Appalachian Theatre in snow

The Appalachian Theatre of the High Country is covered in snow as a winter storm moves through Boone in January.

The signing of Executive Order 195 on Feb. 24 by Gov. Roy Cooper eased COVID-19 restrictions, allowing for the majority of indoor venues to open at 30 percent capacity with a cap of 250 total visitors at one time.

Venues such as dance studios and museums can now open to 50-percent capacity with a maximum of 25 persons allowed in each room at one time. Cooper’s newest executive order also lifts the 10 p.m. curfew and reinstates alcohol sales after 11 p.m.

With an easing of COVID-19 restrictions, local arts and entertainment venues such as the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country are currently gauging what necessary steps to take next regarding a return to live, in-person shows.

“To me, the key phrase from the governor’s most recent briefing on Feb. 25, was when it comes to easing some restrictions, we’re depending on people to be responsible,” said Appalachian Theatre of the High Country board chair Keith Martin. “Responsibility is the key. Keep in mind that the theater is following guidelines issued by the federal government through the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and state officials in Raleigh, plus guidance from both Watauga County and the town of Boone.”

Just last month, App Theatre executive director Laura Kratt joined in a conversation with Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, regarding public health and reopening the arts.

“We are eager to get back to hosting shows but, of course, we want to do it safely. It is exciting to hear that the governor’s office and NCDHHS feels our state is ready to begin re-opening the theater,” Kratt said. “Since we depend on ticket sales to cover the costs of events, our next step is to reach out to our audiences and see when they are ready to return to the theatre.”

With ticket sales covering the cost of in-person events, theater representatives voiced concerns about whether or not in-person shows would be cost efficient at this time and stated it would be dependent on whether or not the general public feels comfortable attending live, indoor events at this time.

“The bigger picture is this: pharmacology is outpacing psychology,” Martin said. “While we are encouraged by the ever-growing percentage of the population receiving vaccines, we’re very concerned about the degree to which the general public feels safe going back into enclosed venues. As Laura has noted, we’re in the process of surveying our patrons to ascertain their comfort level when we resume in-person arts events.”

As officials continue to assess the possibility of a reopening, the Appalachian Theatre will continue to promote virtual programming, such as its ongoing “Boone Docs” documentary film series which can be streamed via the theater’s website, www.apptheatre.org/.

“During the screening of ‘Trail Magic’ last week, over 325 households tuned in to experience the award-winning documentary film and participate in the post-film discussion. That’s a very encouraging sign that our dedicated supporters are continuing to support our programming, whether in person or online,” Kratt said.

The Appalachian Theatre of the High Country can also be found on social media at www.facebook.com/Appalachian-Theatre-405356396331939.

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