While numerous events have postponed or outright cancelled entirely for the coming months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, one Massachusetts theater operation has a plan to open this summer – albeit in much different style than it is used to. The Barrington Stage Company, based in Pittsfield, has implemented a social distancing-friendly game plan that it believes will allow it to operate beginning in August.
A checkerboard seating concept – reducing the main stage capacity to one third its usual number of patrons – is the core of Barrington’s plans. Patrons will be required to wear masks, and performances – all shows that are either single performer or blocked in a fashion which means performers can stay distant from one another – will not have intermissions. The box office will also be moved outside, and matinees will be eliminated to allow for increased cleaning of the performance space. The organization’s original 2020 schedule was moved in its entirety to 2021, making way for this altered game plan as it begins the ramp-up back to normal operations.
“I wanted to see if I could find a way to do live theater, because that’s where my heart and soul are,” artistic director Julianne Boyd told the New York Times. “Toward the end of the summer, some people may want to go out, and it’s important to me to make the attempt.”
The Times points out that Barrington is not the only theater organization to announce plans to resume performances – including crowds – this summer. Berkshire Theater Group, also in Massachusetts, plans to resume in August, while the Muny in St. Louis hopes to begin in July.
Missouri’s governor recently announced the state would be open in full – including events with crowds – as early as Monday, though larger cities like St. Louis can set their own timetables for such events being restricted above and beyond the state requirements.
As the coronavirus curve continues to show signs of flattening in the United States, it seems likely that more and more live event organizers will be making similar announcements in coming weeks, particularly as states begin to loosen restrictions on public gatherings. While the largest capacity gatherings are likely far off, live event patrons seem likely to have more choices for their entertainment dollar as the year progresses.