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Theater Notebook: San Diego theaters rolling back their vaccine and mask policies as state restriction lifts

Lamb's Players ticket buyers won't require a vaccine or mask to attend its "Million Dollar Quartet" production.
Lamb’s Players ticket buyers won’t require a vaccine or mask to attend performances of its current “Million Dollar Quartet” production.
(Ken Jacques)

Also this week in San Diego theater news: La Jolla Playhouse announces fellowship program for BIPOC directors and stage managers

San Diego’s live theaters have begun rolling back their requirements for proof of vaccination, negative COVID-19 PCR test results and face masks in recent weeks, but the rules vary from company to company.

Over the past two weeks, the Old Globe, San Diego Musical Theatre, Lamb’s Players Theatre and Broadway San Diego have dropped vaccine and test requirements and their indoor mask rules range from required to optional.

North Coast Repertory Theatre will drop its mask requirement on April 20 but keep its vaccine rule in place. And La Jolla Playhouse is still requiring proof of full vaccine and masks for all of its indoor performances, including the final performances of its “Bhangin’ It” musical and indoor performances at the 2022 Without Walls Festival April 21-24 at Liberty Station.

The theaters are responding to the state of California’s March 25 announcement it has ended indoor event restrictions. Although a new COVID-19 subvariant has been detected in recent weeks, the state’s case rate has risen only 0.4 percent in the past week. The Centers for Disease Control has also rated San Diego County as a low-risk community for infection, and therefore masks are not required.

Meanwhile in New York City, where theaters have been packed lately with spring breakers, many Broadway shows have temporarily shuttered in recent weeks due to COVID outbreaks among their casts. To keep case numbers in check, Broadway League — made up of the owners of 41 Broadway theaters — has extended its vaccine, test and mask requirements through April 30.

Nationally, theater attendance remains about 80 percent of what it was pre-pandemic. Will the lifting of all restrictions bring back ticket buyers who stayed away in protest of vaccine/mask rules? Will vaccinated ticket buyers who felt safer with the vaccine rules in place stay home out of fear of exposure? No one knows for sure.

While attending multiple theater performances in San Diego in recent weeks, I noticed most theaters were about half to three-quarters full, depending on the show. And in theaters no longer requiring masks, about half of attendees — including myself — have chosen to remain masked indoors.

Most local theaters have COVID-19 policy pages on their websites to help theatergoers make an informed decision before they buy a ticket.

La Jolla Playhouse announces BIPOC fellowships

La Jolla Playhouse has announced two newly created fellowships for Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) in the fields of directing and stage management. The two-year fellowships offer full salary and benefits.

“The Playhouse is deeply committed to playing an active role in building the next generation of BIPOC theater-makers,” Playhouse artistic director Christopher Ashley said in a prepared statement. “As a central component of our Anti-Racism Action Plan, this new program offers fellows the opportunity to become fully embedded participants in our artistic process, helping us make a meaningful contribution to changing the national theater landscape.”

Applications are being accepted through June 30 and the first fellows will start their positions on Jan. 1, 2023. Visit lajollaplayhouse.org/who-we-are/fellowships/.

Playwrights Project hosts Beyond Prison Walls

Playwrights Project and San Diego State University will present their 10th season of Beyond Prison Walls, a reading of play scripts written in the Playwrights Project’s Out of the Yard program at Richard J. Donovan Correction Facility and Centinela State Prison.

SDSU students will direct and perform the scripts at three performances, 7 p.m. April 21 through 23 in SDSU’s Experimental Theatre. Tickets are free, but reservations are required at playwrightsproject.org/productions/community/.

Kragen writes about theater for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Email her at pam.kragen@sduniontribune.com.


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