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Testing 62 cast and crew members daily, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres opens to public with 'Footloose'

The performance and dinner venue has a COVID Compliance Officer making sure the show can go on.

CHANHASSEN, Minn. — It takes a lot of people to pull off a musical production. There's the actors (of course), the director, the choreographers, and the pit crew musicians. 

But one of the star production members at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres' production of "Footloose" isn't someone you'll find onstage under the lights. You'll find her tucked away in an area of the theatre converted into a makeshift lab.

Quinn Berger is the theatre company's new "COVID Compliance Officer." It's a new role that's a part of Actors Equity productions to ensure the safety and well being of all cast and crew members. Berger, a lighting technician, stepped up when she saw the need.

"The require to have a COVID safety officer, so I took a class for that and got certified," Berger said. "But they say the information changes every single day, and it does. So it’s my job to stay on top of that. So continue to learn more, talk to doctors, talk to scientists, see how many more certificates I can get on the wall."

Berger says she administers around 62 tests a day.

"That’s just with our theatre company," she said. "So that would be the musicians, the performers, the technicians, wigs, costumes, all of us, sound--around 62. And then when we do testing every day, which we did for tech week, it’s even more than that."

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Staying on top of her job has made everyone else's a lot easier. Director Michael Brindisi said for months, actors rehearsed in masks, and there was very little complaining.

"Everybody just said – this is it. This is what we’re gonna do," Brindisi said. "We’re gonna make sure the show goes on. And everybody put their masks on – and we did the best we could. And everybody said at some point they felt like they were getting used to it."

Now, the cast is ready to welcome guests in-person. Brindisi said the show title bears a certain significance.

"I actually didn’t realize how appropriate it was a title that we picked for coming back after such a difficult time," he said. "The play is pretty much about laying down your burdens in life and slugging it out when things get tough. Boy, it became really resonant with us, having to work in masks and COVID protocols."

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"As human beings, we desperately need joy," Berger said. "When they come here, they can breathe easy and they can trust that everyone is safe because the theatre is working really hard and spent a lot of money to make it a safe space for both the audience and for the employees."

"Footloose" runs through Sept. 24. Audience members are asked to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test, and wear masks while in the theatre.

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