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Kansas City Theatres Reopen With Health Precautions

Live KC theaters reopen with health precautions

Kansas City Theatres Reopen With Health Precautions
Photo courtesy of City Stage

Kansas City live theater companies have mostly reopened after enduring eighteen months of dark stages and empty auditoriums. Curtains first rang down in New York and shortly thereafter here in Kansas City beginning March 12, 2020. It was a response to a raging pandemic then causing the death of three thousand Americans each day. As of October 21, 2021, more than 732,000 Americans had died as a consequence of one of the several variants of Covid-19 virus.

Much has changed in a year and a half. Scientists in the United States and other countries have developed multiple effective vaccines, treatments, and mitigations for the COVID-19 disease, but a mostly political debate has evolved to stand in the way of a return to a pre-pandemic way of life. Despite the vaccine being widely available, only 57 percent of Americans were fully vaccinated as of October 20, 2021. The death toll is maintained by the New York Times newspaper and the Centers for Disease Control. Just north of 1600 people a day still die daily from the disease.

The forty-0ne New York Broadway theaters have begun to reopen with safety precautions. Some theaters have already opened, but re-opening may not be as simple as throwing a light switch to the "on" position. Mounting a full show requires vaccination of casts and crews, advance tickets sales, rehearsals, plus an ongoing testing regime. At least one show "Aladdin" has already suffered a secondary, weeklong shutdown due to positive testing among the cast.

Audience members at all "Broadway" theaters must show proof of vaccination and identification before being admitted to the buildings. Once inside, audience members must continue to wear masks for the duration of performances with very limited exceptions for children under twelve years of age and for individuals with certified religious or medical exemptions. Even in these cases, proof of negative Covid test taken during the previous seventy-two hours must be presented.

Major Kansas City theaters are following the example of their brother and sister venues in New York and/or putting additional, significant risk mitigation strategies in place. The following Kansas City theaters have announced ongoing, required, vaccination policies. These include all performances at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Barn Players at the Arts Asylum, Unicorn Players, MET at the Warwick Theatre, Musical Theater Heritage at Crown Center, Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland, Folly Theatre, and Kansas City Actors' Theatre at performing at Union Station's City Stage, and the White Theatre in the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park. Through a lot of hard work, audiences can feel reasonably confident that theater in KC is back and as safe as the producers can make it.

Additionally, some Kansas City venues are restricting the number of audience members allowed in the theaters below full capacity. Others have installed special air filtering and chemical cleaning equipment to assure safety of their patrons to the evolving states of the art.

Covid-19 has proven to be something of a moving target. Vaccines and masks cannot provide 100 percent protection against infection, but they can provide almost universal protection against serious illness and death for people without comorbidities. This week, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Federal Drug Administration have announced approvals for additional brands of vaccines and medicines. The federal government has alerted the states that vaccine for persons older than age five and younger than age twelve may be expected and available at no cost during the first half of November. Booster shots are already beginning to roll out after only six months of the initial jabs.

Covid-19 does not appear to be a very stable virus. It exists mainly to copy itself. Sometimes these copies are not perfect and become a new variant of the virus that will threaten mostly unvaccinated people. The goal of the vaccines is to reduce the opportunity available for these imperfect variations to occur.

Masking and vaccination requirements continue to grow and be renewed on an ongoing basis. This is happening around the world. Outbreaks of new versions of the disease are currently being seen in both the United Kingdom and in Russia lockdowns by another name are growing regionally.

It is becoming more possible that the pandemic will turn into something that is endemic. That is to say if we achieve vaccination at a high level, the infection can be controlled, but it is likely to be with us for the foreseeable future.

A sizable minority of the population resists vaccination for their own reasons and that would be their right if it affected only them. Unfortunately, the rest of the population also pays a price in illness, economics, death, and variants. More threateningly, limitation on the number of beds and hospital personnel are costing innocent people sicknesses and death unrelated to the Covid-19. Restrictions on access to entertainment, travel, and other areas to the uncooperative are the tools the remainder of society has to ask the resistors to rethink their positions.

In the month of November, available entertainments in Kansas City will include "The Sponge Bob Musical" at The Coterie, "Company" at Musical Theater Heritage, "Peter and the Starcatcher" at Olathe Community Theatre, "Something Rotten" at The White Theatre, "Once" at the Barn Players, "Lyric Opera Goes to Hollywood," "Johnny and June," at the New Theatre Restaurant, "A Christmas Carol" at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, "Tootsie" at the Broadway Theatre League, and "The Elves and the Shoemaker" at the City Stage inside Union Station.

From This Author - Alan Portner

Al Portner is regional editor for Broadway World – Kansas City.  He is a retired career journalist and media executive who has written for publication over more than 40 years. Portner ha... (read more about this author)

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