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Broadway League, Actors’ Equity reach agreement on touring COVID-19 protocols

The Broadway League and Actors’ Equity have reached an agreement on safety protocols for North American touring productions.

'Mean Girls' is set to resume its tour in November. (Photo: Joan Marcus)

The Broadway League and Actors’ Equity have reached an agreement on safety protocols for North American touring productions.

The protocols, which require all touring members of the company to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, call for cast, crew members and musicians to wear masks and maintain physical distancing unless performing on stage or if doing so interferes with the functions of the job, as in the case of brass or woodwind musicians.

The regulations currently require weekly testing of cast and crew members — at no cost to those being tested — but note that this requirement may be revised, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention releases more data on vaccinated individuals.

The guidelines, released to members Monday, come after Equity members and theaters across the country spoke out against the union’s requirements for work during the pandemic. The regulations, which, at one point, included private car service and 12 feet of distance between singers on stage, were seen by some as too costly and stringent to allow theaters to produce work.

The new touring protocols are due to be assessed in July and then on at least a quarterly basis. Touring productions have announced plans to restart as early as Aug. 3. Protocols for Broadway productions, which will start around the same time, have not yet been released.

“After months of working together in the midst of an ever-changing landscape, it was great to finalize the protocols with Actors’ Equity that will help bring Touring Broadway back and keep our employees safe,” the League said in a statement. The League did not respond to a request for comment on when Broadway protocols will be released.

The touring protocols call for theaters to increase cleaning of communal spaces, require mask-wearing by patrons within the theater and to refuse admittance of patrons who show COVID-19 symptoms or who have recently tested positive.

Touring companies must hire a COVID-19 safety manager, who is not a stage manager or Equity member in the production, to oversee protocols and compliance in the touring company

Other requirements include:

  • No interaction between Equity company members and audience members
  • Daily cleaning of the performance space, venue and props. Cleaning of the dressing rooms, orchestra pit and other high traffic areas before first rehearsal and between each performance.
  • Physical distancing in the orchestra pit and around the stage door
  • No backstage visitors, autograph signings or cast meet-and-greets.
  • A unidirectional flow of traffic within a theater, whenever possible
  • No communal food or drink service for company members and designated food and drink areas within the venue
  • A mandated COVID-19 safety training for cast and crew members and penalties, starting with a $50 fine, if protocols are not followed.

The vaccination requirement for Actors’ Equity members will be mandated by the employer, according to the guidelines. Company members who are not vaccinated due to a medical condition or religious belief can request an accommodation at the discretion of the employer.

In states that do not allow a vaccine mandate, Equity and the Broadway League will determine appropriate protocols.

Due to the fact that many Equity members were at risk of losing health insurance coverage during the pandemic — given the lack of work and changes made to the Equity-League Health Fund — Actors’ Equity and the Broadway League said they would both request the Health Fund accept a prepayment of 12 weeks’ of health contributions at the start of employment for any members who do not have adequate coverage.

The Broadway League and Actors’ Equity also released protocols for developmental projects, which are less detailed but also call for vaccinations, testing, social distancing and masking, and for in-person callbacks.

In the case of callbacks, auditions may be held indoors if all parties in the room can provide proof of full vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test, and if studios employ proper ventilation. Open Jar Studios, New 42nd Street Studios, RWS and Ripley Grier are among the studios whose ventilation systems have been pre-approved by Equity.