Virginia Repertory Theatre requires vaccination proof, aims for '100% vaccinated company'

Desiree Roots on scoring role: 'I literally wept when I hung up the phone'
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Posted at 5:08 PM, Aug 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-13 18:09:25-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- After a long coronavirus hiatus, the stage lights are back on again at Richmond's November Theater. As people start to fill up the seats, some strict measures will be in place aimed at keeping them safe.

Belted like the Queen of Jazz, Desiree Roots encompasses the sound and style of Ella Fitzgerald. Roots is starring in Virginia Repertory Theatre's "Ella And Her Fella Frank."

"It's all the favorites, all the classics from Ella Fitzgerald, the First Lady of Song, and Frank Sinatra, the Chairman of the Board," said Roots. "Who could ask for anything more?"

And this isn't just any show. The two-performer musical marks the company's first production since COVID-19 closed the theater's curtains in March 2020.

Desiree Roots
Desiree Roots

"It was stifling," Roots said. "I mean, literally, I think as artists, all of us across the board, were stuck in a rut of what do we do now?"

So when Roots landed this role a year and a half later, it was transformative for her.

"I literally wept when I hung up the phone because of the excitement," Roots recalled. "It was like, 'Oh, my gosh, we're about to do this.'"

"We thought that there was this pent-up demand, and we were just waiting," Phil Whiteway, Managing Director of Virginia Repertory Theatre, said. "We were trying to coordinate all the safety logistics."

Whiteway opened the November Theater in the beginning of July when Virginia was averaging a low number of daily COVID-19 infections. Fast forward to August, and cases are surging as the delta variant continues to spread.

November Theater
November Theater

In response to the concerning trends, Virginia Rep. is now enforcing some new rules.

"Anybody that comes in to see a show has to show and prove that they've been vaccinated," said Whiteway, who mentioned there are a few exceptions. He said audience members are also required to wear masks as an extra precaution.

But ticket holders aren't the only ones.

"Once we chose the option that every cast member, every crew member, directors, designers would all be vaccinated, we could say we are 100% vaccinated company," said Whiteway.

Virginia Repertory Theatre's "Ella And Her Fella Frank."
Virginia Repertory Theatre's "Ella And Her Fella Frank"

He encourages people who haven't been to a live show since the start of the pandemic to consider coming out again.

"We're trying to assure people that we've taken all these measures," he said. "We want it to be an enjoyable but safe experience."

While Roots might not be able to see the smiles behind the masks as she performs, she can feel them. She promises that every night will be just as special as opening night.

"It was a tear factory," said Roots. "It's like we walked out, and we felt that energy immediately. And that's what we live for."

"Ella And Her Fella Frank" will run through Sept. 12. You can click here for ticket information.

Mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Richmond Raceway.

Virginians age 12+ are eligible for COVID-19 vaccine. Pre-registration is no longer required, so go to Vaccine Finder to search for specific vaccines available near you or call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-275-8343).

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What you can and should not do once you have been fully vaccinated.

How to Protect Yourself and Others When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated

COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting you from getting sick. Based on what we know about COVID-19 vaccines, people who have been fully vaccinated can start to do some things that they had stopped doing because of the pandemic.

We’re still learning how vaccines will affect the spread of COVID-19. After you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should keep taking precautions—like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces—in public places until we know more.

These recommendations can help you make decisions about daily activities after you are fully vaccinated. They are not intended for healthcare settings.

Click here for more information from the Virginia Department of Health.