GREENSBORO — When will North Carolinians be able to see live shows again? And how will performance venues operate safely?
As the state prepares for the further easing of restrictions prompted by the coronavirus, leaders of entertainment and cultural organizations lay careful plans for reopening their doors.
Phase Two of Gov. Roy Cooper's reopening plan could begin as soon as Friday. This phase would allow gatherings at entertainment venues at reduced capacity, although it hasn't defined "reduced capacity."
Phase Three, to be implemented at least four to six weeks after Phase Two, would allow "increased capacity" at entertainment venues.
Lifting of restrictions will be based on the state's statistical improvement trends in the coronavirus pandemic.
Heads of the state's major entertainment venues — including the Greensboro Coliseum Complex — announced Tuesday that they have joined forces to plan for the return of concerts, Broadway and comedy events — when the time comes.
No opening dates have been announced for the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, including its new Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts.
The newly-formed NC Live coalition will provide guidance and best practices to ensure safe reopening of facilities.
Also Tuesday, other cultural leaders released a “Guide to Reopening the Arts in North Carolina” to keep patrons, workers, and artists as safe as possible in response to COVID-19.
The leaders represent the N.C. Theatre Conference, the N.C. Presenters Consortium, Arts North Carolina, the N.C. Arts Council and independent arts organizations.
They will host a webinar Wednesday on the guide.
The guide includes practical tips that many stores have been following on cleaning and disinfecting and social distancing.
Other ideas include redesigning seating charts and limiting performance length and intermissions to reduce restroom traffic.
ArtsGreensboro sent a similar communication to local arts groups last month, said Laura Way, its president and chief executive officer. It's also launched an artist emergency fund, convened groups and provided other information and training.
At the Carolina Theatre of Greensboro, for example, team members are creating a tactical re-entry plan. A committee of its board of directors also will address reopening the historic venue, which hosts concerts, plays and other events.
"Most of what’s here I’ve seen already, and most will be included in our plan," Brian Gray, Carolina Theatre executive director said about the state guide. "Each venue is unique and will have to tailor their plan to their specific venue."
Triad Stage is studying the recommendations, to determine when it will be safe and economically feasible to resume live performances, said Preston Lane, producing artistic director of the downtown professional theater.
"The need to keep patrons, artists and staff safe demands a kind of social distancing that will make rehearsal and performance difficult in all but the largest of theaters and will severely limit the potential for necessary ticket income," Lane said.
Also, he added, theatrical unions are also not releasing contracts right now because of safety concerns.
"As eager as I am to re-open our doors and engage with our audience through live performance, I fear that theater will be one of the last industries able to return," Lane said.
The NC Live coalition announced Tuesday an executive committee of representatives from the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, Blumenthal Performing Arts, Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, Durham Performing Arts Center, Live Nation Carolinas, Spectrum Center and Red Hat Amphitheater.
Their specific plans are still in the works but will include "venue and fan-experience modifications" such as cashless transactions, venue disinfection, staggered fan arrival time and temperature checks.
"The safety of our artists, fans and staff is our top priority as we move forward to reopening our arts and entertainment facilities," the coalition news release said.
"We realize that there is no easy way to mitigate this situation and no guarantee that we can completely eliminate risks," the guide says. "However, we believe that we can take collective action that will allow the arts sector to reopen to the public safely and responsibly."