The new hybrid policy marks the first of its kind on Broadway, after theater owners removed the industrywide mask mandate on July 1. Since then, masks have been optional in Broadway theaters, and individual productions have also been allowed to set their own policies for audience members.
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The decision at The Kite Runner, an adaptation of the 2003 novel which opened on Broadway on July 21, is meant to allow immunocompromised patrons, or those who are otherwise uncomfortable sitting in a mask-optional audience, to attend the show. The policy will start with the Aug. 19 performance.
“There were a number of people, including friends, colleagues, even a doctor who had expressed some trepidation about attending our show, or any show, without a masked audience,” said lead producer Victoria Lang.
“We thought, why not dedicate at least one performance a week to make it a masked audience, so that anyone and everyone who wants to see the show has the opportunity to do that,” she said.
Friday night is typically one of the most popular nights on Broadway, commanding crowds and pricier tickets. While they are bringing a new play to Broadway (a typically risky endeavor that could be boosted by a policy such as this), Lang said the producers chose Friday night since they felt it was the most accessible for scheduling for patrons.
“You always hope to boost sales, but it wasn’t done specifically to boost sales,” she said. “It was done really just to accommodate the requests from the people that were looking for a masked show.”
Since the industrywide mandate was removed, two Broadway plays, The Minutes and American Buffalo, reinstated a mask mandate. Both limited runs, which had the mandate for all performances, closed as planned in July.
To reach the decision on her production, Lang said she consulted with the co-producers on the show and then informed the Broadway League, the trade association of theater owners and operators, as well as the show’s cast and crew.
For Friday performances, the theater plans to put out signage at the box office, as well as inside and outside the theater, indicating that it will be a masked performance. Ushers inside the theater will enforce the policy, Lang said.
The overall impact of the masks versus no masks on Broadway attendance remains unclear, as industrywide numbers have been impacted by a lower number of tourists, as well as canceled performances and COVID-19 concerns.
However, Lang said she and the producers will monitor the level of demand, and interest, for the play’s Friday evening performances, and then may add other performances, if warranted. The limited run is scheduled to play the Helen Hayes Theater through Oct. 30.
“If there are further requests for more performances, we certainly have the opportunity to do it,” Lang said.