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Loosening restrictions unlikely to help music venues and theaters

Arts & Entertainment

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Updated October 6

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Several organizers in Maine’s performing arts community said the state’s move to Phase Four is unlikely to alter their plans.

Several organizers in Maine’s performing arts community say the state’s loosening of restrictions under Phase Four of its reopening plan to allow indoor gatherings of up to 100 people isn’t enough for them to alter their plans.

“I think we’re all kind of staying shut,” said Scott Mohler, executive director of the Maine Music Alliance. “I don’t think any of us is set up for 100 people to be profitable.”

Mohler also said that the other half of the equation – performers – are still not touring and probably won’t until they can start booking shows in larger settings, such as Boston or New York.

“Nobody’s going to fly into Maine to do a show for 100 people,” he said.

Mohler said there are about 50 or 60 sites in the state that regularly hosted musical performances before the pandemic and the owners of most of them are seeking state aid to tide them over until regulations ease further. He said the best guess is it will be next summer or fall before performances resume around the country.

Portland Stage’s executive and artistic director said the playhouse will stick with a 50-person cap on attendance for the time being.

Anita Stewart said Portland Stage’s crew has been planning on having no more than 50 people in the audience for the two-person play “Talley’s Folly,” which begins on Oct. 29 and has a formal opening night Nov. 1.

Stewart said the theater has sold tickets based on a 50-person limit and worked out how to arrange people to maintain social distancing between groups. There’s no interest in throwing that planning out the window to increase the size of the audience, she said.

“We’re going to take it slow and steady,” she said. “We’ve planned for 50 and will stick with that.”

She said that Portland Stage also will be offering a streaming option for people to buy tickets and watch the play online if they don’t feel comfortable coming into the theater.

Stewart also said that the play’s two actors are arriving in the state at the end of the week and will be tested for COVID-19. They’ll wait on the results of those tests before beginning rehearsals next week, she said.

Portland Stage deliberately chose a play with a small cast to make it easier to plan safety protocols, she said. Arranging for the safety of the actors, the crew and the audience has required a lot of meticulous planning, she said.

“It’s a multi-headed beast,” Stewart said.


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