After more than a year of being closed, the Belmont Theater District is once again doing live performances, with more shows opening each week. Here’s what some of our member theaters had to say about reopening after a pandemic.
To mask or not to mask, what are your current COVID protocols?
Jeremy Wechsler, Artistic Director, Theater Wit: Proof of vaccination or PCR test within the last 48 hours. The audience must remain masked during the performance.
Jennifer Estlin, Exec. Producer, Annoyance Theatre & Bar: Proof of vaccination is required, and masks are required while not actively drinking. When people buy tickets they must acknowledge that they are aware of the policy prior to completing purchase.
Megan Hartmann, General Manager, Newport Theater: We have been vax-only since reopening in June. We provide hand sanitizer and masks for our audiences and require audience members to stay masked when not drinking. We check vaccination cards before anyone enters the theater, and be sure to communicate our mask policy before they enter. We also notify audience members if there is a higher-risk activity happening onstage (i.e. singing) so they can pick their seat accordingly. We have begun to implement a universal consent gesture as well. If an audience member is uncomfortable with how close an entertainer is to them or does not want to otherwise be interacted with, we ask them to place their hands over their heart to nonverbally communicate that to the performers or host.
How are the audience’s reactions to the mask mandate, and have you noticed any differences in current audiences compared to the past?
Jeremy Wechsler, Theater Wit: They have been very supportive and quite thrilled to be back. Most [ticket] reservations are for the next 2-8 days. Pre-pandemic, the numbers averaged 2 weeks ahead.
Jennifer Estlin, Annoyance Theatre & Bar: Great for the most part. People are really happy to be out and seeing things.
Megan Hartmann, Newport Theater: We have been gratified that the majority of people coming in are voicing their strong support for the precautions we’re taking and say that they feel safe onsite.
What have been the performers’ reactions to returning to the stage?
Jennifer Estlin, Annoyance Theatre & Bar: People are ecstatic to be on stage again. Some people have felt overwhelmed, some [feel] like they’re “alive again.”
Will Wilhelm, “Jenny/Mrs. Krabappel” in Mr. Burns at Theater Wit: Gathering with a live audience has been healing for the soul. It feels wonderful to safely laugh together, feel our heartbeats synchronize, and experience some much-needed communal catharsis.
Megan Hartmann, Newport Theater: It has been a very emotional and varied response. We are primarily a burlesque/drag venue, so some performers have mentioned feeling more disconnected from their bodies than they have in the past. Many performers have been surprised at the things that were once second nature that are now more difficult. like, “I forgot my shoes!” or “How did I forget how to pack a gig bag?!” Most performers have expressed that it feels amazing to be back on stage, and it feels comforting to be in a vax-only space, and the audience feedback has been incredible.
Eileen Doan, “Colleen/Itchy” in Mr. Burns at Theater Wit: It’s nerve-wracking and vulnerable in a way it’s never been before, but it’s unbelievably joyful and whole-hearted to have had something missing from your life for so long and finally get to experience it again.
And finally, what would you like to share about producing live shows again after this unplanned hiatus?
Jennifer Estlin, Annoyance Theatre & Bar: Coming together in laughter reminds us of our shared humanity.
Megan Hartmann, Newport Theater: The Newport Theater is continually overwhelmed by the perseverance and creativity of the artists we employ, and we continue to be humbled by the outpouring of support from our audiences. We’re so grateful to be back! Thank you BTD for your hard work supporting theaters in the area!
Jeremy Wechsler, Theater Wit: Watching the audience cheer as we reopened our doors after 530 days was an experience none of us at the Wit will ever forget. The audience experience of Mr. Burns, a post-electric play through the lens of the pandemic is arresting, joyful and gripping. The room is crackling with electricity, tension and finally. . . joy.
To see these and more live shows playing now in the Belmont Theater District, check out our Shows page. BTD is thrilled to be back, and we can’t wait to see you in the audience!
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