On Broadway, a show decides to keep the masks. No, it’s not ‘Ghost’.

Three days after the Broadway League announced that all 41 theaters would make masks optional beginning July 1, one of those theaters decided to stick with mandatory masks.

The producers of an all-star revival of “American Buffalo,” which is a 1975 David Mamet drama about three schemers in a junk shop, announced Friday that they will continue to require masks through the scheduled end of the show’s run on Circle in the Square. Theater on July 10.

That’s just 10 days after Broadway plans to scrap its industry-wide masking requirement — and it’s just a show — but it suggests unanimity between producers and theater owners may not be rock solid.

There are several factors that make the “American buffalo” situation unusual.

The play, starring Sam Rockwell, Laurence Fishburne and Darren Criss, is performed at the Circle in the Square Theatre, which is the only round theater on Broadway (it’s actually almost round, because the seats don’t completely surround the stage). , which means that there are more spectators seated within a spitting distance of the actors than in other theaters.

Also, Circle in the Square, with 751 seats in its current configuration, is the only remaining Broadway theater that isn’t operated by a major company or non-profit organization, so its decisions aren’t tied to those of a larger entity.

Rockwell expressed concern about the end of the mask policy in an interview this week with New York Times columnist Ginia Bellafante.

The show announced the policy change in a press release, saying it was due “to the proximity of the audience to the actors as a result of the intimate size of the theater and the staging in the round.” The production and theater owner did not immediately respond to requests for further comment.

It’s unclear if the decision will affect other Broadway shows. The vast majority take place in theaters operated by a handful of big owners who backed the skin-optional decision. Broadway’s four nonprofit theater operators, which have been more covid-cautious about Covid, have no shows this summer. And summer fare on Broadway is dominated by the big musicals, where the audience tends to skew toward tourists, many of whom hail from places where masks are long gone; Older New York moviegoers are thinner this time of year (and show volume is also lower: there are now just 27 shows on Broadway).

After “American Buffalo” closes next month, Circle in the Square is scheduled to be vacant until October, when previews for a new musical called “KPOP” begin.

Actors’ Equity, the union that represents performers and stage managers, has declined to comment on audience safety protocols, but this week sent an email to its members, previously reported by Deadline, saying: “This The decision was made unilaterally, without input from your union or anyone else, and the unions were only given a couple of hours’ notice of the announcement.”

Although the decision was announced by the Broadway League, it was made by theater owners and operators, and they plan to reconsider the protocols on a monthly basis.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.