Broadway Audiences Will Need Proof of Vaccination and Masks
Broadway theater owners and operators, citing the lingering dangers of the coronavirus pandemic, said on Friday they decided to require spectators to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and wear masks to attend a performance.
The policy, announced just days before the first Broadway play in more than 16 months, is to start performances, allowing children ineligible for vaccination to attend shows if they are tested for the virus. But some New York venues say they will go even further: the Metropolitan Opera, which hopes to reopen in late September, and Carnegie Hall, which plans to reopen in October, plan to not only require vaccinations, but also to except children under 12 who are not yet eligible for vaccination.
The new vaccination requirements for visitors to New York’s top performing arts venues come as the highly contagious Delta variant has caused an increase in Covid-19 cases, leading the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend that Americans vaccinated in virus hot spots resume wearing masks indoors. Several large companies, local governments and the federal government recently decided to require their employees to be vaccinated or undergo frequent tests.
The Broadway rules, which will be in place until at least October and will apply to the 41 theaters on Broadway, require the public to wear masks except when eating or drinking.
Broadway’s vaccination mandate will apply not only to the public, but also to performers, backstage crew and theater staff. There will be limited exceptions: “People with a medical condition or an intimate religious belief that prevents vaccination”, as well as children under the age of 12, can attend with proof of a recent negative coronavirus test. .
A vaccination mandate is already in place for the Bruce Springsteen concert-show, which began performances in June, and for “Pass Over,” the new piece which is scheduled to begin performances on August 4th. The new rules will affect all shows that follow. : Twenty-seven, including many successful musicals, are scheduled to debut in September and October, starting with “Hadestown” and “Waitress” on September 2.
“We have said from day one that we want our actors, our crews and our audience to be safe, and we believe this is a precaution to ensure that,” said Charlotte St. Martin, President of the Broadway League. “We are doing everything we can to open safely and protect everyone. “
Deciding what to do with young children has proven particularly difficult, as no vaccine has yet been approved for pediatric use. Although Broadway, which has a number of shows that depend on ticket purchase by families with children, has decided to allow those under 12 to attend if they are tested, the Met Opera, which attracts fewer young children in most of his productions, takes a more restrictive approach.
“Children under 12, for whom there is no vaccine currently available, are not allowed into the Met regardless of the immunization status of their guardian,” the company says on its website.
“Obviously, it’s painful for me personally and for the business not to have young people coming to the theater,” said Peter Gelb, chief executive of the Met, who said the immunization policies of the company were designed to protect its approximately 3,000 employees and to make the public feel comfortable coming back and sitting in nearby neighborhoods. The Met also requires that all guest performers and members of its orchestra and choir, as well as its staff, be vaccinated.
Banning children under 12 so far has been a tough decision, Gelb said: “They are our future audience.”
Gelb said he hopes children will become eligible for vaccines by December, when the Met is planning two holiday pitches aimed at families and children: the company’s abbreviated English version of “The Magic Flute” and ” Cendrillon “, an English -language adaptation of Massenet’s” Cinderella “.
Broadway and the Met both plan to open at full capacity, meaning no social distancing, and the Met says masks will be optional. Broadway theaters range in size from 600 to 1,900 seats, while the Met can seat 3,800.
Broadway will provide additional behind-the-scenes safety measures: an agreement announced Thursday between the Broadway League, a trade association representing producers as well as theater owners, and the Actors’ Equity Association, the union representing performers and stage managers , requires weekly testing for employees, as well as the vaccination warrant.
The new tough rules for the public come as no great surprise. “Springsteen on Broadway” and “Pass Over” made vaccination of the public mandatory, and Disney Theatrical Productions, which produces “The Lion King” and “Aladdin” on Broadway, required proof of vaccination from participants in a four-party concert. nights organized this month at the New Theater Amsterdam. (Disney has allowed children under 12 to enter if accompanied by a vaccinated adult.)
Some venues are staging work in New York City without requiring vaccinations, but others have implemented warrants, including Madison Square Garden, which in June required customers to be vaccinated at a Foo Fighters concert. The Park Avenue Armory, which had accepted proof of vaccination or a recent negative test for its first dance performance this summer, has become more stringent; all participants must be fully vaccinated for his next show, a new work by choreographer Bill T. Jones called “Deep Blue Sea” which is scheduled to begin performances in September.
There are also vaccination warrants for the performing arts beyond New York: The San Francisco Opera House announced on Wednesday that it will require proof of vaccination for all customers aged 12 and over, and on Friday the Hollywood Pantages Theater in Los Angeles, where a tour of “Hamilton” is scheduled to begin Aug. 17, said ticket holders would need to be fully immunized.
Broadway theaters are particularly visible and particularly challenging, as they attract audiences of all ages and from all over the world to sit side by side in tightly packed buildings with small lobbies and bathrooms and cramped backstage. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York City had suggested in May that Broadway consider a vaccination mandate, but some producers had hoped to avoid such a move, fearing it could put a damper on attendance at a time when tourism is on the decline and tourism is down. consumers are ready to come back. going to the theater remains uncertain. The recent increase in transmission has persuaded industry executives to put these concerns aside and adopt the vaccination mandate, at least for the next few months.
“I am delighted that the theater owners and the Broadway League have made the decision that is best for the community as a whole,” said Brian Moreland, lead producer of “Thoughts of a Colored Man,” a play that is expected to start his performances. in October. “We made a commitment to do what science told us to do, and that’s what science tells us.”
For those who have already purchased tickets and are unwilling or unable to comply with the new policies, there are likely options: Most shows have liberal refund and exchange policies for the fall.
The League said that in September it will reassess safety protocols for performance in November and beyond.
Javier C. Hernández contributed reporting.
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