Actors’ Equity has approved the first two theaters to resume performances since the nationwide shuttering of playhouses in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. The theaters, a pair of regional venues in Massachusetts, have agreed to safety protocols that include testing for Equity members and those who come in contact with them.
The Berkshire Theatre Group will stage the musical Godspell outdoors, with a cast of about 10 and two stage managers for an audience of 96 members. The Barrington Stage Company, meanwhile, will put on Harry Clarke, David Cale’s one-man play. It will employ only two Equity members – a performer and a stage manager – and will use the company’s indoor facilities, but seating has been removed to reduce house capacity from more than 500 to 163. It has also committed to an isolated backstage area and regular electrostatic spraying to clean the facilities.
“Equity staff around the country have been collaborating daily with producers on health and safety questions,” said Mary McColl, executive director of Actors’ Equity Association, on Monday. “These two productions have plans that meet our four core principles for safer theater. Taking a safety plan from the page to the real world will require everyone to work together, from the employer to every employee, especially our members. Every production is different and will be evaluated on a case by case basis focusing on the safety of our members. We will continue to collaborate on safety plans where the epidemic is under control and where employers can maintain a safe work environment for their employees.”
“We have been working daily and in the true spirit of care and collaboration with Actor’s Equity Association for the past several weeks,” said Kate Maguire, artistic director and CEO of the Berkshire Theatre Group. “Guided by executive director Mary McColl and her extraordinary team, I have learned much about how to lead a theatre in the new world. Our industry, which has been devastated by this global pandemic, will be served by their seriousness, data driven wisdom, and profound understanding of the need for artists to rebuild. I am so proud that Berkshire Theatre Group, nearing its 100th anniversary, will be authorized and granted the responsibility to produce the musical Godspell.”
“It has been a long road figuring out all of the social distancing and safety protocols that were needed for both the actor and the audience,” said Julianne Boyd, artistic director of the Barrington Stage Company. “We are delighted that we will be able to reopen the theatre with Harry Clarke.”