Artistic Director…Little Theatre in the Time of CaronaVirus
Your host: Bryan Bergeron
Artistic Director of Surfside Playhouse located in Cocoa Beach, Florida
Oh my goodness, where to start?
How long will this last? Will we survive financially? How do we keep a connection with our community? What can we do to make our performers and volunteers feel safe to step back into the process? And of course, here's the big one...How do we entice nervous patrons back into their seats to watch a show.
Having discussed many of these issues with other community theatre artistic directors, it's obvious that we share many of the same concerns. Answers to these questions are as diverse as the individual theaters themselves. What works for an 80 employee playhouse may not be feasible for a small theater with 4 or 5 employees. A 1000 seat house has different concerns than a 75 seat auditorium has. Even given these differences however, there are some initiatives that filter to the top of the list.
Let's tackle the biggest concern. This is the thing that all theaters, promoters and producers are focused on.
Even if given permission to open the doors by local and state government, will nervous patrons be willing to return? Here's what I've learned from others in the business that seem to be universal.
1. Seating Mitigation : Reduce the total capacity of your auditorium and put into effect some element of social distancing in the seating plan. Here at Surfside Playhouse we have adopted a seating plan that reduces our 250 seat house to 128. Considered a temporary measure, seating mitigation has become the go-to mitigation tactic for many theaters. I've attached our plan as an example and granted, it's not perfect.
2. Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols: Most of us started to adopt enhanced cleaning methods before we shut down.
3. Seat discounts, snack bar enticements and other financial incentives will be offered to make attendance more attractive.
4. Covid 19 Awareness: Ushers, stage managers and other managers will be educated to recognize symptoms, exercise and encourage hand washing and to wear mask & gloves at all times.
5. Distancing protocols will be encouraged and enforced back stage as well in public areas.
6. Signs, Signs and more Signs: Signage regarding distancing procedures, hand washing and other safety policies will be prominently displayed in all areas of the theater.
7. Touchless hand sanitizer options will be available in the lobby and backstage.
8. Patrons will be asked to wear face masks whenever possible.
Other things are being discussed, such as temperature checks before admittance but these seem extreme at this juncture.
As always, every community theatre is concerned about the well being of patrons, volunteers and actors. By adopting these and other measures, we will be able to open the doors to those we love and to those who love us.
We truly are in this together.
Have an idea you want to share? We'd love to have you post it here.
Next Friday: Our blog takes a more cheerful turn as we hear from our most excellent costumer, Suzanne Childers.
Bryan Bergeron (Artistic Director)