Broadway producers and the union representing performers have reached an agreement on health protocols for touring shows that should allow hundreds of performers to return to work in theaters nationwide from this summer. .
The 17-page agreement says producers must require all members of the travel company to be fully vaccinated and mandates free weekly viral tests. In addition: “absolutely no interaction” will be allowed between performers and members of the public.
The union, the Actors’ Equity Association, announced the touring deal with the Broadway League in an email to its 51,000 members on Monday night.
The deal does not apply to Broadway shows – the rules for these are still being discussed – and it only covers actors and stage managers, not the many other theater workers represented by different unions. But it’s an important development for an industry that has been in the dark for 15 months, and gives a first indication of the safety measures producers and artists are considering.
“This new set of protocols is another step towards fully and securely reopening our industry,” the union email said, “and we’re excited to see where it takes us.”
The Broadway League also praised the deal. League President Charlotte St. Martin said the deal followed several months of negotiations and had been adjusted to reflect “evolving guidelines, science and laws.”
“It was great to work with Equity to help bring back tours and keep employees safe,” she said.
Touring shows are an important part of the commercial theater ecosystem. According to the Broadway League, 18.5 million people saw shows on tour in approximately 200 North American cities during the 2018-19 season, and those tours grossed $ 1.6 billion.
Tours have been completely closed throughout the pandemic, but many have announced their intention to hit the road again. “Wicked” plans to resume touring on August 4 at Dallas Music Hall in Fair Park, while “Hamilton” plans to resume performances later this month in Los Angeles and San Francisco; many other shows have fall performance dates across the country.
The union said safety protocols will continue to be adjusted as the public health situation evolves. But for now, the rules are pretty detailed, covering everything from behind-the-scenes signage to hand hygiene, mask washing and prop disinfection, with the aim, according to the agreement, “to minimize and mitigate the risk of transmission of Covid-19 during a tour “.
The rules require the wearing of a mask and social distancing “except when it is incompatible or interferes with their professional responsibilities or part of the performance during the tour, such as performing on stage”. And the stage doors are out: “Signing autographs, meetings and backstage tours are strictly prohibited. “
Some rules are quite detailed. Self-service buffets are prohibited. Water dispensers must be contactless. Hairdressers and makeup artists should wear masks, face shields and gloves, and should change gloves whenever they work with another actor.
Each tour company must have a Covid-19 security officer. Actors and managers who do not respect safety protocols can be fined and, after repeated violations, dismissed.
The vaccine’s mandate allows members of the company to request accommodations for “an allowable disability or sincere religious belief,” but the agreement says it is up to producers to grant such accommodations or not. As for states where vaccination warrants are not authorized: “The League and Equity will determine the appropriate health and safety protocols. “
The deal also has a few things to say about audience members. Venues should require patrons to be masked, and all patrons should be at least six feet from the conductor (if there is an orchestra pit) or the stage.
The union and producers also have separate agreements outlining safety protocols for development work (closed-door rehearsals or performance sessions that producers and creators use to rate shows that are still being written and edited. revision) and hearings.