As Broadway productions prepare to welcome back audiences, Actors’ Equity Association, the union representing stage performers and stage managers, has issued new guidelines for productions that employ its members. The updated safety protocols include measures for “fully vaccinated” companies, in which all Equity members and those who interact with them are 14 days past their final dose of an FDA or WHO-authorized vaccine, as well as workplaces where there is more than one unvaccinated adult (or unvaccinated minors).
The protocols are a follow-up to Equity’s previously released guidelines, which were in effect from April through June 30. Many of the items that appeared there remain in effect, including ventilation standards and the implementation of a COVID-19 safety manager (previously referred to as a safety officer). Regarding the latter, fully vaccinated productions must have at least one; unvaccinated productions are required to have one per every 20 people in the company and anyone interacting with AEA members. Safety managers will oversee and ensure compliance with the various safety efforts, which include symptom monitoring, sanitization, ventilation, and contact tracing.
Companies that require employees to be fully vaccinated must give four hours’ compensation to employees not yet vaccinated to receive their shot(s), as well as provide sick pay to those experiencing side effects.
Testing requirements have been eased for fully vaccinated companies in recognition of the vaccines’ efficacy rates (though protocols, including fully compensated self-isolation, are in place should a member test positive). For productions with unvaccinated members, individuals must be tested three times before in-person work begins and at least once a week after the first day of in-person work.
Absent from the “fully vaccinated” protocols are mask requirements for audience members, though whether theatregoers will be asked to wear face coverings is dependent on local government’s recommendations. (In New York, for example, vaccinated individuals are not required to wear masks or practice social distancing in most settings, though some businesses may elect to implement their own health precautions.)
Audiences will still be prohibited from visiting backstage or gathering at the stage door, and must be seated at least 10 feet from the stage.
One show is currently running on Broadway: Springsteen on Broadway, which began June 26. Given the nature of the show, AEA contracts are not in effect, meaning it does not fall into Equity’s previous or current stipulations. Jujamcyn, which owns and operates the concert’s home (the St. James Theatre), requires audience members to provide proof of vaccination, and they are not required to wear masks upon entry. The next show on tap to reopen is a more traditional theatrical production: Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu’s Pass Over, beginning August 4 at the August Wilson Theatre (also a Jujamcyn venue).
The new guidelines (more on them here) are in effect through September 30. They do not apply to touring shows; Equity and the Broadway League reached an agreement on safety guidelines for those productions (including vaccine requirements) in June.