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

Evaluating Water Damaged Equipment

Throughout the south there are schools, universities and professional theatres with electrical equipment that has been submerged in flood waters from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.  They’re biggest question is, “What can I dry out and use, and what do I have to replace?”  NEMA (the National Electrical Manufacturers Association) has a guide for this (NEMA GD 1-2016 Evaluating Water-Damaged Electrical Equipment) that you can download here.

Some larger pieces of equipment can be reconditioned, but that doesn’t mean simply drying them out.  It includes using appropriate cleaning agents, and the success of reconditioning depends on the “nature of the electrical function, the degree of flooding, the age of the equipment, and the length of time the equipment was exposed to water.”  The problem is that equipment submerged during a flood isn’t just wet, it’s now contaminated with whatever was in the water.

What does that mean for a theatre?  Here are some key items that should be replaced.

  • Fuses, switches, circuit breakers
  • Components containing semiconductors and transistors.  That means lighting and sound control consoles, dimmer rack control and power modules, and all LED fixtures.
  • Transformers.  If the transformer feeding your dimmer racks was submerged, it has to be replaced.
  • Outlets and switches
  • Wiring in conduit
  • Stage cables
  • Uninterruptible power supplies
  • Communications systems
  • Batteries

What might be successfully reconditioned?  Not much.

  • Conduit and tubing, if it can be completely dried out
  • Motors.  Consult the manufacturers of your stage and pit lifts.

Yes, it’s a lot.  But, it’s better to replace damaged equipment than to risk failure, or worse, of equipment with hidden damage.

Here’s the plug for Studio T+L:  Give us a call.  We can help you to determine what needs to be replaced, write a specification for the replacement equipment, bid the replacement, and check up on the contractors as they’re doing the work.  And, we’re nice!


For the second year in a row, USITT is promoting rigging safety on social media by asking people to use the hashtag #RigSafe on April 29th.  USITT will be promoting their Rigging Safety Initiative providing free rigging inspections and safety training for high school stages.  USITT is also producing the Jay O. Glerum Rigging Masterclass in Denver this June.

The importance of knowledgeable, safety conscious riggers is obvious when we consider that there are literally tons of equipment hanging over the heads of the audience and performers in many of our theaters.  USITT does a good job of offering training to high school and college students.  ESTA and their Entertainment Technician Certification Program (ETCP) take the next step by administering an industry-wide program of rigorous assessments for professional technicians in the categories of Rigger-Arena, Rigger-Theatre, and Entertainment Electrician.

These exams are a voluntary test of certain abilities, skills and knowledge in each category.  Individuals who have passed the exam have demonstrated proficiency in their respective field.  Studio T+L supports increased professionalism for entertainment technicians, and requires that an ETCP certified technician lead the rigging installation team on all of our projects.  We also encourage theatre owners and producers to support their technicians in attaining ETCP certified status.  ESTA offers ETCP exam guidance and information to organizations and individuals here