New York City’s theaters, music venues and comedy clubs finally have the opportunity for which they’ve been waiting for over a year: the chance to start holding performances for live audiences again.
On March 3, 2021, Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo announced that beginning April 2, performing arts establishments could host audiences at 33% capacity, with a limit of 100 people indoors or 200 people outdoors.
Broadway theaters first closed on March 12, 2020, initially as a precautionary measure to stop the spread of COVID-19 in New York City. At first, theaters closed for just one month before they ultimately chose to implement a rolling reopening date that they have repeatedly pushed back, and which currently stands at May 30, 2021. As this date has drawn closer, however, it has become clear that the arts scene will not be springing back to life but rather inching towards it.
The first major event that will be taking place is called PopsUp, a city-wide outdoor festival that hopes to encourage people to get out and explore the arts. Another notable performance that will be taking place is “Blindness,” a socially distanced, immersive audio installation at the Daryl Roth Theatre.
In perhaps the most fitting program for the mood of the pandemic, the Park Avenue Armory plans to open a new piece which involves audience members dancing in their own socially distanced spotlight. All 13 performances are currently sold out.
While no theater is currently requiring audience members to be vaccinated, they are requiring each individual to provide a negative COVID-19 urgent test, an action which effectively puts a stop to day-of ticket sales. Additionally, theaters will put protocols in place for casts and crews, such as hand-sanitizing stations and mandatory social distancing.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently stated that “if enough people get vaccinated and are careful in reopening and resuming activities, based on current projections, I believe we likely could see a return to more fully open movie and Broadway theaters sometime in the fall.”
True to Fauci’s word, the majority of Broadway shows have projected a fall 2021 reopening date, including new productions and reopened shows, although it is uncertain which will open first. Excitingly, there are rumors that “Hamilton” will be the first Broadway show to reopen, with exclusive performances for a socially distanced audience held on July 4. If these rumors are true, it could prompt many darkened New York theaters to open their doors once more, marking the end of a long, often bleak hibernation.