paid registration service like our through Wild Apricot.

We have templates in Word and in PDF that you are welcome to adapt for your needs. These templates and other producer materials can be found here.

In Part 3, we will delve into test runs and set-ups using this equipment and best “backdrops” no matter if inside or outside.

You can make this live event happen. Think with logic and love. Enjoy the energy from a proper-distanced event.

Find our E-Newsletter and Email List Sign-Ups.

See our already-streamed/recorded The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities. See our 5-video playlist from the Story Crossroads Spectacular by clicking here.

Join us for our proper-distanced house concerts such as with Nannette Watts in West Jordan, UT on September 18, 2020…or get the recording afterwards.

What We Learned from Proper-Distanced Events – Part 1 of 5

This is the first of five parts on setting up proper-distanced events. While focusing on storytelling, the information applies to any performing arts or proper-distanced event. Our blog as well as our proper-distanced house concerts with rental of recordings are wonderful sources of information and entertainment.

5-Parts:

  • Part 1 – Distancing & Spacing – TODAY
  • Part 2 – Sanitation & Other Safety Measures
  • Part 3 – Test Runs & Early Set-Ups
  • Part 4 – Relief to Potential Audience
  • Part 5 – Audience Isolation Behaviors

You are ready for live performance again…with spacing and masks…and what else?

Nothing beats the intense energy when performing live. Naturally, you want to rush to it as fast as safely possible.

We paused our regular house concert series from March – July 2020 and then rephased into proper-distanced house concerts on August 14. That same week, we offered both live and virtual story camps.

And people thanked us.

So what works for spacing?

No longer did it feel like indoor house concerts could be considered. The most we packed into my home was 45 people. If proper-distancing, I feel like I can only have 10 people. True, that is better than nothing.

Think of bigger areas.

Outdoors combined with proper-distancing and masks is the triple net of safety.

Even if your area is fine with people not wearing masks outside, we decided to be ultra-sensitive to it as we–as an organization and as individuals–put the safety of our story artists and audience first.

Here are large outdoor spaces that can work for proper-distancing:

  • Backyards – do you or an Executive Director, Board Member, Volunteer, Amazing Citizen have a large space that can hold at least 30+ people with spacing of 6 feet/2 meters front/back/sides (think spacing of 3+ classrooms)
  • Parking Lots – largest ones tend to be of churches, schools, events centers – does anyone you know work or volunteer at one of these places to “strike a deal”? – can work with folding chairs and/or parked cars like drive-in theater/movies
  • Parks – depending on your code/phase for your area, find out how many people you can gather in one place – 20? 50? 100? – receive permission/permit from park to allow the gathering
  • School Grounds – not parking lot, but the grassy parts – again, do you know someone with that school to “strike a deal”?
  • Any other Big & Open Areas – does not always have to be a field as hills can work as a natural amphitheater even if not originally set-up as an official venue

Here are large indoor spaces to consider for proper-distancing:

  • Chapel area of Churches – probably could fit 20-40 with 6 feet/2 meters front/back/sides
  • School Gymnasiums, Auditoriums or Cafeterias- probably a quarter of original capacity, if that
  • Super Large Living Rooms – most people do not have super large living rooms but I saw one once that could easily hold 100+ people, which probably could hold 40 at most now with proper-distancing
  • Event Centers – again, double-check on what actual capacity would be compared to original capacity
  • On Top of Roofs – if gated/safe, number of possible audience members depends on spacing
  • Any Other Large Buildings with Chapel/Ballroom/Large Gathering Areas – figure out number for proper-distancing by multiplying 1/4 by the original capacity number

During this time, avoid classroom-sized areas.

You will still get people offering an opportunity. Brainstorm with them on larger areas that both of you can easily access–and hopefully for free or minimal cost.

How far apart is the performer from the front row?

  • Minimum 12 feet (or perhaps 13ish feet/4 meters)
  • Some places are more 15 feet to 20 feet, especially if the performer admits to being a “spitter”

What about spacing between rows?

  • 6 feet/2 meters is the minimum – though strangely some students are back in the classroom and lucky to be 3 feet apart! – but don’t let that be the standard for the performing artists
  • Feel free to space out more if you wish

Need some studies or articles to support the importance of spacing/distancing?:

We will delve into sanitation, good habits, equipment, and liability/indemnity to make things safer for everyone in Part 2.

You can make this live event happen. Think with logic and love. Enjoy the energy from a proper-distanced event.

Find our E-Newsletter and Email List Sign-Ups.

See our already-streamed/recorded The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities. See our 5-video playlist from the Story Crossroads Spectacular by clicking here.

Join us for our proper-distanced house concerts such as with Nannette Watts in West Jordan, UT on September 18, 2020…or get the recording afterwards.

Cap’s Off to You!–Barbara Schutzgruber and Celebrating Story

The name “Barbara Schutzgruber” was on my radar due to her active involvement and expertise in the storytelling world. Yet, I have come to respect her beyond a name and more as a giving and kind person.

We put a call out on Facebook for the need to find someone who could help us with masks. We wanted to phase from full-virtual to limited-sized/proper-distanced live events. To protect performers and the audience alike, we needed everyone to wear masks. However, supplies were low. Barbara was recommended. She promptly responded and created masks in the blue/orange colors of Story Crossroads with over two months to spare. Then in early June 2020, we cheered her on as she received the ORACLE Award from the National Storytelling Network for the North Central Region. Well, we certainly love her in this Western Region, too.

She honors and loves folktales as much as we do at Story Crossroads. She joked that people who tell folktales are “bone collectors” because the “skeleton of a story is already there” and makes it easy for plot structure as opposed to creating the whole story.

She may tease though she has a serious body of folktales and ballads developed for over 38 years. She mainly collects stories that feature weaving, spinning, and stitching. She expressed, “Old stories still have a lot to say–a depth there that is timeless, and has the ability to relate to many audiences.” Her weaving of stories and fibers earned her a recent spotlight with the Michigan League of Handweavers.

She has attended many fairs and historical places. She finds that simply calling out to someone, “Come here, I have a story for you!” can have people shy away. When she is sitting at her loom and talking while weaving, people are more likely to draw near and listen to the stories.

Barbara noted that the Fiber Arts Community–around the nation and locally–were contacted in early March 2020 to respond to the shortage of masks. She is part of the Ann Arbor Fiberarts Guild. She was in “production mode” when notified by us. She had sewn several hundred for the St. Joseph Mercy Hospital and the University of Michigan Hospital and decided to donate her time for medical needs as well as for her fellow storytellers.

Barbara is a regular donor for online and silent auctions with her fiber works featured through the National Storytelling Network, Northlands Storytelling Network, and other storytelling organizations and scholarships. Being kind to Story Crossroads was a natural gesture. She stated, “I know storytellers don’t have money–can’t afford it!” With the pandemic, finances are even tighter.

She compared her pieces–like shawls and scarves–as part of her repertoire. Once she donates them, those pieces are no longer in her repertoire.

Yet, as a storyteller, she said, “Once you learned something, it’s in your repertoire to stay.” She explained this is why she is more willing to donate her fiber works and focuses her payments to be more storytelling-focused.

Thus, her peers recognize her for her fiber works as well as for her caliber of professionalism and craftsmanship in telling stories. For the first time ever, the ORACLE awards hosted by the National Storytelling Network had an ORACLE Concert and Barbara was selected for this honor. She laughed that she learned about it a little over a week before the event. She was notified by someone from Pacific Daylight Time and she was on Eastern Daylight Time. That call came at midnight. “Though what news!” Dorothy Cleveland from Minnesota gathered all the testimonials and details for the award. See the picture below of accepting the ORACLE by virtual means as well as the ORACLE concert later on.

Barbara’s wish is that people will see her as a “solid, consistent performer.” She is all that as well as a “solid, consistent” human being.

So toss, tip, or take off your cap to Barbara Schutzgruber!

Remember, Story Crossroads also have year-round events such as the house concerts to be transitioned into live/virtual with limited-seating and proper distancing.  This is also a countdown to virtual “The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities” on Saturday, June 20, 2020 from 9:00am-10:30am MDT.

See our 5-video playlist from the Story Crossroads Spectacular by clicking here.

Starting June 22, 2020, we will have a 9-part Blog Series called “Reawakenings & Reflections” to focus on each of the 9 days of the National Storytelling Network’s CONNECTED Virtual Conference & Festival.