The Road Back: The Show(s) Will Go On

Posted April 21, 2021

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It's been a tick since we've updated you on the state of the shows. Check out this week's The Road Back to see how the first two plays moved from theory to a reality that will allow these two actors to play these two characters on stage very soon.

So much has happened since we last met on The Road Back. Tickets have gone on sale to priority ordering groups, and those sales will continue until the General Public On-Sale on Monday, April 26. Artists, artisans, cast and crew have begun arriving at APT, filling our hearts (and our employee parking lot) at long last. In fact, an incredible amount of work has gone on behind the scenes to prepare for where we are now: in rehearsal for The Mountaintop and about to begin rehearsal for An Improbable Fiction. And we realized it’s been quite a while since we’ve updated you on our progress to get permission to produce the first two plays of the season.

To recap the road so far, we gave you a bit of detail back in January and February when we were beginning the process (remember that HVAC missive?), and then moved on to talk to you more about your experience – what it would be like on the grounds, how tickets would work, and – our favorite – answering your questions.

But our biggest hurdle was to get permission from the labor unions for their members to work at APT. Approval from the directors’ and designers’ unions (SDC and USA) were first in – we were approved for our first four plays of the season in mid-March.

Approval from Actors’ Equity Association, the union for actors and stage managers, was a little more complicated. Which makes sense, since the actors need to be able to work close to one another, and without masks. As we reported in Chapter 2 of The Road Back, the first step was to submit a 29-page intake form for each production. We completed these forms at the beginning of March. This was followed by a period of back-and-forth, answering very specific questions from AEA. For instance: How will this prop be used? Who touches it? Since the two actors in The Mountaintop are married to each other, we don’t have to worry about them being in close proximity, but what happens if an understudy needs to go on? Finally, at the end of March, just a little more than a week before rehearsals were set to begin, we received approval for The Mountaintop! In the meantime, questions about An Improbable Fiction were flying between APT and the AEA office.

And then, a major breakthrough!

The first week of April, Actors’ Equity released a completely new – and very much simplified – set of guidelines for fully vaccinated workplaces. This means that if Equity members and those who need to be in regular contact in contact with them are fully vaccinated, the rules are different. Happily, the cast and crew of both shows meet this criteria.

Last week, on April 15, we received official word that we qualified as a fully vaccinated workplace in the eyes of AEA. Our safety team is still sorting out exactly what that means we can and can’t do, and though many rules remain, these new guidelines give our artists more flexibility in staging, and less frequent COVID testing. (Note: this won’t affect the audience rules for masking or distancing at APT. We’re still following local and CDC guidance for that.)

Safety planning for the rest of our staff is in full swing also. In March, the safety team released APT’s Safety Plans and Protocols, an exhaustive document which covers all aspects of safety for all APT staff in all departments – that will be upwards of 150 people by the end of the summer. In addition to masking, social distancing and hand washing, we are using ProtectWell, a symptom-reporting app that each employee uses before they’re allowed to come to APT. And because so many staff members need to be tested regularly, we have contracted with an outside company to do on-site testing.

The document also outlines the duties of our small army of Infection Control Specialists (ICS). This group of about a dozen people – one in each department - makes sure their fellow staff members are following safety guidelines, using ProtectWell, and testing if they are scheduled to do so. They also check that work areas are disinfected regularly, and make sure areas are kept clean and disinfected, and that supplies such as masks are stocked and ready.

So far, so good. While much about our work this year is strange and different, we are all so joyful just to making plays that will be ready for you very soon!

Next week: A peek inside rehearsal.