MXO ‘The Arts Unplugged’: Ohio Releases Guidelines For Performing Arts To Reopen!, By Andy Chow, Posted August 26th 2020

The state has released a reopening plan for the performing arts which takes into account the many variables that come with live theater and music, such as food and intermission. However, a final health order has yet to be signed.

The rules mandate that actors, musicians, and other performers must wear a mask at all times and keep six feet apart when not rehearsing or performing.

Producers, directors, and other people not on stage must always wear a mask. The mask requirement has certain exemptions such as for medical reasons.

The rules limit indoor theaters to no more than 300 people or 15 percent of the fixed seating capacity, whichever is less. As for outdoor theaters, the maximum number of people who can attend is 1,500 or 15 percent of the fixed seating capacity, also whichever is less.

Brass and woodwind musicians are required to be spaced even further apart since, according to the guidelines “playing some musical instruments involves breathing deeply and expelling air forcefully, the risk of airborne transmission of the coronavirus may be increased.”

Janet Chen, CEO of ProMusica Chamber Orchestra in Columbus, said she believes they can reopen and keep people safe.

“Artists, we’re creative people and I think many of us have come up with really proactive and creative solutions so we can balance that safety with the artistry and still bring music, in our case, to the community,” said Chen.

The audience must avoid gathering during intermissions and the food vendors must follow the same rules as restaurants.

A health order with a start date has yet to be signed. Gov. Mike DeWine’s office said the details are still being worked out.

Scott Spence, artistic director of Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood, said the guidelines are largely reasonable, but he thought limiting audience size to 15 percent of capacity would be a challenge.

“Because, 15 percent, over the long term, you know, it almost makes it impossible to have any margin at all,” he said. “You’re not even going to be breaking even on your box office.”

Spence said he’s considering ways to use technology to help stay within the guidelines, while waiting for the pandemic to pass.

“Many theaters, including us, are exploring the ability to do pay-per-view videoing along the way to help augment this,” he said. “And some licensing services and playwrights and composers are very game to let theaters do that. And some are not there yet. So, we’ve been approaching a lot of our potential programing with that in mind.”

ideastream’s David C. Barnett contributed to this report

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