Theater owners ponder how long it will take for patrons to feel comfortable coming back

As lawmakers work on a plan to reopen the state and national economy once it is safe from the coronavirus, theater owners are wondering how long it will take for patrons to feel comfortable to once again subject themselves to crowds.
Two River Theater in Red Bank is a nonprofit organization that produces six main stage musicals and plays a year. The theater is now working on a plan for how to reopen and has even considered limited ticket sales to space out patrons. Artistic director John Dias says that many scenarios are being mapped out.
“Starting against, should it all feel safe to do so, in September. And then another scenario where we start in November. Then another one when we start again after the new year,” he says.
Two River is in the meantime trying to keep its audience engaged by conducting a virtual Shakespeare class.
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The theater’s costume shop has been sewing masks from the wardrobe of previous shows to donate to local medical facilities.
There is another big aspect to consider – the safety of artists who are working closely together. Performing on stage does not lend itself to social distancing.
“At the head of what we do is an intimate collaboration,” Dias says. “Nobody is rightfully considering keeping 6 feet apart. That just doesn’t work for what the theater does. So, I don’t know if readjustment is going to allow us to do what we do.”
Theater owners say that it may be some time before everything goes back to normal.