Please Yield To Oncoming Road Boxes Before Proceeding To Dance On Stage

I had a post today on ArtsHacker with the click-baity title, You Can’t Just Let People Tear Your Clothes Off Anymore. The post talks about the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) reopening guideline which were released last month.

Since I have been reading and writing about different guidelines, as well as reviewing our state governor’s orders, I didn’t feel like there was anything unexpected or onerous proposed in the first half of their document.

As I write in the ArtsHacker article, if your organization interacts with IATSE personnel, it is helpful to know what their expectations will be when you work with them. I also thought it would be useful for organizations that hadn’t formulated human resource policies regarding “…training, testing, reporting, quarantine length and leave policies, the guide provides a good framework for creating them, including some information on paid leave laws in the U.S. and Quebec.”

Where I thought the guide is most valuable is in the second half where it applies all the standard best practices that are general knowledge to some of the specific activities associated with putting on a performance. This can be especially true for touring performances. When you are operating out of a different physical space every night or so, there is always a bit of reinvention required. When that is complicated by the need to take care to limit exposure to a virus, the level of attention to detail required increases many times over, especially when you are actively participating in a live performance experience.

It is no longer acceptable to rush up to a mirror, apply make-up and discard kleenex and cotton balls with the intention of cleaning it up later. At the very least, you have to hand it off to someone wearing gloves or holding a trashbag. As the title of the ArtsHacker post suggests, even having wardrobe personnel standing by in the wings to pull off one set of clothes and help you don another set needs to be planned and executed with even greater discipline than usual.

Given the restricted space of many theater backstages and the pauses in movement of personnel and equipment throughout a space required by Covid-19 guidelines, I anticipate a not insubstantial amount of time will be required to effect the load-in and load-out process. This may mean tours will need to scale back the amount of equipment they travel with,  add more days between performances, or travel shorter distances between event dates. This may translate into fewer cities being included in a tour due to time constraints or the economics of needing to pay more personnel for longer hours.

You Can’t Just Let People Tear Your Clothes Off Anymore

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 ( 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. (

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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