New York’s pandemically closed theaters are slowly opening up again

Caroline Baron wears shoes she hasn’t worn in a year and a big smile as she walks into The Shed, one of the few major venues in the American capital of culture, New York, to perform live for the first time since March 2020 organize.

“I’ve forgotten how to get dressed … it’s exciting,” says the filmmaker when she and her partner and teenage son arrive at the arts center on Manhattan’s West Side for a concert by singer and cellist Kelsey Lu.

Some had hoped Friday would mark the reopening of New York’s iconic theaters, an extremely symbolic moment for a metropolis that wanted to recapture the frenzy – and millions of tourists – that marked it before the pandemic.

However, The Shed is one of the few to use New York governor’s permission to reopen on April 2nd. The capacity is limited to a third or a maximum of 150 people.

All 150 attendees at the concert had either proof of vaccination against Covid-19 or a negative PCR test that was less than six hours old.

The venue in the newly developed Hudson Yards opened in 2019, so it has perks that many older New York theaters don’t: it’s not-for-profit and offers an edge over Broadway venues, where 33 percent capacity is not profitable; ; It has a modern ventilation system and modular space that has enabled it to develop a program that is adapted to the pandemic, artistic director Alex Poots told AFP.

“The most important thing is to keep this precious thing called live performance alive, even if we have to reduce our capacity,” he said.

“There is this fellowship between artists and audiences that we have all missed terribly.”

The city’s countless stand-up comedy clubs also open their doors.

With one person on the stage and spectators at the tables, an evening in a comedy club “is really no different than in a restaurant,” says Emilio Savone, owner of the New York Comedy Club.

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He is happy to have sold all available seats for that first night.

– ‘Awakening’ –

“This is one of the moments that really signals our comeback to people,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio after attending a performance at another venue: an off-Broadway theater where “Blindness,” one Sound and light installation based on the dystopian novel by Jose Saramago.

“The theater community means so much to our identity as New Yorkers … and it’s also part of our economy that generates more than $ 100 billion annually in economic activity that is why it has to come back for so many reasons,” he said .

But since Covid infection rates remain stable – even as New York ramps up its vaccination program – the opening will almost certainly remain gradual.

The theater will see a “reawakening” by the fall, says Poots.

“That said … it would be very naive not to believe that this is a risk and I think we are very aware that if at some point things get worse enough, the pandemic, then we will have to pause “, he said.

And yet, after more than a year of closure, Savone is philosophical.

“How much worse can it get?” he says.

cat / st / mtp

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