The Grand Opera House now requires masks and proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to attend shows at either of its theaters or at the Playhouse on Rodney Square.
The Wilmington performing arts venue is following the lead of Broadway theaters in New York City.
The vaccination policy went into effect immediately, a press release said, and will cover all public events at the Grand’s Copeland Stage, baby grand and Playhouse, including performances by outside promoters who rent space there.
The first performance hosted at The Grand this year will be comedian Brian Regan on Sept. 26, 2021.
By making the announcement now, The Grand hopes to provide as much time as possible for patrons to schedule an appointment for a vaccination or testing, said Executive Director Mark Fields.
“We owe our audiences, artists, volunteers, and staff a level of certainty and security,” Fields said. “The implementation of these measures will better provide an atmosphere where we can focus ourselves on enjoying live entertainment again, and do so comfortable.”
The Grand does not expect the move to mean fewer ticket sales.
“We hope not but we really don’t know,” Fields said via a statement. “Any decrease in sales from those uncomfortable with the requirements could be offset by others that will be more comfortable knowing we have taken these measures for everyone’s safety. Based on our social media feedback and calls, it seems clear that many would prefer this more cautious approach.”
Fields said the performing arts industry remains one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is “already showing signs of consumer hesitancy to attend indoor performances without added precautions,” said Fields in the press release. “We realize this is a decision that may not be welcomed by all, but it is a decision that puts the health and safety of our patrons and artists in the forefront of our decision making in these uncertain times.”
Fields said he hoped the increased precautions will be temporary.
“While we recognize that masking may be uncomfortable for some, the arts community cannot recover and thrive if artists and patrons feel unsafe,” he said.
This policy will be re-evaluated monthly based on local infection rates and in consultation with public health officials. The Grand is also enacting this policy with its staff, volunteers, and local crew members.
Fields said he wasn’t sure what reaction would be among those opposed to vaccines and masks.
“Sadly, this has become an unnecessary flashpoint, but our motivation for this policy is a simple business decision for a public entity: to best protect our audiences, artists and staff,” he said. “We don’t want to have these measures in place any longer than necessary, but right now we feel like this is the most responsible policy for the short term.”
The Grand issued the following question-and-answer format for patrons.
Why is The Grand doing this?
The safety, security, and comfort of our patrons, artists, volunteers, and staff are the driving force of implementing these new policies. With audiences and artists traveling nationwide, it becomes necessary to enact policies like this to help ensure your long-term health while preventing another indoor closure of performances at The Grand’s three theaters.
What do I need to provide to enter one of The Grand’s venues?
We will require all attendees (and event staff) to provide physical or digital proof of vaccination with the last dose administered at least 14 days before the event or a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of the event, except where restricted by law.
Will I need to wear a mask inside?
Yes, patrons, volunteers, and staff will be required to wear a mask indoors regardless of vaccination status, unless they are actively eating or drinking. Patrons will be provided one reminder before being removed from the venue if not acting in accordance with this rule.
How do I show proof when I arrive?
Acceptable documentation will be a physical copy of the patron’s COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card, a digital copy of such card, or a physical or digital copy of the negative test result. You must also provide a state-issued photo ID with matching name.
What if I forget my proof of vaccination or testing?
You will not be allowed into the building.
What if I have a medical condition or religious belief that exempts me from getting vaccinated?
You will still be required to provide a negative COVID-19 PCR test result, taken within 72 hours of the event for entry.
What about attendees under the age of 12?
Until the vaccine is approved for use on children under age 12, a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of the event will be required.
Who else is subject to these policies?
The Grand’s staff, volunteers, and local crew members will be held to the same health standards as our patrons. The staff has been provided ample notice to ensure they are vaccinated before the public has re-entered the building. Crew members will be frequently tested to ensure the mitigation of community spread.
How long will it take to get inside?
We hope these necessary health checks will only add a few moments on to your trip to The Grand or The Playhouse on Rodney Square, but we encourage all patrons to allow extra time for this process when traveling to our theaters. We thank our patrons in advance for their patience as we begin to roll out these practices.
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Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience.
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