Putting Some O’ That Theory Into Practice

I arrived in my office last Friday to find a heck of a lot more emails in my Inbox than I am used to. It turned out the evening before the governor had announced a change of guidelines that would allow performing arts organizations to open after July 1 and people immediately started scrambling trying to ascertain what it all meant.  Ultimately, nothing the new order contained deviated from our expectations by much at all in terms of how it would impact seating capacity or operational practices. We were on a Zoom call with the county attorney today and he had nothing surprising to say in his reading of the order, but it was good to have our understanding confirmed.

Like me, you may have heard that Texas’ governor had issued guidance on performing arts centers last week.  However, I was surprised to learn that Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, FL was having concerts last week. I hadn’t heard that things had opened that far in any other state.

The performances in Clearwater were in their lobby in a cabaret type setting  with attendance capped at 80 people. It looks like the three shows on June 11 sold out quickly and the added shows on June 14,  19 & 25 sold out as well. I was wondering if there are any readers in Florida who may have attended who could talk about the show and what their experience was. I see from an article on the show there were some screening procedures and people were seated at a social distance.

Fans were offered face masks at the gate, temperature-checked upon entry, and delivered drinks and snacks by servers in gloves and black masks. They sat in groups of four or fewer, and for the most part, only got up to hit the head.

The venue is also communicating their safety policies in the events scheduled this month which include the following.

– Venue staff will be wearing face masks; we encourage patrons to do the same. Face masks are available at the door upon request.
– Hand sanitizer stations are readily available. If you are in need of an attendant with cleaning supplies, please ask the wait staff.
– Table selection is on a first-come/first-served basis. We ask that you not change tables once you are seated.
– We encourage remaining at your table during the show. If you wish to stand, you will be asked to move behind the seated area and maintain social distancing.
– All food and beverage service will be table-side. There will be no walk-up service available.
– If you suspect you are ill or reside with someone who is ill with flu-like symptoms, we ask you to exchange for a future show.
– While we are committed to providing a clean and safe environment, it is impossible to eliminate all health risk in any location so please use discretion.

This seems a good example upon which to base your own venue communications as you start to open so that you don’t have to invent it all from scratch.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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