Coalition of key Chicago theaters to require mask plus vaccination proof or negative test
Report: As pandemic shows signs of resurgence, more than 65 companies issue strict rules for patrons, performers, crews.
By Lawrence B. Johnson
A coalition of more than 65 performing arts venues and producers across Chicagoland has announced Covid-19 vaccination and mask requirements for audiences through the end of 2021. The unified Covid protection protocol, which takes effect Sept. 1 for indoor productions, requiries audience members to provide proof of vaccination or negative test certification upon entry and to wear masks.
Participating venues and their performers, backstage crew and staff will comply with vaccination requirements and testing protocols to further ensure the safety of all guests and company members, according to a statement from the League of Chicago Theatres. Organizations will begin notifying ticket holders for performances scheduled through December 2021 to ensure awareness of the new policies. Specific guidance and other venue specific requirements can be found on the organizations’ respective websites. The current protocols, developed by the coalition in consultation with public health officials, will be reviewed regularly and may include an extension or relaxation of certain provisions if the science dictates, the announcement said.
“The arts and cultural community is embedded in the fabric of Chicago,” said Deb Clapp, executive director of the League of Chicago Theatres. “Not all of the League’s more than 200 member theaters will be able to open this Fall. We are pleased that many members of our vibrant performing arts community that will be opening have come together to craft a unified response to this crisis so that audiences can once again experience the joy of live performance without future disruption.”
Specific protocols may vary by venue, but in general, patrons will need to be masked and fully vaccinated with a federally authorized vaccine in order to attend an indoor performance and must show proof of vaccination and identification at their time of entry into the venue with their valid ticket.
According to the announcement, “fully vaccinated” means the performance date must be at least 14 days after the second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine or at least 14 days after a single-dose vaccine. Where negative tests are accepted, patrons may provide proof of a COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of the performance start time or a negative COVID-19 antigen test taken within 6 hours of the performance start time. This includes accommodations for children under 12 and people with a medical condition or “closely held religious belief” that prevents vaccination. All patrons will have to wear a mask throughout the performance and during their time in the venue. Where refreshments are available, certain restrictions may apply based on the organization you are attending.
“The health and safety of our patrons is our main concern,” said Broadway In Chicago president Lou Raizin. “The theater community was the first to close and the last to reopen, and this has been a tremendous loss for the City of Chicago and the economic generator that the arts provide.
“On an annual basis, pre-pandemic Chicago’s creative industries produced more than $17.6 billion in economic output, supported 81,300 jobs and generated more than $4.8 billion in household earnings — delivering $336.5 million in local and state government revenue. Given the necessity for theaters to open with 100 percent capacity, our working together with fellow Chicago arts organizations has given us the opportunity to chart our way back to opening our doors and bringing our stages alive again safely.”
Criss Henderson, executive director of Chicago Shakespeare Theater, said: “We are all excited to welcome back audiences and once again enjoy the power and connection of live performances. Throughout the pandemic, we have prioritized the health and well-being of our staff, artists and patrons. This collective decision is the next step in that commitment so that we all can get safely back to what we miss and love.”
Jeff Alexander, president of the Chicago Symphony Association, noted that “implementing these protocols allows us to bring people together safely to once again experience the transformative and life-enriching power of music during a very challenging time.”
At the Harris Theater, president and CEO Lori Dimun said, “For the past 17 months, performing arts organizations and venues in our city have planned and painstakingly prepared to welcome artists, crew, staff, and audiences back to the stage. As our seasons of indoor performances approach, our greatest priority is to ensure a safe return for everyone entering our spaces so that we can once again, in community with each other, experience the power and exhilaration of live performance.”
“We are united in our efforts to keep the health and safety of our audiences, artists and staff paramount,” said Anthony Freud, general director of Lyric Opera of Chicago. “Though the policies of individual artistic companies across the city may vary, depending on their audiences and facilities, our goal is clearly the same as we build the safest path back to live performances.”
Said Timothy J. Evans, executive director of Northlight Theatre: “Northlight is overjoyed to have audiences return to the theater this fall, and we are proud to work collectively with our Chicago theater colleagues so that our industry and our audiences can safely return to share in the communal experience that is unique to live theater.”
In a joint statement, Glenn Davis and Audrey Francis, recently named co-artistic directors at Steppenwolf Theatre, said:
“We support the coalition’s work to do everything within our power to keep Chicago performers, stage crews and audiences safe. These new vaccine and masking guidelines will help us launch a season of live performance, following 17 months of forced closure, while keeping public health at the forefront of our commitment as a cultural citizen.”
“We want to reopen, but as an industry that was hit so hard by this pandemic, our futures will be determined by our ability to stay open,” said Kate Lipuma, executive director of Writers Theatre. And this is just the right thing to do – for our staffs, artists and, of course, our patrons.”
The coalition currently also includes 16th Street Theater, A Red Orchid Theatre, About Face Theatre, Aguijón Theatre, Albany Park Theatre Project, American Blues Theater, Apollo Theater Chicago, Artemesia Theatre, The Artistic Home, Aston Rep Theatre Company, Athenaeum Theatre, Auditorium Theatre, Babes with Blades, Black Button Eyes Productions, Bluebird Arts, Brightside Theatre, Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble, Chicago Humanities Festival, Chicago Latino Theater Alliance, Chicago Magic Lounge, Chicago Youth Shakespeare, Court Theatre, First Floor Theatre, First Folio Theater and Goodman Theatre, Greenhouse Theatre Center, Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Hell in a Handbag, Her Story Theatre, High Concept Labs, House Theatre of Chicago and International Voices Project.
Also, The Joffrey Ballet, Lookingglass Theatre Company, The Marriott Theatre, Midsommer Flight, The Neo Futurists, The New Coordinates, Northlight Theatre, Oak Park Festival Theatre, Oil Lamp Theater, Old Town School of Folk Music, Paramount Theatre, Piven Theatre Workshop, Pivot Arts, Playmakers Laboratory, Porchlight Music Theatre, Pridearts, Promethean Theatre Ensemble, Raven Theatre, Red Tape Theatre, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Saint Sebastian Players, Saltbox Theatre Collective, The Second City, Shattered Globe Theatre, Skokie Theatre, Stage Left Theatre, Theatre Wit, Three Brothers Theatre, TimeLine Theatre Company, UrbanTheater Company, Victory Gardens Theater, WildClaw Theatre and Williams Street Repertory Theatre.