How to Keep Your Little Theatre Open During the Coronavirus Epidemic
Stage Whispers Perth correspondent Kimberley Shaw shares ways of making your audience and company as safe as possible during the outbreak of Covid 19.
Be aware that advice is changing very quickly, so little theatres (with an audience under 500) may NOT be able to perform next weekend, but these measures will also be helpful when we return to business after the worst of the outbreak.
Have a ‘no questions asked return or exchange’ policy. Try to encourage the patrons to exchange for your next show, but otherwise happily return their money. (If you are the patron in this situation, perhaps opt for next show or make a donation – theatres are going to be doing it tough).
If possible spread your audience out as far as possible in the auditorium, with a seat between each group (the opposite of what we normally do).
Place a sign as the audience enters asking them to stop, and remind them that if they are unwell or have possible exposure to Covid 19, that you will provide a full refund. Ask them to phone your box office and leave immediately.
Open your front doors to encourage your audience to wait outside and decrease the crowding before the show, at interval, and post show (be mindful of your liquor licensing though).
Consider opening your auditorium early to help avoid crowd concentration.
Cancel official post-show ‘meet and greets’ and encourage cast to meet family and friends in the largest area you can find, or outside.
Discourage hand shaking.
Between every show, clean and disinfect all possible surfaces. Let your audience know that this has happened.
If you can obtain hand sanitiser, ask box office staff to clean hands between each physical contact.
If your theatre is small enough, use “Verbal Ticketing” rather than handing over a physical ticket, if the patrons have not printed at home or have phone tickets.
Obviously keep these as clean as possible.
Put hand washing posters above the sink. There are some really funny theatrically themed ones around – or theme to your show. The audience hand washing time will increase simply to enjoy the poster.
If you do not currently use paper towels, consider supplying them, and placing garbage bins both inside and outside the rest rooms so that patrons do not need to touch door handles.
If available provide hand sanitiser and ask all patrons to use before entering the auditorium.
If your box office has not been able to spread the audience seating, encourage and allow patrons to do this themselves.
Consider disinfecting hand rails, not only before the show, but at interval.
And if an audience member is coughing..
Politely ask them to leave the theatre, provide a full refund and perhaps a gift (discount for next show?) for their inconvenience. Chances are they just have a dry throat, but it is important for everyone to feel safe as well as actually being safe.
What about the cast and crew?
Insist on hand washing or sanitising on arrival at the theatre.
Disinfect surfaces backstage as often as possible.
Discourage handshakes, hugging and kissing (of course that it is like telling actors not to breathe – good luck).
Ban sharing of drink bottles.
Can you open windows or doors or encourage actors to wait outside during long breaks?
Is it possible to reduce, limit or re-block intimate or kissing scenes?
Stay safe and chookas!