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NY Reopening? New Guidelines Begin to Pave the Way

The governor’s plans allow the return of limited-capacity indoor performances starting in April, including one at a Broadway theatre.

NEW YORK CITY: Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced new guidelines and loosened restrictions on New York state theatres, paving the way for the return of indoor performance and the upcoming NY PopsUp festival.

Beginning on April 2, new venue guidelines will allow performance venues of under 10,000 patrons to reopen at 33 percent capacity, up to 100 people indoors or 200 people outdoors. Attendance limits can be raised if a venue sets up a protocol by which attendees prove they have received a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours before attending the event, with attendance capped at 150 people indoors and 500 outdoors. Guidelines around wearing face coverings and social distancing will still apply.

“As he wisely did when reopening restaurants, we hope that Gov. Cuomo will again put workers first and prioritize getting members of the arts sector vaccinated,” said Actors’ Equity Association executive director Mary McColl in a statement, referring to a February announcement allowing New York City restaurant workers to be vaccine-eligible. “Much like the 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.”

This new announcement includes the reopening of “flex venues,” meaning venues that are able to adapt to social distancing guidelines, including theatres such as the Apollo, Park Avenue Armory, St. Ann’s Warehouse, the Shed, Harlem Stage, La MaMa, National Black Theatre, and the Glimmerglass Festival’s Alice Busch Opera Theater. As part of NY PopsUp, a festival of pop-up events overseen by Scott Rudin and Jane Rosenthal, new safety protocols were developed in coordination with the New York State Council of the Arts and Empire State Development. These protocols are being used as the pilot program to reopen these flexible venues.

Also announced was the reopening of select Broadway theatres in April, beginning with the Music Box on 45th Street. The Music Box will reopen to audiences for the first time since March 12, 2020 and will feature a series of NY PopsUp programs. Safety protocols for Broadway theatres have been developed in collaboration with the New York State Department of Health and NY PopsUp, and are created through a thorough process with operators, tailoring the protocols to each participating building. The process used here is slated to eventually be used for the return of Broadway as a whole, and will take into account increasing audience sizes over time, pending health guidelines.

Programming for NY PopsUp is curated by interdisciplinary artist Zack Winokur in partnership with a council of artistic advisors. The festival will run through Labor Day, with its peak being the Tribeca Film Festival’s 20th anniversary and the Festival at Little Island at Pier 55. The total number of performances as part of NY PopsUp is expected to surpass 1,000, though, given the idea of a pop-up is that it’s impromptu, not all performances will be announced in advance.

“The reopening of these venues will provide a much needed light at the end of this long, dark tunnel,” said Sade Lythcott, CEO of National Black Theatre and chair of Coalition of Theatres of Color, in a statement. “This is how we begin to bring our workforce back, enliven the streets with the power of live performance, and chart a measured and strategic pathway towards the full reopening of our sector. Above all, these performances will be medicine for the soul of New York.”

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ADV – Billboard