Pandemic theater coverage has changed, but the rewards remain

There was a time when the most pressing challenge a theater critic faced was punctuality: arriving on scene at curtain time and delivering the critic on time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed that.

In response to recommendations from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control, many theaters now require spectators to wear masks and present proof of vaccination (or a negative COVID test) as well as a coin. photo ID, which means it takes longer to enter the venue.

It helps if customers have their vaccination confirmation (either a card or cell phone photo) or a negative test result ready for the ticket taker. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Onlookers rummaging through their purses or rummaging through their wallets to locate the missing document can lead to long queues and delayed start times.

But it’s a small price to pay to ensure the safety of employees, bailiffs, actors, team and clients.

Safety concerns prompted Paramount Theater to introduce its vaccination policy last summer before resuming in-person theatrical performances with its cover of “Kinky Boots,” which opened on August 27.

The Aurora Theater decision was born out of concerns about the health and safety of its performers, employees and patrons, said Tim Rater, President and CEO of Paramount.

“We have an obligation to protect everyone, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” he said of the policy, which he called a financial necessity.

Unlike the Goodman Theater, including “School Girls; However, The African Mean Girls Play ”delayed by the pandemic opened on August 2 with a mask and social distancing in place but no vaccination requirements, reduced capacity was not an option for Paramount. Under the state’s social distancing recommendation at the time, Paramount would be limited to 419 people in a theater that can seat 1,843 people. According to Rater, Paramount cannot produce a show for 400 viewers and remain financially viable.

Other Chicago-area theaters including Marriott, Metropolis, Buffalo Theater Ensemble, Goodman, Northlight, Chicago Shakespeare, and Broadway in Chicago followed Paramount’s lead. About 80 currently have COVID-19 vaccination and / or testing protocols in place.

The pandemic has also affected artistic choices. When the Lincolnshire Marriott and Oakbrook Terrace’s Drury Lane resumed indoor performances, they did so with intimate revues requiring small actors and orchestras. Other theaters have chosen to present solo shows without intermission like BTE’s “Stove Toucher”, “Who’s Holiday!” by Theater Wit. and the upcoming “Dishwasher Dreams” from the Writers Theater.

When it comes to live performances, the theatrical landscape has changed. It now requires additional adjustments on the part of theater makers and members of the public. The rewards, as always, are well worth it.

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