What to Know Before the Curtain Rises: Returning to Live Performances in Greater Boston

Across the United States and here in Boston, arts and cultural organizations are announcing their seasons and raising the curtain on live performances and events. But for all of us, the choice to return to in-person activities that we enjoyed pre-pandemic is a very personal one. To make this decision-making process as seamless as possible, ArtsBoston and our community of member organizations are committed to monitoring how the COVID-19 situation develops over the next several months, implementing appropriate safety measures, and communicating transparently about these expectations with audiences. In this post, we’re addressing some of the biggest questions you may have about returning to venues.

What information is being used to plan a safe return?

Joseph G. Allen

Photo: Joseph G. Allen, Director of the Healthy Buildings Program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

In addition to following city and state guidelines, Boston’s arts organizations have been listening to public health experts, and one person who has been integral to reopening preparations is Dr. Joe Allen, Director of the Healthy Buildings Program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public HealthIn June 2021, ArtsBoston convened an open forum Dr. Allen, with a large number of our member organizations, and Ryan McKittrick, Director of Artistic Programs and Dramaturg at American Repertory Theater, to understand the greatest priorities in returning now that mask mandates and other requirements have been lifted. At the start of the pandemic, A.R.T. and the Chan School of Public Health immediately began collaborating to create the Roadmap to Recovery and Resilience, an ongoing collection of research and tools that has been central to our community’s reopening planning.

Are fellow arts-goers getting the vaccine?

Yes! With the most recent data from the Audience Outlook Monitor (a survey of Massachusetts audiences at 15 arts organizations of varying genres/sizes facilitated by ArtsBoston and the international arts consulting firm WolfBrown), 95% of those surveyed are partially or fully vaccinated. As public health experts report, vaccination against COVID-19 is the most effective way to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading the virus, and when a large percentage of the population is vaccinated, the need for other measures of defense (mask-wearing, social distancing, and increased ventilation) is reduced.

How will I know what safety guidelines to follow?

When you’re scoping out an event or performance, venues and presenting organizations may have their own unique safety procedures. Be sure to read the event’s description thoroughly, and don’t be afraid to reach out with questions if you have them. As groups closely monitor developments with the virus, you will likely see updates or changes to safety protocols over time, and that’s a good thing! Organizations are working hard to help you manage expectations and stay informed about what will take place when you do decide to buy a ticket and take your seat.

How are venues working to increase airflow indoors?

Filtration and ventilation are two prevention methods that public health experts stand by to reduce the risk of transmission indoors. The primary strategies that arts groups are using to increase airflow rates are listed in ASHRAE’s Core Recommendations for Reducing Airborne Infectious Aerosol Exposure, which include ways to bring in air from outdoors, and the use of MERV-13 filters and portable air cleaners with HEPA filters.

Are masks necessary for indoor events?

As the CDC indicates, mask-wearing is not necessary for vaccinated individuals. However, wearing a mask is a personal choice, and if you feel most comfortable wearing one, you are more than welcome to stay masked. If you are unvaccinated, wearing a mask is a crucial step to protect yourself from getting and spreading the virus.

Thankfully, arts and cultural organizations have learned through the research of experts like Dr. Allen that with the large majority of arts audiences already vaccinated, the baseline risk for contracting or spreading COVID-19 is low. By staying on top of the science and keeping communication open with audiences, the arts community is committed to helping you make the most informed decision about when and how you make your return to live performances. When that moment comes, we’re excited to welcome you back, but whether it happens tomorrow or sometime down the road, know that your presence and perspectives are greatly valued as part of the arts community of Greater Boston.

Thinking about planning your return to the arts? We want to hear from you about what you’re most excited about, the questions you have, and everything in between! To get in touch, contact us.  

Header photo: American Repertory Theater’s Loeb Drama Center. Photo by Matthew J. Lee/Boston Globe.

Elena Morris (she/her/hers) is ArtsBoston’s Community Outreach and Marketing Manager. She is a dramaturg and arts administrator passionate about forward thinking in the arts. Elena holds a BFA in Theatre Arts from Boston University, focusing her studies on dramatic literature and movement. twitter-4-512 @elena_pearl
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