Actors’ Equity Association has approved a handful of indoor productions at three New England non-profit theatres—the first to take place inside after performing arts venues have been shuttered for nearly six months due to the coronavirus pandemic. Among the shows is a seven-person staging of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s Little Shop of Horrors at the Weathervane Theatre in New Hampshire.
The New York Times reports Miracle on South Division Street by Tom Dudzick and Kander and Ebb’s The World Goes ’Round will play in repertory with Little Shop at Weathervane beginning September 9. Two solo shows have also been approved to run elsewhere: Matt Densky will star in Becky Mode’s Fully Committed at Music Theater of Connecticut, beginning September 11, and Stephanie Everett will perform her It’s Fine, I’m Fine at Northern Stage in Vermont (with dates to be announced).
All three venues have agreed to provide COVID-19 testing regularly, in addition to reducing audience capacity for social distancing and high-quality air filtration systems.
The Weathervane’s productions will be modified slightly, with the orchestra not having any wind or brass instruments in the band to avoid the spread of airborne particles. “This is about building a bridge to whatever is on the other side,” said Producing Artistic Director Ethan Paulini to the Times. “It’s about exploring that now, and exploring that safely, as opposed to sticking our heads in the sand and waiting for it to blow over—then we will have missed the opportunity for real creativity.”
While masks will only be required for patrons when not in their seats at the Weathervane, they are required at all times for the solo shows at MTC and Northern Stage.
Prior to this announcement, the only indoor production Equity had approved was the live recording of Diana on Broadway—without an in-person audience. A similar venture has now been approved for the East Lynne Theater Company in New Jersey to record and stream the two-hander Nothing Matters. In addition, the Black theatre company Front Porch Arts Collective has also been given the green light to stage a series of cabaret performances outside the Central Square Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Several approved outdoor productions launched earlier this summer, with Harry Clarke at Barrington Stage Company and Godspell at Berkshire Theatre Company being two examples of what theatre might look like in the near-future. The former was originally approved for indoor performances, though soon had to make the move to an open-air space.