Theater and the arts could face the crisis without vaccines, without masks

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We have all been through a lot of emotions over the past 18 months, from fear and anxiety to a sense of calm mixed with hope. As I began to look forward to the start of a new artistic season with the kind of enthusiasm I hadn’t felt in a while, I fear it all might fall apart again.

I am actually more than worried. Now I am angry. I recently wrote about how the producers on Broadway determined that all patrons (with a few exceptions) must be vaccinated or show proof of a negative COVID-19 test to enter theaters. I want this for all the arts organizations I participate in and write about in the Sarasota area.

Arts leaders probably want it too, because they know the safer their clients feel, the more likely they are to attend.

But that won’t happen because we live in a state where Governor Ron DeSantis has made it illegal for companies to require vaccinations for customers, and some argue their constitutional rights would be violated if they were to wear face masks. . Theaters are currently “encouraging” patrons to wear face masks.

Previously:Florida theaters can’t keep up with Broadway in demanding COVID-19 vaccines

Review:Florida Studio Theater achieves some success in “Rounding Third”

As crowds applaud the return of Broadway, based on information about the opening of the new play “Pass Over,” we face a potential disaster. I keep hearing readers talk about their safety concerns and the wisdom of attending shows amid the current wave, as new seasons prepare to begin.

A block party marked the opening of the new Broadway play

I have only attended a few shows in the past few years, most of them outdoors where I felt safe while being masked. I wrote a few weeks ago about how warm and heartwarming it felt to be back in a theater with actors live in front of me telling a story. I wore a mask back then and that was before the last wave.

When I attended “Rounding Third” at the Florida Studio Theater two weeks ago, most of the customers were wearing masks. This is an encouraging sign because nervousness and fear are not conducive to cultural experiences.

In recent weeks, I have often remembered an article I wrote decades ago for a college class in which I compared Henrik Ibsen’s play “An Enemy of the People” to Steven’s movie “Jaws”. Spielberg, who had just left.

The play tells the story of a doctor who studies hot tub safety and how a newspaper article about the results could force the tubs to close, creating a negative impact on the city’s economy. How not to think of Mayor Vaughn in “Jaws” trying to hide the truth about the shark attacks on Amity Island fearing it would kill the busy July 4th weekend?

Pass through :Sarasota-area arts organizations survive pandemic year

Hiding the facts doesn’t change them. It only makes people believe they are safe when they are not. Florida has stopped providing daily updates on the number of COVID cases. It does not make the problem go away. It just makes us less aware of how serious the situation is and how best to protect ourselves.

I know theater operators have made physical changes to their buildings with new air filtering systems and other methods to make spaces safer for the public. But I think more and more people want to rely on another layer of security. Requiring masks is an authorized measure.

Perhaps the situation will change when the FDA fully authorizes vaccines that have been temporarily used on an emergency basis. But I doubt it.

When I was a kid, there was no doubt that I was going to swallow a small lump of sugar for the polio vaccine or get the smallpox vaccine that left a circular imprint on my arm. No one wanted to catch a fatal or debilitating illness.

Why doesn’t this apply to the coronavirus? In “Blowin ‘in the Wind,” Bob Dylan asked, “How many deaths will it take before he knows too many people are dead?”

I have been fortunate to be able to combine my love and passion for the arts in a career as a writer on the subject. I don’t want this to stop because I’m afraid to meet again in a theater, art museum or gallery. It’s all about trusting those around you. I know that I am not alone. I want the shows to continue and I want to experience it without feeling like I’m potentially risking my life.

Do your part and get your shot. And wear a mask.

Follow Jay Handelman on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Contact him at jay.handelman@heraldtribune.com. And please support local journalism by subscribing to the Herald-Tribune.

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