Putting Public Safety First at Live, In-Person Performances

Local arts organizations and venues have been extensively preparing to welcome audiences back to live, in-person performances. In addition to getting back to rehearsal and production processes, groups have also been observing public health data and audience research in order to make educated decisions on how to craft a healthy and seamless return to the theater.

Arts groups have been grateful to hear from audiences who have filled out the Audience Outlook Monitor surveys, which ArtsBoston has been organizing in partnership with arts consulting firm WolfBrown and a cohort of 15 arts organizations. Since Phase One of the Audience Outlook Monitor in June 2020, these responses have influenced how the arts and culture sector pivoted as a whole during the pandemic and took new directions towards online and outdoor programming, indoor events with increased vigilance and clear communication around audience safety.

As many arts organizations approach the kickoffs of their fall seasons, the most recent audience survey results indicate that a majority of those surveyed would feel most comfortable attending indoor arts events with certain safety guidelines in place. Specifically, 80% of respondents have said that a proof of vaccination policy would make them more likely to attend indoor events. Support for this idea has increased over the summer: those who said they would feel positively about a company that implemented such a policy jumped from 59% in June to 76% in August.

While taking in these points, a group of over a dozen theaters across New England joined together and last week announced that they will require audiences to present proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test to attend indoor performances. This requirement is now in place and will last until Oct. 31 at least. ​Other venues including those run by Live Nation Entertainment and AEG Presents, along with independent music venues such as Passim and Middle East are also requiring proof of vaccination. Theaters and venues will also have to take into account potential changes to citywide and state guidelines, such as the indoor mask mandate that Mayor Kim Janey is instituting in Boston starting Friday, August 27. Overall, staying aware of guidelines and being understanding of change will both be crucial factors in making a difference in our area’s collective public health.

ArtsBoston Executive Director Catherine Peterson told WBUR, “We are all prepared to be responding to the needs of the community in the best way possible. The Boston arts community has been very, very thoughtful and collegial, thinking about the best ways to make the arts available to people who really need that nourishment and that excitement and the joy that a live arts experience brings. So I think people are going to be nimble in looking at what’s the best way to proceed for the rest of the fall and the rest of the coming season.” We’ll be adding a new ArtsBoston.org Reopening Resource Page after Labor Day with helpful up-to-date information to help you know what to expect as you return to live arts experiences. We look forward to seeing you there!

Header photo: Nile Hawver via Huntington Theatre Company

Elena Pearl, Patron Services ManagerElena 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.
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