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Actors' Equity Approves 2 Live Theater Performances In Western Massachusetts


Since March, professional theater in the U.S. has been shut down. But on Monday, Actors' Equity, the national union that represents actors and stage managers, announced it approved contracts for two productions in western Massachusetts this summer. Jeff Lunden reports.

JEFF LUNDEN, BYLINE: It was looking like a sad summer in the Berkshires - no concerts at Tanglewood, no dance performances at Jacob's Pillow. But now there's a glimmer of hope. Equity approved contracts for two shows - an outdoor production of the musical "Godspell" and an indoor production of "Harry Clarke," a one-man show.

MARY MCCOLL: We spent a month and a half, probably, working with both of these theaters on protocols and safety handbooks and how they would handle this.

LUNDEN: Mary McColl is executive director of Actors' Equity.

MCCOLL: And then it really came down to the fact that - not only that the epidemic was under control in Massachusetts but that they were willing to agree to a testing protocol so that we could ensure that the members that were working there and the people around them were virus-free.

LUNDEN: Both shows will open in August with strict social distancing protocols for the actors and the audience. The actors in "Godspell" will all be housed together, says Kate Maguire, the Berkshire Theatre Group's artistic director.

KATE MAGUIRE: We're hoping that everyone really falls in love with each other because they're going to be spending a lot of time with each other in their own bubble.

LUNDEN: The theater has figured out a way to stage the show with 10 actors, two stage managers and three musicians. At a minimum, every actor will be 10 feet away from one another.

MAGUIRE: The production that we're doing is set in the midst of COVID-19. And so the actors will actually always have available as part of their costumes' masks.

LUNDEN: And in the tent, the audience will be separated in chairs 25 feet away from the stage, arranged for social distancing. At Barrington Stage, the performance of "Harry Clarke," a one-man monologue, will be performed indoors. Artistic Director Julianne Boyd says the theater will be at one-third capacity.

JULIANNE BOYD: So we have electrostatic sprayers cleaning the seats, then the air being purged, then fresh air coming in, masks being worn. Also, when you come into the theater, your temperature is taken. And then you need to sanitize your hands immediately. We don't know where people have been.

LUNDEN: And there will be no paper tickets or programs. Equity says it's been talking with 70 theaters, but no other contracts have been approved.

For NPR News, I'm Jeff Lunden in New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jeff Lunden is a freelance arts reporter and producer whose stories have been heard on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, as well as on other public radio programs.
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