Broadway to require audiences to be vaccinated, wear mask in all theaters

·4 min read

NEW YORK — No shot? No show.

Broadway audiences will have to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 and wear face masks to enter New York City’s theaters at least through October, the Broadway League announced Friday.

The mandate, which applies to all 41 Broadway theaters, will require guests older than 12 to be fully vaccinated, meaning they must show proof of receiving their last dose — or single-dose vaccine — at least 14 days before the performance date. Performers, backstage crew and theater staff must follow the same rules.

Exceptions will be made for children, who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated, as well as people with a medical condition or “closely held religious belief that prevents vaccination,” the league said. Guests who meet the exception criteria will have to show proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of the performance start time or a negative rapid test taken within six hours prior to the show.

Audiences will also be required to wear masks regardless of vaccination status, except to eat and drink in designated areas, according to the league.

“This is what we have to do to bring our industry back,” said Matt Ross, lead producer of “Pass Over,” the first play to open on Broadway since the pandemic triggered an unprecedented 16-month shutdown.

Ross said the production, whose first preview is scheduled for Wednesday at the August Wilson Theater, has a similar policy for the cast and crew, and it also requires them to be tested three times a week and wear masks at all times except on stage.

“Safety is paramount here, and it’s so important for the audience to feel safe returning to the theaters,” he told the Daily News.

Friday’s announcement comes amid a nationwide surge of new coronavirus infections, largely caused by the highly transmissible delta variant, which has led governments and businesses to announce new health rules.

The Metropolitan Opera, which plans to reopen in September, is also requiring guests to be vaccinated, but it won’t allow children under 12 into the building because they can’t yet get a shot. Danny Meyer, founder of Shake Shack and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, said Thursday that customers and employees would all be required to show proof of vaccination to enter his restaurants.

The latest rise in new cases, which officials have also blamed on stubborn anti-vaxxers, forced the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reverse its guidelines and recommend that vaccinated Americans resume wearing masks indoors in hard-hit areas, which include New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio suggested Friday that the city might impose a vaccine mandate for restaurant-goers as early as next week.

Producer Brian Moreland, of the upcoming Broadway play “Thoughts of a Colored Man,” said the league’s approach is “as safe as the science is telling us to be” and seeks to protect not only audiences, but also performers, ushers and everyone working in the theater.

“If the science took a turn, then we would take a different action,” he told The News. “But right now, the science is telling us that it’s safe for us to gather with a vaccinated crowd and a masked crowd.”

Moreland, a member of the league’s board of governors, said he’s not worried the policy will result in empty theaters, noting that many guests were hoping for a vaccine mandate so they can feel safe returning to Broadway. Bruce Springsteen’s Broadway concerts, Moreland said, already require proof of vaccine and have been at full capacity since the singer’s return to the Great White Way last month.

He expects the same response when “Thoughts of a Colored Man” — the first play in Broadway history to be written, directed, starring and produced by Black artists — begins previews on Oct. 1.

The Broadway League plans to review its vaccine and mask mandate in September for performances in November and beyond.

“As vaccination has proven the most effective way to stay healthy and reduce transmission, I’m pleased that the theatre owners have decided to implement these collective safeguards at all our Broadway houses,” league President Charlotte St. Martin said in a statement. “A uniform policy across all New York City Broadway theatres makes it simple for our audiences and should give even more confidence to our guests about how seriously Broadway is taking audience safety.”


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