Equity Announces Principles to Support Safe and Healthy Productions

On May 26th, Actors’ Equity Association, usually just referred to as Equity, the union for theatre actors and stage managers across the country, recently announced that theater in America should not resume until there is fast, reliable testing for the novel coronavirus and widespread contact tracing.

Equity has hired Dr. David Michaels, former head of OSHA during the Obama Administration, to assist them with developing a list of conditions under which its members will return to work.

They are beginning with four  core principles.  “These four principles are the foundation for our continued work with Dr. Michaels,” said Mary McColl, executive director of Actors’ Equity Association. “We intend to build out protocols that can be used by our employers and all of our colleagues to insure that everyone who works in the theatre has the safest workplace possible.” The four principles are:  

  1. The epidemic must be under control, with effective testing, few new cases in the area and contact tracing. 
  2. Individuals who may be infectious can be readily identified and isolated, with frequent, regular and accurate testing with speedy results. 
  3. The way we audition, rehearse, perform and stage manage may need to change and the venues we work in may need to undergo changes in order to reduce the risk.   
  4. Efforts to control COVID-19 exposure must be collaborative, involving Equity members, employers, the union and all others involved in the production of theatre. There must be collective buy-in and ongoing evaluation and improvement of health and safety practices. 

You can read the press announcement on the Equity web site and an article in New York Times.  An additional article in the Times talks to theatre owners and producers about when they expect to reopen.  Unfortunately, most of them don’t see theatres being able to reopen this year in a way that is both responsible and profitable.

Performing Arts COVID-19 Resources

Over the past couple of months, many organizations have written white papers and/or set up web pages on the impact of COVID-19 on the performing arts, reopening, bringing audiences back and more.  I thought it would be helpful to bring them together into one post.  So, here are summaries and links to some of the better resources.  I hope at least one is helpful to you.  Obviously newer information will be the most relevant, but the older information is still very useful.

If you know of other useful resources, please let me know.  I’ll update this page as I learn of additional information.

Let’s start with the basics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a home page for COVID-19 information.

Second, keeping the PAC clean and safe.  What can PACs do and what are employers required to do? 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has a web page outlining the basic Hierarchy of Controls from most effective to least effective.  The page notes that “Controlling exposures to occupational hazards is the fundamental method of protecting workers. Traditionally, a hierarchy of controls has been used as a means of determining how to implement feasible and effective control solutions.”  Here’s the key graphic:

Similarly, the OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 contains recommendations and descriptions of mandatory safety and health standards that employers must comply with.

The CDC has information on Cleaning and Disinfecting Facilities.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published a list of products that meet their criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The American Institute of Architects’ Re-occupancy Assessment Tool V1.0 was published on May 6th.  The document isn’t specific to theatres but provides information and checklists for a whole-building approach to mitigation strategies.

You may have heard  that UV-C can kill the virus.  The Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) has a few resources regarding UV-C disinfection.

Ten Facts about UV Radiation and COVID-19 

Germicidal Ultraviolet FAQ 

Third, what about the organization itself?  The National Endowment for the Arts has a great list of COVID-19 Resources for Artists and Arts Organizations.

The Event Safety Alliance published The Event Safety Alliance Reopening Guide on May 11th.  Like the IAAPA guide, this is comprehensive and, I think, a little more relevant to performing arts venues.

AMS Analytics has published a 2nd draft edition of Guide to Reopening Theatrical Venues on May 15th under the banner of The Performing Arts Center Consortium.  The guide is well written and has clear tables describing aspects of a PAC, Phases of reopening and safety and mitigation actions to take at each phase.

AMS Analytics also published The Long Runway to Return: The Role of Anchor Cultural Institutions, which urges major institutions to focus on their mission as they adapt to new artistic and financial realties.

Shugoll Research published Coronavirus Theatre Survey: National Sample of Theatregoers on May 11th.  The results aren’t surprising and include statistics such 63% of theatregoesrs are likely to wait a few months before returning to the theatre.

IAAPA published COVID-19 Reopening Guidance: Considerations for the Global Attractions Industry on May 1st .  It is a comprehensive paper on general considerations as well as considerations for specific elements of a venue such as food service, offices, and backstage spaces.

Other Resources:

Handwashing (World Health Organization)

Physical Distancing (CDC)

Face Masks / Face Coverings (CDC)

Cloth Face Coverings (CDC)

Coronavirus Symptoms (CDC)

Gensler has a blog with posts related to how companies and architectural design may need to change in response to COVID-19

The Event Safety Alliance Reopening Guide is Available

The Event Safety Alliance recently published a 30-page The Event Safety Alliance Reopening Guide. The guide is intended to help event industry professionals who are planning to reopen during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

The document covers a wide range of topics, from patron education to worker health and hygiene to production issues.

Some of the guidance is scalable, meaning it can be applied equally to events of any size. Where they had to choose, they focused on the circumstances of smaller, local events that will reopen first. Consequently, the Reopening Guide emphasizes things people can do rather than things they can buy, since money is likely to be especially tight for smaller events and venues that have been closed and may only partially reopen. 

The Guide is available for free download.

Studio T+L’s Shakespeare Challenge

Last weekend a group of us were having Zoom Cocktails.  We were talking about the quarantine challenges we had tried.  30-day yoga challenge (failed!).  30-day cocktail challenge (passed!).  We were also talking about having exhausted the offerings on Netflix, Prime, etc.  We agreed that Broadway HD is a good option, although sometimes clunky and prone to freezing.  Then we came up with a new one: The 38-week Shakespeare Challenge.  Read one Shakespeare play a week until we’ve worked our way through them all or we’re all released from confinement and can go outside again.  Here are the details.  Join us!

Do I have to buy the Complete Works of Shakespeare?  

Actually, no. There are plenty of places online where you can get Shakespeare’s plays for free.   You can go to your library (if it’s open) or an online library like the Internet Archive Open Library.  One of the best is the Folger Shakespeare Library which has each play available to read online, in a variety of formats for download, and about a half dozen plays as audiobooks.

Do I have to read the plays?

Again, no!  So many of the plays have been made into movies.  Watch the 1973 Antony and Cleopatra with Charlton Heston if you like.  Watch two versions and compare and contrast.

What are the plays, and what is the order?

We’ve decided to use the RSC’s Timeline of Shakespeare’s Plays.

Do I have to watch movies of the plays?

No again!  Do you want to watch Kurosawa’s Ran instead of King Lear?  Go for it!

Are there other options?

Of course!  Watch West Side Story or Kiss Me, Kate instead of Romeo and Juliet or Taming of the Shrew.  Let’s face it, they’re going to be better than a lot of the alternatives.

I hate book clubs.  Do we have to talk about this stuff?

First, you’re really difficult.  Second, yes but just a little bit.

Include the Arts in COVID Relief

Over the past few weeks I’ve spoken to theatre managers, artistic directors, production coordinators, and theatrical equipment manufacturers.  No one knows how they’re going to get through this.  When will theatres be permitted to reopen?  How long before audiences are comfortable returning to the theatre?  How long can arts organizations continue without income?  What’s going to happen to corporate, governmental and individual support if theatre companies aren’t presenting to the public?  When will theater companies have the money to renovate, expand or buy new equipment?

So far 501(c)(3) organizations have been excluded from the COVID Relief.  The Paycheck Protection Program only applies to 501(c)(3) organizations with 500 employees or more.  I doubt if even Lincoln Center or the Kennedy Center have that many.  The Emergency Injury Disaster Loan doesn’t include 501(c)(3) groups.

This is a terrifying time for artists and arts organizations, and if they’re going t exist after this crisis is over they need support.  

Sign the Petitions, Please!
Covid-19 Federal Aid Package for the Live Events Industry  is gaining momentum. It deals with issues from health insurance to business stabilization. This is a petition for us to support. 

Tell Congress to include displaced entertainment workers in relief package  
“Entertainment workers shouldn’t be collateral damage in the fight against COVID-19.”  Speak up for them!  This petition is sponsored by IATSE, The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.