How theatres around the world are keeping audiences safe
It’s no surprise that theatres have been impacted worldwide by Covid. New restrictions have brought challenges, but theatres around the world have continually adapted their policies, requirements, and safety measures for cast and crew to ensure that everyone can safely attend a live performance at the theatre.
Theatre owners and front of house staff are doing their utmost to keep audiences, creatives, and fellow staff members protected from the virus. Audiences don’t need to isolate from the West End and Broadway — live theatre is back and is here to stay. Theatres are a safe place to be during the pandemic, and you can see a live show with no Covid-related concerns.
Here’s how theatres around the world are safeguarding audiences from Covid-19, and why you can confidently see a show without thinking about Covid — for a few hours.
Here are the Covid safety protocols in place for theatre audiences.
Planning a theatre trip is slightly different to pre-pandemic theatre evenings. Gone are the days of walking up to a box office, booking a last-minute ticket, and sitting in your seat. Instead, theatregoers have to prove that they are Covid-free, continue to wear masks, and then leave the premises as soon as the show is over. There are a few more steps to be permitted entry into a theatre building now, but these measures have been incorporated by West End and Broadway theatres to guarantee everyone’s safety.
Negative Covid test
Before entering the theatre, you’ll have to prove that you are either fully vaccinated, or that you have completed a test to prove you are Covid negative. In London, a negative test result must be shown from 48 hours before the performance. In New York, most venues require a PCR test from within 72 hours or a rapid test from 6 hours.
For an added level of Covid safety, some venues across North America have vaccinated-only performances, meaning you can only attend an event if you are fully vaccinated and do not allow the option to present a negative test instead. Your temperature may also be checked before going into the venue. If you’re too hot or displaying symptoms at the door, you may not be let in.
Once you have entered the venue, you’ll be required to wear masks at all times. Many theatres have stopped selling concessions for the time being so people don’t have to take their masks off to eat or drink. Yes, it may cramp your style for a few hours, but it’s worth it to ensure that the show must go on. You can even wear a mask with the logo of a Broadway show and make it a fashion statement!
In addition, e-tickets and digital programs have become more popular at theatres to minimize touch. Hand sanitisers are also dotted around theatres to make sure everyone can keep their hands clean, and some theatres adopted a one-way system around the auditorium to stop people from walking into each other.
No stage door
Once the show is done, you may want to greet performers at the stage door. Sadly, there’s no stage-dooring allowed anymore, meaning no huddling around for hours to catch a glimpse of your favorite stars. There are no backstage tours or guests allowed in the venue either. While these precautions may seem excessive, it’s to minimize all unnecessary contact and Covid spreading around the venues.
Behind the scenes measures to keep everyone else
When you’re sitting in the audience before a show, you might be thinking about the theatre you’re sitting in. As well as audience precautions, there’s a lot that happens which you won’t see in order to keep venues as Covid-free as possible. Policies and information can change on a regular basis, so theatres implement more measures whenever it is necessary to keep audiences as safe as possible. The following health and safety measures have been added to make sure everyone is protected backstage.
Cleaning and sanitization protocols
Theatres are cleaned and sanitized daily, and new state-of-the-art air filtration systems have been installed in numerous venues to prevent Covid-19 virus particles from lingering in the air. Nobody wants to breathe in Covid unknowingly!
Covid safety officers on staff
Before a show takes place, everyone involved in the show must take a daily Covid test to ensure that everyone displays a negative result. If somebody tests positive, then they are required to isolate according to their country’s rules, and are not allowed to work. If too many people test positive, then the show must be cancelled for the foreseeable future. It’s a nervewracking time to be working in the theatre at the moment, but all of these steps are added in to make sure everyone is protected.
Vaccination requirements and negative testing for cast and crew
Shows have even hired Covid safety officers, whose jobs include administering tests, checking vaccination proof, enforcing proper mask wearing, and contact tracing. It’s a full-time job that never existed before the pandemic, but it’s a crucial part of a show to make sure everyone is comfortable. Ushers may even pitch in to check vaccine proof and mask-wearing among audiences, so there are multiple people at the venue working to keep everyone safe.
Socially-distanced performances still remain
If you’re cautious about sitting in a full capacity auditorium, there’s options for you to still see live theatre while staying six feet apart from others. Some Off-Broadway and Off-West End venues have incorporated socially distanced performances into their schedule, meaning fewer people will be in the building for certain performances. If you want to attend a socially distanced performance, we recommend checking an individual show’s schedule ahead of time. With this policy, you can go to the theatre without worrying about people next to you.
Shows are only canceled to keep people safe
In these turbulent times, performances can be canceled anywhere from a few days to a few hours before they’re due to take place. Postponing and canceling shows isn’t an easy decision to make, though, and it’s not the fault of cast members or those working on the show. Sometimes, shows are not canceled due to Covid restrictions. Shows may be canceled to ensure everyone has enough recovery time — from Covid-19, another illness, or an injury — to return to the show fit and healthy.
If a show is canceled because of Covid, it means that the production has caught a positive case before it can spread, making sure they have time for everyone else to test negative before bringing audiences in. Safe decision-making for everyone!
Different casts can make sure the show goes on
In recent weeks, many swings, understudies, and alternates have performed in productions to ensure that the show can go on. There have also been some incredible cases of cast members returning to shows years after they performed — Carla Strickland played Elphaba, seven years after she was part of the cast, to make sure Wicked on Broadway could go on. In The Lion King on Broadway, one child cast member played the role of Young Nala to make sure the show could happen. Make sure to celebrate swings, understudies, and alternates, as they’re vital to keeping theatres open!
Everyone follows the same rules.
While at the theatre, you may not have been in a crowd this large for years. With all of these rules in place, you can guarantee that those around you have also followed the same rules — they’re all Covid-free. Unfortunately, you can’t guarantee 100% Covid-19 protection, but the Covid safety officer will ensure that contact tracing will take place to let everyone know if they’ve come into contact with someone who tests positive.
Get tickets to the theatre tonight.
Did you know that there are West End and Broadway performances every day of the week? If you’re wanting to see a West End show or Broadway show, but don’t want to plan your theatre trip until the last second, you can book last-minute theatre tickets for shows on TodayTix. There are dozens of Broadway shows and West End shows with performances tonight, as well as Rush tickets in London and Rush tickets in New York which allow you to book tickets for performances the day of the show. Check out our guides to the latest shows playing tonight in the West End and Broadway and support live theatre.