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May 7, 2021, 4:21 p.m. EDT

Putting on outdoor Shakespeare shows in New York City parks this summer is not a breeze

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Joe Dziemianowicz

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According to Burdman, production members who are 14 days past being fully vaxxed require an antigen test every week. Those who aren’t vaccinated require a PCR test, which determines if you have the virus, three times a week.

“Currently we’re set to begin using a private medical practice along with two COVID-19 mandated safety officers to implement the weekly testing. We’re waiting for a response from Actors’ Equity Association to see if they approve our using free New York COVID testing,” Burdman said on May 7. 

If not, they’re responsible for the full cost of testing the entire company. “That can be thousands of dollars a week,” he said. “It absolutely has increased the budget.”

Ty Jones, producing artistic director of the Classical Theatre of Harlem, echoes that sentiment. The company presents “Seize the King,” Will Power’s reimagining of “Richard III,” from July 6-29 at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park.

“We’re pretty resourceful. Our budget is typically roughly $380,000 to $400,000 and we’re going to be increasing it by $100,000 to be able to meet all the protocols around COVID-19,” he said. “It will be our most expensive show by far.” 

Extra staff for COVID-19 compliance, testing, double casting of actors and honeywagon to enable social distancing for actors for the month of July account for the added expenses.

Capacity at the 1,600-seat amphitheater depends, said Jones, on whether the company requires theatergoers to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test or not. In the former scenario 500 people could attend. In the latter, just 200, said Jones.

Jones is ready for changes in guidelines and rules as they come. He speaks for others when he said: “I’m hopeful that we can get through the entire summer without interruption.”

Beyond theater, the outdoors provides a setting for entertainment from stand-up comedy on rooftops to concerts. 

Don’t miss: Can you be fired for refusing to get a COVID-19 vaccine? America is about to find out

On Monday, May 10, a new outside performing arts center built at Lincoln Center, premieres its free Restart Stages series with back-to-back performances by blues and soul singer Martha Redbone and Broadway favorite Norm Lewis.

“It feels like New York is on a comeback, and it’s amazing to be part of it,” said Lewis, who’s chosen the first song he’ll sing with care. “I’m doing ‘Waiting for Life.’ It feels like for the past year we’ve all been doing that.”

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