You live outside New York. Are you ready to return to Broadway?
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You live outside New York. Are you ready to return to Broadway?
A barren West 45th Street in Manhattan's theater district during the coronavirus pandemic, April 16, 2020. New Yorkers are reluctant to return to the theater this fall, but what about out-of-towners, who make up more than two-thirds of the Broadway audience? David S. Allee/The New York Times.

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- New Yorkers are reluctant to return to the theater this fall, according to a survey commissioned by The New York Times. What about out-of-towners, who make up more than two-thirds of the Broadway audience? What would it take for them to be comfortable?

We put that question to readers of the Theater Update newsletter and received hundreds of responses, most of them pessimistic — and pained. Here is an edited sampling:

“I’m ready now. I’ll wear the mask, I’ll wash my hands, I’ll sit every third or fourth seat. Whatever I need to do to get back in front of a live performance while safely and respectfully protecting my neighbors and theater staff!”

— Corinne Rossi, Stonington, Connecticut

“Without a vaccine or a cure, to attend a performance would not be a rational choice. The issue is not the statistical probability of getting the virus. Rather, it is the anxiety of being infected that prevents devout thespians, like yours truly, from going back. I actually had the virus and survived, and I do not wish this experience on anyone.”

— Alexander Waintrub, Los Angeles

“My husband and I talked about this because we miss the theater so much. He would go back right now to Broadway as long as people were wearing masks. I would go back at 50% capacity.”

— Barbara Parker, Miami

“What might it take for us to come to Broadway again? Well, to start, probably a car drive rather than a flight, and socially distanced seating with mask wearing. Does that mean Broadway would have to present twice as many performances to accommodate playgoers at a safe distance? Have to leave that to the analysts, bean counters and presenters.”

— Phillip Levy, Raleigh, North Carolina

“I am 29 and would be comfortable going back. At all the shows I’ve been to, people are kind, respectful and well mannered. So I trust them to use their best judgment. If theaters offered flexibility and refunds due to sickness, I believe that would help people feel less pressured to go if they were feeling the slightest bit under the weather.”

— Joshua Chang, Tempe, Arizona

“My husband and I live in rural northern California. On our last three-week trip to New York in January, we attended 14 performances: theater, opera, music and contemporary dance. We want to come back, but we are 83 and 81 years old and live in a retirement community. We feel a special responsibility not to inadvertently bring the virus back home with us. For that reason it is unlikely that we will return to New York theater until there is a vaccine and/or a dramatic reduction in transmission rates.”

— Merna Villarejo, Davis, California

“There is no aspect of life that theater doesn’t help me understand. You ask what it would take for me to feel comfortable enough to come to New York? A ticket and a free Saturday. I can provide my own face mask.”

— Sebastian Ryder, Burlington, Vermont

“There would have to be: a vaccine; effective and viable treatment; checking for symptoms at the door; reliable social distancing and protection interventions; significant and effective ventilation; hand sanitizing stations throughout the theater; all metrics for reopening to have been reached and maintained for a 12-month period. I am sure this is not what you want to hear, but my love of theater is not so important to me that I risk dying for it.”

— Frank Greene, Nashua, New Hampshire

“I am in the same cohort that many Broadway theatergoers are. I will be 65 this year and have co-morbid conditions. Getting on a plane from California has always been somewhat risky, but now it feels impossible. Going into a packed theater also feels impossible too. All of it breaks my heart. On the bright side, I think a lot more can be done in the virtual space. I watched “Love Letters” — I had never seen it and thought it was perfect for that presentation.”

— Beth Eagleson, San Clemente, California

“I’m a subscriber at three theaters in Baltimore: Center Stage and Everyman, both small houses with a generally gray-haired clientele (though Center Stage has become more diverse), and the 2,000-plus seat touring company venue the Hippodrome. As a gray-hair myself, I can’t imagine how I’m going to comfortably attend the Hippodrome, with its claustrophobically tight seating and mob-scene lobby. I can more likely imagine the smaller theaters devising a safer, spaced-out seating arrangement. But with fewer ticket sales, how will they pay the bills?”

— Jana Korman, Owings Mills, Maryland

“I think I’d be OK with face masks. Longer intermissions (so the bathroom line could be spaced out). Maybe maxing out at 50% capacity (not even sure if that is financially viable, however). I honestly, though, would most likely want to see how things go in the fall — whether there’s a reemergence of the virus, or if it fades away. But if theaters open in the fall I would seriously be weighing the risks and deciding whether to go or not — and my feeling now is that I most likely would go.”

— Rachel Dorrian, Neptune Beach, Florida

“Assuming there is no second wave in the fall, I would come back with adjusted seating and masks worn by audience and staff members. I would also pay a reasonable surcharge to make up some of the lost revenue from lost seats. Prayers for you, New York!”

— Julie Moore, Brownsburg, Indiana

“I bought tickets last year to see Hugh Jackman in “The Music Man,” in September. I would wear my mask, not go to the bathroom and wash hands and do almost anything to be there if it could happen. Given the issues of putting on a production, I am getting a sinking feeling it won’t.”

— Joann Berkson, McLean, Virginia

“If Broadway reopens this fall, I will not be in the audience. Nor will I be at one of my favorite restaurants, or warmly welcomed at the Blue Bar by Christian, the head bartender who seemed to pull seats out of thin air so we could join the crowd. I am wary of spending any time in close quarters with people who have not suffered with me in my particular quarantine “bubble.” I miss New York. I miss Broadway. I miss paying $108 for a double Veuve Clicquot before seeing Springsteen, or enjoying the signature “Hadestown” margarita. I miss it, but I don’t see any way back in. Not now, and not soon.”

— Debbie Le Mieux, Lyndeborough, New Hampshire

“Once there is a vaccine that works my wife and I will be back.”

—Peter Pashler, West Des Moines, Iowa

© 2020 The New York Times Company

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