How can theaters adapt to reduce the spread of coronavirus? That’s the daunting question that the “first edition” of the “Roadmap for Recovery and Resilience for Theater” from Harvard’s American Repertory Theater and the university’s Healthy Buildings Program begins to address.

“At this time, there are more questions than answers, but we believe that articulating the questions will lead to preparedness,” ART Artistic Director Diane Paulus writes in an introductory message. “This ‘First Edition’ of the roadmap, dated May 27, offers an initial set of considerations. We have deliberately not focused on tactical protocols for rehearsal and performance, as we anticipate the landscape changing over the coming months. We will continue to add content in the form of future editions as we develop and test protocols in the months ahead.”

The report mainly leaves for later attempting to figure out “strategies for minimizing risk during rehearsal” and “strategies for minimizing risk during production processes.” The report says, “We are imagining new models and a phased approach to reopening”—including “outdoor experiences, hybrid modes of performance, drive-in events, and digital delivery”— with the “ultimate goal” being a “full return to theater.”

“This interdisciplinary collaboration seeks to imagine a path toward recovery and resilience for theater following science-based public health principles,” the report says. Their preliminary recommendations include:

• Wear masks.

• Encourage hand-washing. And provide hand sanitizer at building and theater entrances and in backstage areas where sinks aren’t readily available.

• “Increasing the amount of outdoor air moving through the space” to “dilute the indoor concentration of airborne virus.”

• Improve the filtration of recirculated air.

• Reduce transmission of the virus in restrooms by requiring people to wear masks and limiting the number of people who can use the bathroom at one time while also preventing overcrowding in common areas. Options proposed include increasing the length of intermissions and increasing bathroom capacity. Also clean bathrooms “multiple times per day.”

• Reduce the transmission of coronavirus by touch by adopting automatic touchless faucets, soap dispensers, towel dispensers, and toilet flushers, automatic doors or doors with foot handles, and no-contact payment platforms.

• Reduce droplet and airborne transmission by adding physical barriers—like clear plexiglass walls–at box office windows, reception desks, concession stands, between workspaces within shared offices and shops.

• Reduce airborne virus transmission via ultraviolet lamps installed near the ceiling (away from people) that destroy the virus.

• Coronavirus screening or testing before people enter workplaces or event spaces.

• Adopt physical distancing for the “de-densification of shared spaces.”

• Group theater workers into “small, non-overlapping teams” and eliminate any in-person contact between the separate teams so that if a member of one team becomes ill and the team has to self-quarantine other teams can continue work. “It is clear that further thought will have to be devoted to the best methods of implementing these recommendations in the deeply collaborative, high-contact environment of theater.”

• Reduce transmission via contaminated objects by reducing sharing. For example, assign tools to specific individuals and assign seats to specific workers.

April 27, 2020: How To Present Theater After Coronavirus? A.R.T. Partners With Harvard Science Study

(Pictured at top: J.D. Mollison in American Repertory Theater’s “Moby-Dick.” Maria Baranova photo.)

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Categories: Performance Theater