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How live theatre continues to go on in a pandemic

With live theater opening back up for the first time since the pandemic  began, senior tech theatre major Abbie Hagen talks about how the pandemic changed and will continue to impact theater. Join Forum reporter Lucas Arico as he and Abbie discuss what fears and changes have come up when live theatre is on the line.

After a year of virtual productions, Westminster College’s theatre department returns to live theatre with new COVID-19 protocols, according to Abbie Hagen, a senior theatre major with a production and design emphasis.

Audiences are expected to wear masks, and the crew and cast must get a temperature check before rehearsals and performances, according to Hagen.

When Broadway initially shut down in March 2020, many people were shocked by the closure, according to Hagen.

“I think [Broadway closing] was a big deal for a lot of people, because I didn’t really think Broadway could do that,” Hagen said.

Broadway’s closure was the longest theater closure in New York City’s history, according to a Q&A Article by NYU News. 

Actors for The Birthday Party go through their dress rehearsal in preparation for their performing weekend. A week before the show starts, the cast and crew run the whole show in costume and makeup as directors watch and take notes, making sure to work out any last minute issues. Photo courtesy of Lucas Arico.

“During the [1918 Influenza] pandemic, there were some theater closures, and since then, there have been musician strikes, blizzards, and 9/11 when Broadway took a pause — but they just pushed a pause button until the world sort of got back together,” said Laurence Maslon, a New York University professor.

Following Broadway’s closure came the closure of many other theaters and cancelations of productions, including Westminster productions.

“[The design team] had to have a […] meeting for the show that Westminster was getting ready to put on in the spring [of 2020] right after spring break […] and, ultimately, we decided that we were going to have to cancel the show,” Hagen said.

Now that Broadway opened for the first time in over a year, new protocols have been put in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Audience members are required to be fully vaccinated and wear a mask unless eating or drinking in designated areas, according to the Broadway COVID-19 Updates page.

Hagen is now a stage manager for The Birthday Party, Westminster’s first live performance since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hagen said her favorite part of the job is getting to do temperature checks for the cast and crew.

“The actors get into it and […] I’m like ‘man, no one else should be this extra about me shooting you with the temperature gun, thank you all for the fainting,’” Hagen said.

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Lucas Arico is a sophomore communication major from Southern California. When he isn’t giving campus tours to prospective students, Lucas loves to have movie nights, go for night drives and hike with his friends.

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