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Backstage Video | Regional Theatres Prepare for Re-Opening Night

Stage Directions • Theatre Buzz • June 28, 2020

From CBS Sunday Morning comes this video covering two regional theatres – Barrington Stage Company and Wooly Mammoth Theatre Company as they plan for re-opening. Coming back from the pandemic shutdown is requiring some big changes – for crew, actors, and audiences. Correspondent Rita Braver talks with the artistic directors of the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Mass., and the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., and with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Michael R. Jackson, about how they are adjusting to conditions created by COVID-19.

Post-COVID seating at the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, MA. Photo by CBS News

Excerpted from CBS Sunday Morning:
Barrington Stage Company in Western Massachusetts, is going to mount a play, one of the few this summer in American theatre. They have taken out every other row of seats, which reduces their seat count from 520 down to 163 seats. Artistic director Julianne Boyd says everything will be different, from a stage edge that keeps actors farther away from the audience, to new rules for patrons: “We’re going to take their temperature,” said Boyd. “They will have to sanitize their hands and then they can enter. The audience will have to wear masks in the theatre, and they have to keep them on the whole time,” said Boyd.

To avoid having actors and crew too close to each other, the new season will open with a one-man show, Harry Clarke. “It’s one actor, minimal set, one costume,” said Boyd. “I would need no backstage crew.” They don’t expect to make a profit from the play: “This isn’t something that we can continue doing for a long time,” she said.

At Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., artistic director Maria Manuela Goyanes has already had her team draw up plans for cabaret-style tables socially-distanced, or even Plexiglas booths, once theatres are allowed to reopen.

And so, whatever playwrights create, local and regional theatres will be ready to stage because, Goyanes said, for audiences, cast and crew, nothing can replace the joy of theater. “Because it really ennobles us,” she said. “It enriches our lives; that’s what the theatre does. And so what keeps me up at night is, how to employ people in the future and make sure that we can come back stronger than ever.”

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