When theaters across the country are allowed to open once again, scores of questions remain about which productions will be able to make enough money to sustain themselves and which venues will be able to be properly sanitized in order to be operational. Already, news has emerged that even huge Disney musicals have been made vulnerable by the pandemic, and that other planned productions will simply never open. Now, a new New York Times/Siena College Research Institute poll has produced results that indicate audiences are just as fearful of each other as they are eager to once again see their favorite shows in a theater.
According to a new report from the New York Times, 58 percent of polled New Yorkers who attended at least one Broadway show in the previous year, and who also indicated that they were unlikely to see a show in 2020, said that they did not trust other theater-goers to adhere to social distancing rules. A further 55 percent of people polled in the survey said that they did not trust other people in a theater to all be wearing masks, and other answers recorded in the survey point to the ambient anxiety and fear people experience when considering being in a crowded space in the future. Even if you knew rigorous health precautions had been taken by a theater’s staff in order to ensure your safety, that doesn’t mean infection is impossible: just that the risk has been tangibly reduced.
Plus, for many people in New York City, getting to a Broadway theater requires taking the subway, which is an activity that many citizens are still months (or a year?) away from doing comfortably. Additionally, 72 percent of people polled said that any venue selling them tickets for a show this year would have to ensure that audience members were separated by 6 feet, and 90 percent of respondents said they would require professional cleaners to disinfect theater areas between shows.
Any way you slice it, Broadway is going to look very different going forward. That doesn’t mean the magic of theater is dead forever, but there are certain details people might not experience for a long time. For example: how long do you think it will be before someone sitting in the front row of Hamilton can be safely sprayed with the spit of an actor who’s forcefully enunciating?