Image via Baltimore Center Stage’s Facebook page.
Image via Baltimore Center Stage’s Facebook page.

Baltimore Center Stage remains temporarily closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the theater has released a list of precautions that they plan to take against COVID-19 when they reopen, including a new seating configuration to allow for social distancing.

“Safety of our audiences, artists, and staff is our first priority,” said Taylor Lamb, Baltimore Center Stage’s communications manager.

Under the plan, the Head Theater, which is about 66 feet by 40 feet, will have an approximately 14-by-14-foot stage in the middle and a spaced-out seating chart that accommodates groups of two to six.

Groups of seats will be set up six feet apart from one another, and the theater may adjust that distance if recommended social distancing guidelines change, Lamb said.

Staff may need to split up groups exceeding six people, but Lamb said they expect that will be rare.

“The beauty of this system is that it allows us to be flexible in the configurations so that we can follow the current health guidelines,” Lamb said. “If the social distance guidelines change, we can adjust the number of seats as needed in order to keep our audiences safe.”

A rendering of the reconfigured Head Theater. Credit: Baltimore Center Stage.

Before the pandemic, the Head Theater’s normal capacity was 380 to 400 people, depending on its configuration. But distanced seating will only allow for about 138 people depending on the size of groups, Lamb said.

As of right now, actors will not be required to socially distance or wear masks or gloves during performances, Lamb said.

But the theater is following the Actor’s Equity Association’s recommendations for maintaining actors’ safety while they perform, including reconfiguring performance spaces and examining ventilation systems, she said.

All staff and patrons will have to wear a mask, face shield or cloth face covering to enter the building, and staff will also be required to wear gloves.

The theater is encouraging audience members to purchase tickets online, which they can either keep digitally or print at home to present to staff upon entry into the theater space.

For those who do not buy tickets at home, the box office will be open with partitions between staff and patrons. Box office staff will wear masks and gloves and regularly disinfect the work area.

The lobby will have hand sanitizing stations and designated areas for groups waiting to enter the theater. People will only be allowed to board an elevators with their own guest or group.

Baltimore Center Stage’s restaurant, where audience members are typically able to enjoy snacks or a meal before performances, will remain closed “while social distancing measures are in place,” according to the theater’s website.

The theater is encouraging the use of contact-less payment through Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay and contact-less cards, but it will also accept debit and credit cards and cash.

Patrons will be able to purchase concessions, but all snacks and beverages will be served by bartenders. And the theater is opting for disposable cups over its branded reusable ones.

Instead of a paper program, ticket holders will receive a digital program before their performance. A few disposable programs will be available for anyone who cannot access the digital copy.

The theater is having its HVAC systems analyzed to ensure regular fresh air intakes and ventilation. The theater is also considering the installation of ultraviolet lights in the air systems for performance, rehearsal and production spaces to kill bacteria and viruses.

The theater is scheduled to kick off its 58th season in 2021 with the first production of its Mainstage Series, “The Swindlers: A True-ish Tall Tale,” presented Jan. 28 through Feb. 28.

There are no in-person events currently scheduled between now and January, but if the theater announces any additional events it will provide “a robust plan of practices to keep everyone safe,” Lamb said.

She added that the theater will be offering virtual programming in the meantime.

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Marcus Dieterle

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at marcus@baltimorefishbowl.com...