Have you ever heard the old adage, “The show must go on?” In the theater world this means that regardless of what happens, the performance will forge ahead.
Often this phrase refers to continuing the show even if issues persist that could ruin a production such as: an actor forgetting their lines, lost props, lighting difficulties, audio issues, acts of nature, or any number of problems that can pop up in the middle of a performance. In most instances this phrase is a sign of the grit, determination, and positive attitude embraced by the theater community. Unfortunately, even the strength of the theater can not compete against a global pandemic.
The Current State of Broadway
Due to COVID-19, the 41 houses of Broadway in New York City shuttered their doors and the house lights have gone dark. Nearly two dozen New York City shows have been halted. Across the nation, similar news can be reported in major theaters and community productions.
Not much stops theater productions from forging ahead, except for maybe a fast spreading virus that thrives in closed environments. As of mid-March most theaters across the country shut down live performances. Initially, Broadway theaters had hoped to open by April 12, 2020 only to push that date back due to the fact that New York City was the epicenter of the virus at the time. The new date was then June 7 of this year. That date has come and gone wth no opening occurring. The latest date being floated is currently September 6, 2020.
This new Labor Day schedule has even the most optimistic of theatergoers questioning the reality of the date for opening. It’s not that patrons are not anxious to get back to their favorite form of entertainment. In fact, an industry survey conducted by Shugoll Research in early April revealed that 41 percent of NYC theatergoers are eager to return to the theaters when they are reopened. While that number may seem high there are some substantial issues that will potentially delay or stop altogether the reopening process for the “Great White Way.”
Major Hurdles to Opening
If theaters across the nation hope to open this year, before a vaccine is viable, there are a couple of major issues that will need to be addressed.
Theaters are historically areas deemed to be close quarters. Chairs are lined up in close proximity in order for as many patrons to see the performance as possible. Orchestras that provide the live music are generally at the front of the theater in an orchestra pit. Actors and stage hands generally are huddled along the cramped wings of the theater until their cue is given to enter the stage.
These conditions are not ideal for preventing the spread of the coronavirus. In fact, social distancing is a huge problem in most theater venues.
Owners of some of the largest theaters across America are facing issues of how to keep both actors/stage hands as well as patrons socially distant during a performance. The answer may lie in spacing out the audience, creating larger prep spaces behind the curtain, and decreasing the number of performances weekly to allow for sanitation between shows. All of these solutions are costly and take quite a bit of effort.
Another major issue that theaters are facing is one of demographics. Nearly 16% of theatergoers are over the age of 65. This is the highest risk category for the transmission and serious illness for the virus. The percentage climbs even higher if we remove tourists from the equation according to a report in MarketWatch online.
Stay tuned as we anxiously await guidance from federal and state officials as to how our beloved theaters will tackle these issues and how we, as patrons can help. Visit our Facebook page to see more of how you can get involved.