The pandemic isn’t over just because you’re over it: Player’s Ring Theatre Reopens

Player’s Ring building; performances are indoors

Produced by the Player’s Ring Theatre
An original play by Irene Kelleher
With Emily Karel
Directed by Peter Josephson
Presented by Glass Dove Productions

October 2 – 11, 2020
105 Marcy Street
Portsmouth, NH 03801
Player’s Ring on Facebook 

Critique by Kitty Drexel

Portsmouth, NH — According to an email press release from Player’s Ring Theatre in New Hampshire sent on September 8, the company will open its doors to the public beginning on October 2 for its production of Mary and Me by Irene Kelleher.

The company closed its doors in March due to the pandemic. It is reopening for live performance after making adjustments for audience safety. These include a new air handling and ventilation system, reduced capacity, social distancing at six feet, a health check at the door, and a mandatory mask policy.

The theater seats 75 patrons at capacity but only 33 seats are for sale to ticketholders. Only bottled drinks will be for sale. Seat assignments will be allocated by the Player’s Ring box office.

Production manager Margherita Giacobbi said in the press release, “Our number one priority in our decision to reopen has been the safety of our artists, volunteers, and audiences. We are following all State and CDC guidelines to ensure a safer environment (emphasis mine).”

Please note that Giacobbi said “safer,” not safe. This one small detail acknowledges the risk inherent in opening the theatre’s doors.

Ugh. Where to start? Re-opening anything too soon will kill people.

The CDC website says that individuals should practice certain guidelines to better protect themselves from COVID-19. One of these guidelines is avoiding close contact.

Close contact is defined by CDC as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic clients, 2 days prior to positive specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated. (emphasis mine),” says the website.

“Mary and Me” promotional image

The Player’s Ring Theatre is not implementing the less convenient 15-minute rule during the start of the cold and flu season.  

Player’s Ring’s other attempts to keep its patrons safer are admirable (masks, social distancing, air cleaners and purifiers, etc.). Ultimately, they won’t work. Theatre lobbies in New England are cramped, the bathrooms are close, concessions are always busy.

Human beings don’t like to cede space to other humans. They won’t do it on sidewalks, the classroom, or Target. They aren’t going to do it in a theatre lobby where space is at a premium.

Some guy seated in row G, seat 105 is going to spread his legs out and take his mask off once the lights go down because he thinks COVID-19 is a liberal hoax (it’s New Hampshire after all). His wife won’t properly wash her hands at intermission because of her Protestant work ethic.

This hypothetical, mouth-breathing, coronavirus-denying, fuckboi seat-predator and his plus one are just two threats among many self-entitled patrons that exist on the spectrum of decent folk who think the world owes them a trip to the theatre because they’ve been so well behaved for seven months. The pandemic isn’t over just because you’re over it.

Recent news in Community Theatre circles shows us that people assume they’re clean when they aren’t.  Blog This Can’t Be Broccoli has shared interviews of woe. 

Berkshire Theatre Group safely opened Godspell in August. It is a professional theatre with protocols determined by the Actor’s Equity Association. The Player’s Ring is not.

It isn’t impossible that Player’s Ring will monitor every patron inside its building but it is highly improbable. 

If theatres open too soon, people will die.

The Player’s Ring should learn from the Boston Lyric Stage and postpone indefinitely until it is safe to commune again.

The theatre community is making art over Zoom. Run a basic Google search. Go ahead; I’ll wait. Excellent theatre is a button away and no one has to die.

If great art can wait until it’s safe to perform for live-audiences again, then the money can wait too. The money is not the victim here. 

I sincerely hope that Emily Karel, Peter Josephson, the crew, and staff are compensated at time and a half for the risks they must take on behalf of a board of ten percenters managing a small theatre in New Hampshire.

Live free or die, indeed. 

09/11/2020 Edit – via Business Insider: “Fauci said that even if a vaccine were to be finalized by November or December of this year, that would mean the soonest the majority of the population could be vaccinated is by Fall 2021.” 

Fauci continued in the interview with Jennifer Garner on Instagram, “If we get a really good vaccine and just about everybody gets vaccinated, you’ll have a degree of immunity in the general community that I think you can walk into a theatre without a mask and feel like it’s comfortable that you aren’t going to be at risk.”

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