Theater groups limit attendance following Baker mandate

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PITTSFIELD — Two Pittsfield theater companies will limit the number of audience members for their ongoing productions to comply with the state's tightened gathering restrictions.

Barrington Stage Company and Berkshire Theatre Group said they will continue their remaining open-air performances of "Harry Clarke" and "Godspell," respectively, at reduced capacity to meet the limit.

Gov. Charlie Baker has issued tighter restrictions in response to a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases statewide, including reducing from 100 to 50 the capacity of outdoor gatherings.

Julianne Boyd, artistic director of Barrington Stage, said the Department of Public Health rejected the company's request for a waiver on the restrictions, which went into effect Tuesday.

Theater and outdoor performance venues must comply with sector-specific protocols, which limit outdoor gatherings at 50 people without exception.

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The audience limit for "Harry Clarke," the company's ongoing one-man show staged under a tent outside the former Polish Community Club, was set at 96. While it was not immediately clear how the company would determine which ticket-holders would be granted entry, Boyd said the company would communicate with ticket holders Wednesday and Thursday.

"Of course, we will give refunds, if necessary," Boyd told The Eagle. "We are hoping that patrons will donate the price of the tickets, or accept credit for future productions."

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The company is also weighing how to accommodate ticket holders for its upcoming production, "The Hills Are Alive with Rodgers & Hammerstein," which is set to debut Aug. 19, also under the tent outside the Polish Community Club. Audience capacity for that performance had been set at 87.

"We still have availability the second week of performances, so we're hoping to move the overflow of the first week into the second week," Boyd said. "Because this happened so quickly, we have not yet determined if we will be adding a performance of 'Rodgers & Hammerstein.' "

Berkshire Theatre Group, which has just begun staging "Godspell," also said it would adhere to the new guidelines. "Godspell," which opened last Friday in a tent outside the Colonial Theatre, has an audience limit of 75, as well as a 12-person cast.

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"We will also meet the requisite capacity reduction levels in close cooperation with the local health department," the company said in a statement.

The company did not elaborate on whether it had applied for a waiver from the gatherings limit, if it planned to change its performance schedule or how it would respond if a show reached the 50-person limit and more ticket-holders arrived.

"Harry Clarke" and "Godspell" were the first two live shows in the nation to be approved by the Actors' Equity Association, the union that represents 51,000 actors and stage managers, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both were being staged in outdoors to comply with state guidance.

Danny Jin, a Report for America corps member, is The Eagle's Statehouse news reporter. He can be reached at djin@berkshireeagle.com, @djinreports on Twitter and 413-496-6221.


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