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Social Distance Seating Plans

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Play Esq.
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joined:7/27/08
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Social Distance Seating Plans#1
Posted: 4/28/20 at 10:36am

The Barrington Theater just announced their plan for a reduced season which begins in August.  Very optimistic, but I admire their confidence and ingenuity and it gives me great hope.  To my knowledge, this is the first theater company to provide a plan for social distance attendance, including entering the theater and seating.  It seems pretty well thought out, but I wonder if it's actually practicable.  I thought this would be a good thread to start for other theaters' plans for reopening.  

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Jordan Catalano
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joined:10/9/05
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Social Distance Seating Plans#2
Posted: 4/28/20 at 10:51am
Very very interesting. Hadn’t even occurred to me to have intermission-less shows to cut down on restroom usage.
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Wick3
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Social Distance Seating Plans#3
Posted: 4/28/20 at 11:01am

I wonder if some people will opt to wear an adult diaper so they won't need to go to the public restroom while watching theater.

Interesting to see that they're only selling tickets in groups of 2-3 online for now. Not sure if that means solo folks would have to buy 2 tickets online or if it would be possible to buy 1 ticket at the box office.

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frogs_fan85
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Social Distance Seating Plans#4
Posted: 4/28/20 at 11:18am

I've been thinking about this ever since March 12th when all of the theaters (including mine) ceased performances.  My theater is toying with this, but the scenario I gamed out just in my head reduces capacity so significantly that I don't know if it's viable to have performances.

Barrington's policy is a great start and they are fortunate enough to have three separate entrances, but aside from the Lyric and maybe a few other theaters ( the ones with wider lobbies- Gershwin, Marquis? or go end to on their block- American Airlines, Studio 54, Imperial, if they're OK adding another ticket taker post or relocating one) on Broadway that isn't really a viable option.

I have to dig in deeper to CDC guidelines should they exist yet, but I have unanswered questions that would greatly affect seating models-

Should seating on the aisle be allowed?- I don't see aisles being wide enough to provide ample social distancing between someone sitting on the aisle and another patron walking down the aisle to their seat in a different row.  In that case, how far in from the aisle should the first available pair of tickets be?

Can you really have more than two pairs/groups of tickets sold in any particular row?-  Gaming this out if I'm sitting dead center in a row and there are pairs of tickets sold on either side of that, my party may have to pass (in very tight quarter) by those patrons seated on either side.  If you only sell two pairs/groups of tickets in each aisle then you are able to largely remove that potential close contact between patrons.  In a theater like the Booth, which I'm almost positive doesn't have far side aisles in the orchestra, you'd really only be able to see a pair/group of tickets in those house right and left.    The work around I can see for this situation is to code the seats similar to airline bookings and allow only the patrons in center seats into the auditorium first so that they are seated prior to those seated further off center entering.

Do you even open concession stands and coat checks?- This is less of an issue potentially in my theater because the bars and coat checks are at least distant enough from the auditorium that we could conceivably lay out social distancing markers to ensure the lines are spaces properly.  And I'd imagine with the reduced seating capacity of the auditorium these lines would not be all that long anyway.  On Broadway though, I'm imagining a theater like the St. James that has the bar right next to the auditorium doors, can you really have people lined up spaced out in the same area of people entering the auditorium?  I believe their coat check is also in that same area on the opposite wall.  Also, if coat checks aren't open they'll have to potentially relocate the hearing device distribution.  I realize some theaters have that separate from the coat check.

Come-in lines- I get that there would be reduced seating capacities, but I'm just imagining the south side 45th Street having social distanced come-in lines all at the same time.  And whose responsibility is to enforce that?  Is it just assumed the public has to know and understand each other's space?  I can't imagine the Shubert organization wants to be responsible for policing that.

Is skipping every other row enough distancing?  I can't imagine that's six feet from patron to patron.  Is six feet going to be the standard even?  Also in looking at Barrington's plan, they have aisle seats in a few rows B and D in the orchestra house left that I can't see being six feet apart.

Non-audience related questions- How do you socially distance an orchestra?  Will they have to reduce the scores or isolate certain musicians to another part of the building and have the music piped in?  Do you not utilize the orchestra pit at all in that scenario?  What does the dressing room situation look like?  How do shows with larger ensembles handle that?  Do you reduce the amount of box office staff on hand at any given time or relocate them?  Enforcing print at home or mobile ticketing might alleviate some of that demand at the window at least.

 

Anyway just a bunch of random thoughts.  Looking forward to a discussion on this topic.

Updated On: 4/28/20 at 11:18 AM
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BeNice
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Social Distance Seating Plans#5
Posted: 4/28/20 at 11:46am
I’m assuming they have done informal focus groups of audience members because as much as this is a thoughtful plan for a theatre company, how can they know if patrons will feel comfortable with this? Also how do they know by August groups of 50+ will be allowed?
Tom5
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Social Distance Seating Plans#6
Posted: 4/28/20 at 11:55am

I'd worry at least as much about the people on and back stage as the audience. As I was told Yale Rep had a similar plan in place  several months ago until the actors revolted against it and the plan was abruptly terminated. But  perhaps there's something different going on here and like most I'm hopeful that it works out.

njf1003
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joined:9/19/17
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Social Distance Seating Plans#7
Posted: 4/28/20 at 12:32pm

Their actual seating map shows some signal seats available in rows with odd numbers of seats.

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HogansHero
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Social Distance Seating Plans#8
Posted: 4/28/20 at 12:53pm

A few reactions.

1. As I have said before, things like this cannot work in commercial theatre but obviously you have to start somewhere.

2. We still have no idea what August is going to look like so this is, at best, aspirational. 

3. As Cuomo has emphasized, one of the big risks in reopening is that people from one place will go to another, and avoiding things that attract this need to be resisted. The Berkshires are one big disaster that has found a place to happen. Barrington's audience in the summer comes from where? Thanks but no thanks.

4. Restrooms can be operated safely. The problem is, of course, they cannot be operated safely and quickly. 

5. People working on shows can be made safe. The answer to this, as everything else, is testing, testing, testing. Beyond that, obviously, what's is programmed is all one person, there are not a lot of backstage jobs involving close contact of necessity (and many can be avoided or made safe), and orchestras can also be made safe if they remain small, or are eliminated. These are the least of our problems.

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Huss417
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Social Distance Seating Plans#9
Posted: 4/28/20 at 1:08pm

Tom5 said: "I'd worry at least as much about the people on and back stage as the audience. As I was toldYale Rep had a similar plan in place several months ago until the actors revolted against it and the plan was abruptly terminated. But perhaps there's something different going on here and like most I'm hopeful that it works out."

Can you please let me know where you heard the actors "revolted" against this? As far as I recall they were going to implement the seating to 100 people for A Raisin in the Sun but the show was cancelled right before opening.

This was what Yale had posted.

In response to Yale University’s March 7 recommendation that all campus events of more than 100 people (excluding classes) be postponed, canceled, or adjusted, in order to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), Yale Repertory Theatre has implemented new audience capacity and ticket policies and a revised performance schedule for Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, directed by Carl Cofield.

The production will begin performances as scheduled on Friday, March 13, and continue through April 4 with strict modifications, effective immediately, that limit the audience capacity to 100 people per performance.

In addition, all Will Power! student morning matinee performances have been canceled. Yale Rep will record a performance of the production and make it available to educators to show in their classrooms, consistent with provisions made by Actors’ Equity Association.

"I hope your Fanny is bigger than my Peter." Mary Martin to Ezio Pinza opening night of Fanny.
Updated On: 4/28/20 at 01:08 PM
Pashacar
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Social Distance Seating Plans#10
Posted: 4/28/20 at 1:27pm

BeNice said: "I’m assuming they have done informal focus groups of audience members because as much as this is a thoughtful plan for a theatre company, how can they know if patrons will feel comfortable with this?"

That's the biggest question to me. Will people want to go back to events with hundreds of people by August, even with distancing?

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HogansHero
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Social Distance Seating Plans#11
Posted: 4/28/20 at 2:58pm

Pashacar said: "That's the biggest question to me. Will people want to go back to events with hundreds of people by August, even with distancing?"

That question will have to await a different venue since Barrington's plan is less than 80 seats, divided between 2 levels and 3 sections entering and leaving through separate thresholds. I think there are people who will want to (some of whom has expressed that here) and others who will not but I suspect the former will be enough to validate this model (without considering paying for it). 

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MlleDaae
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Social Distance Seating Plans#12
Posted: 4/28/20 at 7:10pm

Ugh. This is all extremely frustrating considering a theatre is basically a large room of recycled air where sitting 6ft+ apart will do absolutely nothing. Also, the majority of masks people have (cloth, blue medical) are basically "security theatre" at this point (ask any epidemiologist pre March 2020).

I get it though... the theatre community is hurting and any attempt at some kind of plan seems better than nothing. It breaks my heart to think of the number of companies that might not recover.

On a brighter note - seeing how Broadway has really come together doing what they can (Buyer & Cellar, Sondheim's birthday, Seth Rudetsky's Stars In The House - all f***ing incredible) has definitely been a source of joy while keeping this wonderful community together.

"You are young. Life has been kind to you ...You will learn."
Updated On: 4/28/20 at 07:10 PM