Anyone attending performances will have to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. The two organizations joined 14 others in announcing the requirement.
On Sept. 1, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis (The Rep) and Opera Theatre of St. Louis (OTSL) joined 14 other arts organizations in an announcement. The announcement stated each venue would require proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test from patrons, artists and staff attending indoor performances.
Hana Sharif, The Rep’s artistic director, said local artistic venues and organizations had been connecting earlier in the pandemic. The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra began reaching out to other local venues when the Delta variant began to spread.
“It just made the best sense for us who are all struggling with these very real concerns to have a unified voice and a standard that would be similar for our patrons,” Sharif said.
Sharif said keeping patrons, staff and artists safe during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a top priority.
According to The Rep’s website, seating for patrons is at 50% capacity. Sharif said artists are required to be vaccinated and must take one COVID-19 test a week.
Sharif believes these extra precautions show artists that The Rep is committed to keeping them safe and healthy. She said The Rep has also received positive feedback from patrons since requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.
“We’ve had patrons who called up and said, ‘I was hesitant about coming back to the theatre because I wasn’t sure, but this recent announcement has really buoyed my spirits and I’m ready to book my tickets,’” Sharif said. “I think that overwhelmingly people recognize that it’s the responsible thing to do and in the best interest of our community.”
Sharif said along with COVID-19 precautions for in-person shows, The Rep is offering streaming options to patrons who are not ready to return.
OTSL’s director of marketing and PR, Anh Le, said it made sense to require proof of vaccination or a negative test with COVID-19’s current trends. OTSL recently ended its 2020 – 2021 outdoor season, which was located in the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts’ parking lot.
Despite being outside, patrons still had to wear masks while moving around the venue. She said artists were also required to wear masks until the dress rehearsals and performance.
Le said other mitigation steps included urging social distancing, encouraging hand washing, allotting time for rehearsal spaces to be empty between rehearsals and operating at 25% of the normal capacity.
Even with the changes, Le said audience members were understanding and tickets for the season were sold out in under three weeks.
“Our patrons put up with Porta Potties. They put up with garden lawn chairs on asphalt. They put up with amplified sound, which we don’t normally have in our theater,” Le said. “So, there were a lot of things that made it different, but everyone just seemed so excited to be back at a live performance.”
The Rep had to postpone their planned March 2020 debut of “Dreaming Zenzile” due to COVID-19, according to Sharif.
In June, however, Sharif said The Rep was able to perform “Mlima’s Tale.” She said this performance offered a good learning experience and tested The Rep’s COVID-19 safety measures. Sharif said none of the artists tested positive for COVID-19 during rehearsals or the performance.
Moving into the future, “Dreaming Zenzile” will kick off The Rep’s season on Sept. 10.
“We hope that people love the experience of our first show of the season, which is the world premier musical ‘Dreaming Zenzile’ about the life of Miriam Makeba,” Sharif said. “We’re incredibly excited to be moving into tech t of Shis weekend and also looking forward to being able to share this monumental work with St. Louis audiences first.”
OTSL’s next season begins in May 2022 with “Carmen” by Georges Bizet.
“We are working to be as flexible and as adaptable as possible,” Le said, “and we are just so grateful for the support of those that are willing to come on that journey with us.”