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Governor Andrew Cuomo has given the go-ahead for concerts, theater and other live performances in New York from April, with reduced capacities.
At the same time, he confirmed that domestic travelers are no longer required to quarantine within 90 days of full vaccination. This gives the city a major boost to start bringing back tourism to the city from next month.
Cuomo also announced that, beginning April 2, entertainment venues can reopen at 33 percent capacity, with up to 100 people indoors and 200 people outdoors. He added that if all attendees present proof of negative test before entry, capacity can increase to 150 people indoors and 500 people outdoors. Social distancing and masks, and adherence to Department of Health guidance, will be required by all attendees.
Actors’ Equity Association, the labor union representing more than 50,000 professional actors and stage managers in live theatre nationwide, told us this evening that while they welcomed the move, they would like to see it coordinated with arts workers being vaccinated.
“As he wisely did when reopening restaurants, we hope that Governor Cuomo will again put workers first and prioritize getting members of the arts sector vaccinated,” said Mary McColl, executive director of Equity. “Much like workers in the restaurant industry, our members lack the ability to socially distance throughout their entire workdays, making vaccines critical for maintaining a safe workplace. We look forward to continuing to work with the state on reopening the live arts in a way that protects workers as well as the audience.”
In Hell’s Kitchen, Steve Olsen from the West Bank Cafe/Laurie Beechman Theater told us: “The Beechman will not open at this time. We will continue to expand our ‘Live Music On The Veranda’ guest artist series in the front dining room area and open the cafe doors when the weather breaks and play to our outdoor dining patrons.”
The New York Times reported that Broadway producers Scott Rudin and Jane Rosenthal expected some of the earliest performances would take place with pop-up programs inside Broadway theaters. The Shed in Hudson Yards plans to start performances in April. Their Chief Executive, Alex Poots, said: “That communion of audience and performer, which we’ve craved for a year, we can finally realize.”
The financial model for Broadway will not allow for openings of major shows with these levels of attendance. However, this announcement will help the Lincoln Center to increase capacity for their Restart Stages program of outdoor performances.
Meghan Finn, artistic director of Tank, a Midtown arts venue with 98 seats on W36th Street between 8/9th Avenue, was enthused that they could fit 32 patrons in to watch programming that includes comedy, puppetry, theater, dance and more.
“We, like other small nonprofits, are poised to reopen as soon as we have the protocols and guidelines. At The Tank, we have comedians, puppet artists, musicians who could come back quickly as long as they can do it safely,” said Meghan. “The public, including visitors to New York, equate our City with culture, and we’ll be ready to welcome them again. Being confident about testing and vaccines for the audience is critical. But when will performing artists and cultural workers find their way into the vaccine priorities in the same way restaurant workers have?”
Aaron Hock from Ensemble Studio Theatre on W52nd Street told us: “While the return of live entertainment will hopefully mean jobs for the thousands of artists who have been struggling since last March, a lot of questions remain for intimate theaters like EST, where 33% capacity makes for a sparse twenty-one audience members. Unions like Actors’ Equity Association are releasing strict, but necessary, safety guidelines that mean many off-Broadway theaters have a lot of work to do (and money to raise and spend) on making our venues safe before we can responsibly welcome back artists and audiences. Trust us, we can’t wait to create live in-person theater again, but we also need to do our part to protect our communities. I think we’ll continue to see virtual programming and outdoor performances for most of the summer.”