On Broadway, the return of theatre at full audience capacity is speeding up. On London’s West End, it’s slowing down.
Just a few weeks ago, New York’s famed commercial theatre district seemed on track to return to something like normal in mid-September. But since then, producers have kept cutting in line, in what feels like a competition to be the first show back.
The winner of the race is now likely to be Springsteen on Broadway, Bruce Springsteen’s solo show, which last week announced it will open on June 26 at the St. James Theater for a limited run.
According to the ticket website, “Guests will need to be fully vaccinated with an FDA-approved vaccine in order to attend … and must show proof of vaccination at their time of entry into the theatre with their valid ticket.”
That seems to be where things are going in the United States, at least for now; it’s still unclear in Canada whether any performing arts producers will ask for proof of vaccination in a similar fashion – or, for that matter, be legally allowed to ask for it. (Here, by the way, is Globe and Mail colleague Brad Wheeler’s review from the last time Springsteen on Broadway was up and running.)
Meanwhile, in Britain, the government has decided to delay lifting remaining coronavirus restrictions for another four weeks.
Theatres are currently allowed to operate – only with physically-distanced audiences. For commercial theatres on the West End that had been hoping to increase capacity this week, however, it’s a blow. “This delay not only impacts productions and theatres preparing to open in the next few weeks, but also shows currently running socially distanced which had planned to increase their capacity – and producers making the difficult decision whether to start rehearsals for shows due to open in late July or August, with thousands of jobs hanging in the balance,” U.K. Theatre chief executive officer Julian Bird said in a statement.
It’s interesting to compare Britain and the United States at this moment as Canadian provinces tentatively begin their reopenings – and perhaps the lesson to learn is that it’s always easier to move things up, then move things back.
Every province in the country has now announced some semblance of a reopening plan – and I recently took a look at the plans specifically in regards to performing arts from coast to coast (sorry, territories) on Twitter.
If you don’t follow me on that infernal social-media site, here’s a link to the thread – which I initially put together in order to confirm that, indeed, Ontario is the only province to not yet have given theatres any guidance whatever on audience size or capacity. (Its reopening plan seems to me the least helpful to performing arts organizations in planning future performances, though it’s a photo finish with Manitoba’s.)
Alberta, currently in what’s called Stage 2, is the most advanced in terms of reopening outside of Quebec (where, not to be a broken record, theatres have been open since the end of March).
Outdoor public gatherings are allowed up to 150 – or, if you have fixed seating, to one-third of capacity. Indoor theatres are allowed to open at one-third of fire code occupancy.
It’s up to each individual audience member to decide what they feel safe with, but I feel comfortable in recommending to anyone within driving distance of Edmonton’s Rundle Park a new play called Night by the talented young playwright Geoffrey Simon Brown.
It’s a drive-in, one-person thriller co-produced by the Major Matt Mason Collective and Common Ground Arts Society, and runs June 17 to 20 and 24 to 26 at 10 p.m.
The continuing lack of clear guidance from the Ontario government isn’t stopping some theatre companies in the province from boldly marching forward with summer plans. The Shaw Festival has tickets on sale now – and, while the Stratford Festival is still holding off, another festival in Stratford, Ont., called Here for Now at the Bruce Hotel has opened its box office. You’ll find many faces familiar from the bigger festival such as Laura Condlln, Brigit Wilson and Jessica B. Hill in the new works on the bill.
That’s it, I’m moving to Stratford, Ont.
No, no, I’m not part of that permanent (and probably overhyped) pandemic exodus from big cities to smaller, more spacious ones.
I’m relocating to Stratford from Toronto for July and August only so I can chronicle what the reopening of a cultural hot spot looks like from close up.
I want to track not just the Stratford Festival’s return to performing in tents for the first time in 65 years, but also to witness and write about one artsy city’s overall return to life – that is, to live, in-person events and activities.
I’ll be sharing personal aspects of my Stratford summer each week in this newsletter and, in the weekend paper, take a closer look at one aspect of the town’s reopening or another.
I’ll be talking to people in the music scene, the restaurants, the hotels, the chocolate and candy shops – as well as some of the tourists taking trips back – to find out what it’s like tentatively resuming that relationship, what’s changed and what hasn’t. I hope Stratford can stand in for what’s going on all across the country in one way or another, albeit at different speeds.
If you’re a Stratford resident or planning to visit, I’d be happy to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
But first: I’m taking some holiday and this newsletter will be paused. See you in three weeks’ time.
Keep up to date with the weekly Nestruck on Theatre newsletter. Sign up today.