Chicago’s theaters may not be lifting mask and vax mandates on Feb. 28
The end of the mandates does not mean a particular bar, restaurant, cultural center or theater must do away with its current safety protocols.
The city and state mask and proof of vaccination mandates for entry to nearly all venues, restaurants and stores may be history come Monday, but that doesn’t mean all of Chicago’s live theater houses will be dropping them.
Currently, theatergoers are required to show proof of vaccination for entry and wear masks for the duration of all indoor performances. The policies were put in place over the course of the past year by show producers and venue operators to comply with city and state mandates, and where applicable, the safety protocols of Actors Equity, the labor union representing workers in live theatrical performance.
The end of the mandates does not mean a particular bar, restaurant, cultural center or theater must do away with its current safety protocols. The Sun-Times reported that starting Feb. 28, the city will stop requiring patrons of restaurants, bars and gyms to wear masks and show vaccine cards.
“Many residents may continue to wear masks in public spaces for a variety of reasons —even if they are vaccinated or as more mandates and advisories fade. ... Also, some venues may continue to impose their own mitigation efforts to keep their clients and customers safe. That is their right. And we must respect it,” Lightfoot said last week.
The League of Chicago Theatres, which advocates for more than 200 Chicago-area theaters, sent a letter to its membership stating the majority of its member theaters indicated they would continue current mandatory mask/proof of vaccination policies, citing recent surveys indicating “this is what our audiences want and some artists and their representatives have said they would like this policy to continue as well.”
The league’s “unified COVID-19 protections plan,” in place since fall 2021, will remain in effect “until further notice” but will be “reviewed regularly based on the needs and comfort of our patrons, staff and artists” and could be relaxed at any time.
A quick check Tuesday of some area theaters indicated they would be adhering to the guidelines set forth in the League’s statement, meaning current protocols would remain in place for patrons regardless of the Feb. 28 lift.
Broadway in Chicago (BIC), the city’s largest producer of musicals operating in the Loop’s biggest live theater venues including the Cadillac Palace Theatre and the Nederlander Theatre, is keeping its policy of mandatory masks and proof of vaccination in place “for the time being,” a spokesperson said late Tuesday.
Currently, there are three BIC productions that would be affected: “The Play that Goes Wrong” at the Broadway Playhouse, “The Simon & Garfunkel Story” at the CIBC Theatre and Teatro ZinZanni at the Spiegeltent ZaZou on the 14th floor of the Cambria Hotel.
Black Ensemble Theater, which returns to live performances in March, noted in a news release for its upcoming production of “It’s Just Like Coming to Church” that it is “proceeding slowly, cautiously and carefully.” Its mainstage shows will run 90 minutes, without intermission, and no food or drinks will be served. Masks will remain mandatory.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra will “not be changing audience protocols at this time,” a spokesperson confirmed, citing its alignment with the League of Chicago Theatres’ statement and “the larger coalition of performing arts organizations who continue to meet regularly and monitor the changing situation with COVID.”
Congo Square Theatre will require proof of vax or negative test for all ticket holders to its production of “What to Send Up When It Goes Down.”
The Lyric Opera will also keep its policy requiring proof of full vaccination to enter the theater. Masks will continue to be mandatory at all performances.
Hell in a Handbag Productions will still require proof of vaccinations and masking for its current production of “The Drag Seed.”
In a statement, the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire said it will keep in place all mandatory mask and proof of vax or negative test requirements for the remainder of the run of “West Side Story” (through March 27) but would “anticipate updating those policies” by the April 13 opening of “The Sound of Music.”
The Chicago area’s theaters were hit hard by mandatory shutdowns in place since 2020, forcing many shows to be canceled or rescheduled to 2022 or beyond. Safety protocols such as socially distanced seating and proof of masks/vaccination were instituted since fall 2021 to effectively allow for the return of in-person performances.
Also on Tuesday, the Chicago Independent Venue League (CIVL), issued its own statement, asking patrons of its member concert venues, music halls and comedy clubs to be patient.
“We’re asking patrons to be vigilant — to know before they go. This means saving that picture of your vaccine card on your phone, and keeping a mask in your back pocket. Every venue is different, and for many, these small efforts have brought relief. We’re still here because so many have chosen safety, and we ask patrons to do the same.”
NOTE: If you are planning to attend live theater or a concert in the area in the coming weeks, check venue websites for their up-to-the-minute COVID policies.