By LEE J. KAHRS
BRANDON — The Brandon Town Hall has not given up on its 2020 season just yet, but more volunteers could help pull it off despite the coronavirus.
Trying to schedule public performances during a pandemic has been challenging to say the least, but Friends of the Brandon Town Hall President Dennis Marden said he is planning the first shows for September.
His other challenge is how to bring in the public for performances and keep them safe per Governor Phil Scott’s latest re-opening directive. The size of allowable public gatherings has been raised to 75 people, but with nine volunteers, some of who have health concerns, maintaining the necessary sanitary measures and proper staffing to adhere to the social distancing guidelines will be a priority.
“The 75 people rule has to include performers, stage crew and volunteers, plus audience members,” Marden said. “We will put out 50 chairs, at least six feet apart. But it’s such a huge building and we have to wipe down everything, the railings, the stage, the lift, the piano, the light switches, the bathrooms… Some of the volunteers don’t want to work the events because of health risks.”
Marden said the hall will gather contact information for all ticket holders in case a someone tests positive for the COVID-19 virus, or if an event needs to be rescheduled or cancelled.
The slate of planned events is as follows (subject to change):
Sept. 5 – Silverbacks Concert
Sept 6-7 – Talent Show Auditions
Sept. 19 – Silent Movie, “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp” with Harry Langdon
Sept. 20 – Dinoman “Space” Presentation
Sept. 25 – Brandon Celebration, Town Hall open, Movie
Sept. 26 – Brandon Celebration, Non-profit groups info tables, Art Exhibit and Talent Show
Oct. 3 – Michele Fay Band
Oct. 7 – Chamber Mixer
Oct. 10 – Private party
Oct. 11 – No Strings Marionettes, ”Snow Maiden”
Oct. 17 – Silent Movie, “Hunchback of Notre Dame”
Oct. 24 – Doughboys Dance Band
Nov. 14 – Dissipated Eight aCapella Group from Middlebury College
Nov. 21 – Silent Movie, “The Mark of Zorro”
Dec. 2 – Moonlight Madness vendors up and downstairs
The silent movies are even more tentative at this point, since Marden said he’d have to close the town hall windows and the drapes, which would not be conducive to pandemic guidelines.
There will also be no concessions sold for the same reason, but all shows and events will be free will donations accepted and encouraged.
Marden said that’s because of the generosity of the town, which owns the town hall building, and sustaining donors. Thanks you notes were sent to each sponsor offering them either a refund for their donations or the chance to roll the donation over to next year. Marden said most chose to roll their donations over.
“We have enough money to put on every event,” Marden said. “Donations have great. The worst part was all the work I did from January to April is no good, the tickets, the posters… but people have been very generous and very understanding, and the support from the town has been really great.”
But right now, just like everyone else, Marden is waiting to see how the COVID-19 pandemic evolves as September draws closer. In the end, he said he just has to be realistic.
“If we can open up and do something, we will,” Marden said, “and if we can’t, we can’t. Everyone has been very understanding.”