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Student Blog: Opening Up: In-Person Theater Is Here

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A front lines perspective of the reopening

Student Blog: Opening Up: In-Person Theater Is Here

"Just for you tonight, we're divorced, beheaded, live!" The last show I saw before the shutdown was Six on Broadway, and I thought about that experience all through the pandemic. I was craving the theater magic I had felt from the first note of the overture to the final goodbye at the stage door. When will theater return? How is this experience going to change? Though I always dreamed about the day that I would find myself at another show, I cannot believe it is finally here. I have experienced the reopening of theater first hand, through working with programming for the Bryant Park Picnic Performance Series and audience services with The Signature Theater's The Watering Hole by Lynn Nottage. Guidelines and bathroom lines have been changing daily as more and more theatergoers become vaccinated and venture out of their homes to enjoy the art once again. The lockdown brought so many amazing virtual and devised projects that worked within the boundaries of safety guidelines, but there is nothing like sitting at a live performance.

The ability for theater to return in-person for the public largely hinged on the safety guidelines and health precautions taken to ensure a safe event that would set a precedent for future performances to take place. The beginning of this endeavor was quite unknown and stressful as mandates and understanding continued to change. With the experience from the pandemic, theaters prepared for the worst and hoped for the best. The most important aspect is the care taken for theaters to remain open to the public so that this can be a final reopening instead of a superspreader. I saw theaters handle public health with such grace and excellence easily adapting to the most recent guidelines and preferences of our audience and staff. Health and comfort was of the utmost importance to the administrations and the diligence taken created organized and safe experiences for all theatergoers. Most rules are standard across theater in New York and there is an understanding established on how to safely share during this time.

Everyone appreciated the precautions taken by theaters, and they were excited to see their first shows since the lockdown. The energy in the space was truly theater magic as individuals were thrilled to be out of their homes and experiencing art in-person again. It was comforting that every person was so happy to be there that they treated staff with such grace and patience as we worked through the intricacies of the event. Everyone was compliant and it was a time filled with happiness that will continue as more and more people see their first performances since their quarantines.

What I did not expect, but am proud to see, is the theater community I am returning to. There is always room to grow, but I am hopeful for the future with what I have seen. More people became educated on human rights atrocities, discriminations, and equality needed for all. So many individuals are coming to the space with a new mindset with knowledge of the issues and want to change and help. There has been progress standardizing introductions with pronouns, gender and sexual identity education, and the equal rights of those who face discrimination. Work can be done to improve these issues, and it can be different from one theater group to another, but within my communities I am already seeing major change. Many people took the time to learn and grow over quarantine, and I have so much hope for interaction with others as the trends continue.

I am proud to say that I am part of reopening theater experiences in New York City this summer. From planning safe events to checking vaccination cards and directing people through experiences, I have worked diligently to keep in-person, artistic events open to the public. I am excited and hopeful to see what time, practice, and knowledge will bring to the challenges all theaters are facing, and cannot wait for theater to continue to grow and reopen for communities far and wide.


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From This Author Student Blogger: Grace Cutler