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May 20, 2021

Sitting in a theater is a one of those shared experiences that will inevitably feel different on the post-pandemic side. Most people have a memory of sitting in a theater, whether it be watching a Broadway performance, seeing a friend’s high school play, or watching a movie at the local movie theater. As vaccination rates increase and officials work on their reopening plans, theaters across the country are finally being included in the conversation. Some movie theaters have been open in a limited capacity for a few months, and smaller theaters have found ways to put on unconventional performances, but the largest collection of theaters in the U.S. has remained dark since March 12, 2020, leaving thousands of people eager to return to work.

Though many films have been delayed due to studios wanting a proper movie theater release, movie buffs have still been able to get their fix at home this past year. If there ever was a time for producers to release filmed productions of the stage performances, it would have been this past year. Hamilton had success on Disney+ and the producers of Bandstand released the musical as a rental for a few weeks. Two Broadway casts returned to their theaters during the pandemic to film productions that would later be released on streamers. 

The light, however, has returned, though it may be faint in the distance. Broadway will return on September 14th, with a few shows reopening, with many other theaters opening their doors for a return in the following months. However, the famous phrase in the theater, “The Show Must Go On” might need to be retired.

 

Across the ocean, shows like Hamilton have been playing to full houses in Australia for months with strict COVID mandates in place, like mask-wearing, staggering arrival and exit times to avoid a large gathering of people in a small lobby setting, and registering through an app that allows individuals into the venues. It’s definitely fair to look at Australia’s reopening optimistically, but it also cannot be ignored that the U.S. and Australia approached this pandemic very differently. In the coming weeks the first shows playing on the West End in London will make their return, giving the U.S. another look at glimpse at reopening plans.

But how will Broadway safely return? And can it be accessible?

When in the past year everyone’s entertainment came to their phones at a free or minimal price, getting non-theater fans into a cramped 850-seat theater in midtown Manhattan while also paying $175 for that ticket might not be as easy as people hoped. When Broadway ticket sales returned last week, so did the high prices for premium seats.  Broadway has always relied on tourism to fill the seats, especially for long-running shows like Phantom of the Opera and Chicago. Broadway is going to have to find a way to market and sell tickets to locals, who might not be willing to shell out the cash. 

As theaters are figuring out what their protocols will be, actors and crew members of Hamilton will be required to receive their COVID vaccine in order to return to work. Ain’t Too Proud, a musical about the temptations, lists possible protocols for the Imperial Theater on their website: “Based on CDC and state guidelines at the time of performance, protocols may include mask enforcement, increased cleaning and ventilation/filtration enhancements, vaccination, or negative test verification, and more.” 

As a fan of theater there really isn’t anything I’ve wanted more over the past year than to sit in one of those tiny seats and spend two and a half hours enthralled by the craft.

I can’t wait to go see a musical again, and I hope other people are just as excited. 

About the Author

Cailin Giles

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