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    Covid Restrictions Are Back at Some of Europe's Theaters

    Strict controls on playhouses and music venues are returning as the continent deals with a new coronavirus wave.For months, Europe’s opera, music and theater fans have been flocking to packed venues as if the coronavirus pandemic was fading from view. Now that feeling of freedom is receding for many.In Vienna, all performances are now banned until at least Dec. 13, after Austria imposed a lockdown to deal with a rise in coronavirus cases. The Dec. 5 premiere of the Vienna State Opera’s new production of “Don Giovanni,” directed by Barrie Kosky, will be televised from an empty house.In Munich, performances are still taking place at the city’s storied Bavarian State Opera despite a surge in cases in Bavaria. Only vaccinated patrons or those who have recovered from Covid-19 are allowed in, and they must also all show proof of a negative coronavirus test and wear a medical-grade mask. According to new rules announced Tuesday, venues in Bavaria can admit only 25 percent of their maximum capacity.In Milan, there are no restrictions on audience numbers at venues including La Scala, and no social distancing requirements — but only vaccinated audience members are allowed in.The confusing picture across the continent has been getting more complicated by the day in recent weeks as national and regional governments respond to a new wave of cases and as an alert about a new variant prompts concern. On Wednesday, Germany reported 79,051 new cases — its highest daily number since the pandemic began.After months of relative normalcy, Europe’s opera houses, concert halls and theaters are reintroducing measures all too familiar from earlier phases of the pandemic, restricting audience numbers and mandating testing, if not canceling shows outright. Some cultural workers at venues where the doors are still open are concerned that they might not stay that way for long.Leipzig Opera’s production of “Hänsel and Gretel” has been canceled for the rest of the company’s season because of coronavirus measures.Oper LeipzigDespite the new prevention measures, the mood was “very different” from previous lockdowns, said Ulf Schirmer, the general music director of Leipzig Opera, in eastern Germany. All performances in the city of Leipzig are banned until Jan. 9.“We’ve learned so much from past lockdowns,” Schirmer said, “we now know what to do.”Leipzig Opera would lose 1 million euros, about $1.1 million, by refunding tickets for canceled performances across all shows, Schirmer added. The company could cope with that, he said, because it receives a significant government subsidy and has sufficient reserves.Other venues throughout the continent, where the pace of cancellations and restrictions has been accelerating since last month, might not be in such a secure position. Latvia was one of the first countries to impose new restrictions on cultural life, when it ordered performance venues shut from late October as part of a national lockdown. Since then many other countries and regions have imposed new, if varied, restrictions. This month, the Netherlands went into a partial lockdown that let performances continue in front of seated audiences but forced other venues such as bars and restaurants to close by 8 p.m. Austria initially introduced a lockdown for unvaccinated people that included barring them from attending cultural events, before announcing a nationwide lockdown days later.Some venues that remain open in Europe are putting in place extra safety measures, even without government mandates. In Berlin, performance venues are allowed to operate at full capacity, as long as attendees show proof that they are vaccinated, recovered or provide a negative test, and wear a mask. But Sarah Boehler, a spokeswoman for the Sophiensaele, a theater in the city, said her venue would also require a negative test in addition to either proof of vaccination or recovery. The theater expected that city officials would require such a measure “in a week or two anyway,” she said, adding it was better to get ahead of the curve.There is one place that looks unlikely to see new restrictions on cultural life: Britain, where governing lawmakers have spoken since July of the need to live with the virus. New coronavirus cases have averaged around 40,000 a day for the past month, and one of the government’s leading scientific advisers this week said the country was “almost at herd immunity.”In England, theater and opera goers are not required to wear masks, or show proof of vaccination. Instead, each venue can decide its own requirements. Many West End theaters ask for proof of vaccination, and most encourage spectators to wear masks, but enforcement varies.This month, a revival of “Cabaret,” starring Eddie Redmayne at the Playhouse Theater, went further than other London shows by requiring attendees to show a negative test result to gain entry. The Ambassador Theater Group, which owns the venue, said in a statement that “the intimacy of the production,” in which the audience sits close to the actors, was behind the decision. But no other theaters have appeared to follow its lead.The composer and theater impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber on Tuesday told the BBC he would be happy to mandate masks and proof of vaccination at the six theaters he owns in London. “If that was what was necessary to keep our theaters open without social distancing, I think that’s a very small price to pay,” he said.Even if few in Britain’s theater world anticipate new restrictions, elsewhere in Europe, where governments are weighing actions to curb rising case numbers, industry figures are worried that more closures are on the way.“Everyone is still very concerned there will be another lockdown soon,” said Boehler of the Sophiensaele. “We just hope vaccinated people will be in a position to keep going to the theater.” More

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    K-Pop Star Lisa of Blackpink Tests Positive for Covid

    Lalisa Manoban, a global megastar who performs as Lisa in the K-pop group Blackpink, tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday, her production company announced.The other members of Blackpink, a four-woman group whose fame and commercial success have traveled far beyond South Korea, were not listed as close contacts but were awaiting results of a PCR test, the production company, YG Entertainment, said in a statement sent to Korean news organizations.As of Wednesday morning, Ms. Manoban, 24, had not yet addressed her nearly 68 million Instagram followers on the positive test.A Thai-born singer and rapper, Ms. Manoban is among the most acclaimed faces of K-pop, with legions of fans. She is part of K-pop’s most globally successful all-female group; five of Blackpink’s videos have been watched more than 1 billion times on YouTube, including 1.7 billion views for “DDU-DU DDU-DU.”Ms. Manoban’s debut solo album, “Lalisa,” was released on Sept. 10; her first single, “LALISA,” set a YouTube record for the most-viewed music video by a solo artist in 24 hours with 73.6 million views, dethroning Taylor Swift’s “ME!” in 2019. More

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    'General Hospital' Loses Actors Who Opposed Vaccination Mandate

    Two actors have left one of America’s most popular soap operas after declining to comply with an on-set vaccination mandate.The actors, Steve Burton and Ingo Rademacher, were fixtures of ABC’s “General Hospital,” a long-running daytime drama set in the fictional town of Port Charles, N.Y.About one in five American adults has not received a single dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Mr. Burton and Mr. Rademacher were outspoken opponents of a coronavirus vaccine mandate that applied to a part of the set where actors work unmasked, known in the industry as Zone A. The mandate took effect on Nov. 1.“Unfortunately, ‘General Hospital’ has let me go because of the vaccine mandate,” Mr. Burton, who tested positive for the virus in August and filmed his last episode on Oct. 27, said in an Instagram video on Tuesday.“I did apply for my medical and religious exemptions and both of those were denied — which, you know, hurts,” he added. “But this is also about personal freedom to me. I don’t think anyone should lose their livelihood over this.”Mr. Rademacher’s departure from the show was made public earlier this month. He had also refused to comply with the show’s vaccine mandate. “I will stand with you to fight for medical freedom,” he wrote in an Instagram post.Mr. Rademacher has also been criticized on social media in recent weeks for making comments that his critics perceived to be transphobic, a suggestion he has forcefully denied.Representatives for ABC declined to comment on the record. Publicists for the actors could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.Other Hollywood productions have imposed similar on-set mandates, but there is no universal vaccination requirement for people who work in film and television.“General Hospital” has been on the air since 1963. Its episodes are filmed weeks before they air.Mr. Rademacher played the character Jasper “Jax” Jacks on the show for 25 years. In his last episode, which aired on Monday, the character said — spoiler alert — that he would be returning to Australia.“I’m kind of on the outs with everyone in Port Charles right now,” the character said. Some fans interpreted that as a reference to the actor’s real-life tension with his castmates.In the same episode, Mr. Burton’s character, Jason Morgan, was caught up in a tunnel collapse.Mr. Burton said in his Instagram video on Tuesday that he hoped the show’s vaccine mandate would be lifted so that he could finish his career playing Jason Morgan.“And if not,” he added, “I’m going to take this experience, move forward and be forever grateful.” More

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    Broadway Play “Clyde's” Will Be Livestreamed

    The digital experimentation born of the pandemic shutdown is continuing: the final 16 performances of Lynn Nottage’s “Clyde’s” will be streamed, for $59.The coronavirus closures prompted many theaters around the country to experiment with online offerings. Now, even though theaters have reopened, a new Broadway play is planning to try streaming some performances.Second Stage Theater, a nonprofit that operates a small Broadway house, plans to sell a limited number of real-time, virtual viewings in January for the final 16 performances of “Clyde’s,” a dramedy about a group of ex-cons working at a sandwich shop. The show, by the two-time Pulitzer winner Lynn Nottage, opens Tuesday.The decision to stream some performances, which Second Stage views as an experiment, suggests that some of the survival strategies theaters embraced during the pandemic could have a lasting effect on the art form.“Over the 18 months when we had to pivot, and shift a lot of storytelling to Zoom, that opened up a new door of opportunity for many of us who make theater,” Nottage said. “What we’re hoping is that folks who are reluctant to come out because of the virus, or for whom theater is not accessible, will have access because of this streaming.”They are not aiming for a mass audience. The streams will cost $59, which is the same price as the least expensive ticket at the box office, so as not to undercut in-person sales. (There will also be a $30 ticket for people aged 30 and under, as with in-person performances.)The virtual tickets will be limited in number — probably to around 200 to 300 a performance — because as part of an agreement with labor unions, the theater will cap the number of streaming tickets sold so as not to exceed the total capacity of the theater over the course of the play’s run.The move is significant because, even though the Metropolitan Opera has been streaming performances to cinemas for years, and a number of leading symphony orchestras have long been streaming their concerts, Broadway has been resistant to such a step, in part because of quality concerns, in part because of the cost of compensating artists, and in part because of a fear of eroding the appetite for in-person attendance.In 2016, when BroadwayHD live-streamed a single performance of the Roundabout Theater Company’s revival of “She Loves Me,” the event was so unusual that it was recognized by Guinness World Records; a few months later, the same company also live-streamed a performance of Roundabout’s “Holiday Inn.”The pandemic prompted theaters to take digital work more seriously: with their buildings closed, many Off Broadway and regional theaters, as well as some prominent theaters in Britain, embraced streaming as one way to continue connecting to audiences. There were complications both mundane (which labor unions represent theater artists onscreen?) and existential (what is theater, anyway?), but one upside was increased access for people unlikely to attend in-person performances because of disability, geography or finances.For Broadway shows, there were some limited pandemic experiments with filmed performances, but not livestreaming. A “Hamilton” movie, using footage shot and edited in 2016, was released during the pandemic by a streaming platform, as was a filmed version of David Byrne’s “American Utopia”; the musicals “Come From Away” and “Diana” filmed invitation-only run-throughs during the pandemic, and those filmed performances were also released on streaming platforms.Now, as theaters reopen, some are discussing the pros and cons, as well as the feasibility, of a so-called hybrid model, in which stage shows can be seen either in-person or at home. Second Stage, working with the company Assemble Stream, earlier this fall offered its subscribers an opportunity to livestream some performances of an epistolary Off Broadway play, “Letters of Suresh”; encouraged by that experience, the nonprofit decided to try the hybrid approach for “Clyde’s,” which is its first post-shutdown Broadway show.“In-person activity is our priority, but we’ve learned a lot from the pandemic, as far as finding other ways of engaging with audiences,” said Khady Kamara, the executive director of Second Stage. There are a number of potential audiences — those still leery of public gatherings, those who live outside the New York area, those with a variety of accessibility concerns — and Nottage said she also hopes at some point that the play could be streamed in prisons.Kamara said the theater would livestream “Clyde’s,” which stars Uzo Aduba and Ron Cephas Jones, in real time during performances from Jan. 4 to Jan. 16 — it can’t be watched on demand.Is there a risk that the project will dissuade people from coming to see the show at the theater? “I really believe that the magic of being inside the theater, and being so close to the stage, is not something that goes away,” Kamara said. “I think that most people are still going to want to go with the in-person experience.”The performances will be captured by five to seven cameras mounted by Assemble Stream inside the Helen Hayes Theater; the footage will be edited, remotely, in real time, as with a live television broadcast, according to Katie McKenna, the company’s vice president of marketing and business development.Kamara and McKenna said the theater would not need to remove any seats to accommodate the cameras, and that the cameras would not obstruct any patron’s sightlines; the cameras will be operated remotely. “Our goal is to be as nondisruptive as possible,” McKenna said.Neither party would detail the financing arrangement, but Kamara said, “To begin with, we’re not looking at this as a revenue stream, as much as we’re looking at it as an additional avenue for us to provide access to the work that we put on our stages.”And will Second Stage seek to stream other Broadway shows in the future? Kamara described the “Clyde’s” streaming as a pilot project. “We are learning, and will continue to learn, and we’ll see what the future holds,” she said. “Certainly, if there is a market for it, hopefully we’re able to continue to offer it.” More

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    ‘The First Wave’ Review: How to Fight a Virus

    The documentary tracks the first four months of the novel coronavirus in March 2020, as it overwhelms works at a hospital in Queens.The documentary “The First Wave,” an intimate portrait of the first four months of the coronavirus pandemic in New York City, goes inside the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, as doctors, nurses and patients attempt to fight a surge that threatens to overwhelm the hospital’s capacity.The director Matthew Heineman (“Cartel Land,” “A Private War”) prefers a fly-on-the-wall style as he observes the scenes in the hospital. It’s clear he was granted a remarkable degree of access to make this documentary. The camera watches from the bedside of flat-lining patients as their doctors try to resuscitate them.Heineman pans close to intubated faces, and the audience sees the desperation of patients who try until their last breaths to expel fluid from their lungs.In the scenes that follow, the film’s central figure, Dr. Nathalie Dougé, is overwhelmed by a new disease that doesn’t follow familiar patterns. It’s agonizing to witness the degree of suffering that this movie documents, all the more so because the pandemic is still ongoing.Heineman doesn’t include talking heads to contextualize the images that are presented, preferring to allow doctors and nurses to explain the chaos surrounding them. The deliberate lack of an external perspective adds to the crushing atmosphere at the hospital. This is not a comprehensive portrait of diagnostics, treatment plans or even the political circumstances that produced such a deadly first surge. But the film succeeds in presenting an on-the-ground view of what it felt like to be inside a hospital in the spring of 2020. It was harrowing, death was everywhere and there was no end in sight.The First WaveRated R for graphic images, medical gore and language. Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes. In theaters. More

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    If Remote Work Empties Downtowns, Can Theaters Fill Their Seats?

    Since the pandemic, San Francisco has embraced work-from-home policies. Now venues and concert halls are wondering if weeknight audiences are a thing of the past.SAN FRANCISCO — As live performance finally returns after the pandemic shutdown, cultural institutions are confronting a long list of unknowns.Will audiences feel safe returning to crowded theaters? Have people grown so accustomed to watching screens in their living rooms that they will not get back into the habit of attending live events? And how will the advent of work-from-home policies, which have emptied blocks of downtowns and business districts, affect weekday attendance at theaters and concert halls?Nowhere is that last question more urgent than here in San Francisco, where tech companies have led the way in embracing work-from-home policies and flexible schedules more than in almost any other city in the nation. Going to a weeknight show is no longer a matter of leaving the office and swinging by the War Memorial Opera House or the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall.“As people work from home, it is going to change our demographics,” said Matthew Shilvock, the general director of the San Francisco Opera. “It’s something that could be a threat. We’re all trying to wait and see whether there’s a surge of interest in live activity again or is there a continuation of just being at home, not coming into the city from the suburbs.”Arts groups are trying to gauge what the embrace of more flexible work-from-home policies will mean for their ability to draw audiences in a city whose housing crunch has already driven many people to settle far from downtown. Close to 70 percent of the audiences at the San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Symphony — two nationally recognized symbols of this city’s vibrant network of performing arts institutions — live outside the city, according to data collected by the two organizations.“As people work from home, it is going to change our demographics,” said Matthew Shilvock, the general director of the San Francisco Opera, which presented a new production of Beethoven’s “Fidelio” this fall.Cory Weaver/San Francisco OperaSome economists see the trend of remote work persisting. “It’s likely we are going to have more people working from home than other places,” said Ted Egan, the chief economist for the city and county of San Francisco. “The tech industry seems to be the most generous for work-from-home policy, and employees are expecting that.”Twitter announced in the early months of the pandemic that it would allow almost all of its 5,200 employees, most based at its San Francisco office, to work at home permanently. At Salesforce, which has 9,000 employees, employees will only have to come to work one to three days a week; many will be allowed to work at home full time. Dropbox, which has its headquarters in San Francisco, also has adopted a permanent work-from-home policy. Facebook and Google, both of which have a significant presence in San Francisco, have implemented work-from-home policies.Egan said that the trend might pose more of a problem for the city’s bars and restaurants than for its performing arts institutions. “My suspicion is that performing arts are going to be less sensitive to working from home than other sectors,” he said. “It’s not the kind of purchase you do after work on a whim, like going for happy hour.”Attendance has been spotty as this city’s art scene climbs back. Just 50 percent of the seats were filled the other night for a performance of “The Displaced,” a “gentrification horror play” by Isaac Gómez, at the Crowded Fire Theater. “We had sold-out houses on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and much lower participation on Wednesday and Thursday night,” said Mina Morita, the artistic director. “It’s hard to tell if this is the new normal.”There were some patches of empty seats across the Davies Symphony Hall the other night, as the San Francisco Symphony presented the United States premiere of a violin concerto by Bryce Dessner, even though it was the third week of the long-delayed (and long-anticipated) first season for Esa-Pekka Salonen, its new music director. The concerto, with an energetic performance by Pekka Kuusisto, the Finnish violinist, was greeted by repeated standing ovations and glowing reviews.Attendance in October was down 11 percent compared to before the pandemic, but the symphony said advance sales were strong, suggesting normal audiences might return in spring.Twitter announced in the early months of the pandemic that it would allow almost all of its 5,200 employees, most based at its San Francisco office, to work at home permanently.Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency, via Getty Images“The audience is back,” Salonen said in an interview before he took the stage. “Not what it was, but they are back. Some nights have been a little thinner than others. By and large, the energy is good. Our worst fears have been dispelled.”The San Francisco Opera also began its new season with a splashy new hire: a new music director, Eun Sun Kim, who in August became the first woman to hold the position at one of the nation’s largest opera companies. She conducted a new production of Beethoven’s “Fidelio” this fall that incorporated chain-link fences and flickering video screens to update the story of the liberation of a political prisoner.Even so, the opera, which can seat 2,928 with Covid restrictions, sold an average of 1,912 tickets per show for “Fidelio,” its second production of this new season. That’s better than its second production in 2019, Britten’s “Billy Budd,” a searing work that does not always attract big crowds. But it drew fewer people than the opera’s second production in 2018, “Roberto Devereux,” which sold an average of 2,116 tickets a performance.“The urgency to be bold, to be innovative, to be compelling to get audiences to come back or give us a try for the first time has never been stronger,” Shilvock said. “There will be a hunger for things that have an energy, that have a vitality, that give a reason to come into the city.”Even before the pandemic, cultural organizations were dealing with challenges that threatened to discourage patrons, including a stressed public transportation system, traffic, parking constraints and the highly visible epidemic of homelessness. And many institutions were struggling to make inroads in attracting audiences and patrons from the tech industry, which now accounts for 19 percent of the private work force.Now, facing an uncertain future as they try to emerge from the pandemic shutdown, arts organizations are embracing a variety of tactics to fill seats..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-w739ur{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-w739ur{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-9s9ecg{margin-bottom:15px;}.css-uf1ume{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;}.css-wxi1cx{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;-webkit-align-self:flex-end;-ms-flex-item-align:end;align-self:flex-end;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}Hope Mohr, the co-director of Hope Mohr Dance, said that her organization was spending $1,400 per night to livestream performances, so audiences could choose between coming into San Francisco or watching from their living rooms.“A hybrid experience — I have to do that from now on,” she said. “My company usually performs in San Francisco, and I have audience coming from all over the bay.”These calculations are taking place in an atmosphere of uncertainty and anxiety. It is not clear how much these early attendance figures represent a realignment, or are evidence of audiences temporarily trying to balance their hunger for live performances against concerns about the spread of the Delta variant — even in a city where 75 percent of the eligible population is fully vaccinated. Lower attendance figures have been reported by performing halls across the country.“The audience is back,” Esa-Pekka Salonen, the music director of the San Francisco Symphony, said. “Not what it was, but they are back. Some nights have been a little thinner than others. By and large the energy is good. Our worst fears have been dispelled.”Christopher M. Howard Opening nights have found performers relieved to be playing to real crowds again and audiences delighted to be back. “The convenience of at-home entertainment has made it not as desirable for some folks, ” said Ralph Remington, the director of cultural affairs for the San Francisco Arts Commission. “But that being said, even though the density of the numbers isn’t as great as it was prepandemic, the audiences that are coming are really enthusiastic.”Advance sales for “The Nutcracker” at the San Francisco Ballet, with one-third of the tickets going for just $19 a seat to help bring in new patrons (the average ticket price is $136), have been moving briskly.Danielle St. Germain-Gordon, the ballet’s interim executive director, said she hoped that working from home had made people eager to break out of their increasing isolation. “I would do anything to get out,” she said. “I hope that’s a good sign for our season.”At the height of the pandemic, about 85 percent of San Francisco-based employees worked from home; that number is about 50 percent now, said Enrico Moretti, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley.“I think it’s possible that people are not going to commute from Walnut Creek at night to go to downtown San Francisco for the opera to the same extent,” he said. “But I don’t expect those office buildings will sit empty. There will be other people moving into them.”The Magic Theater, a 145-seat-theater in Fort Mason, just beyond Fisherman’s Wharf, has been experimenting with different kinds of programming, such as a poetry reading, and pay-what-you-can seats to lure patrons who live — and now work — far from the theater.“This is going to be an interesting year for everyone,” said Sean San José, its artistic director. “Are people going to come back? The zeitgeist is telling us something. Maybe we should listen. This ain’t a pause. We have got to rethink it.” More

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    ‘Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord’ Review: Our Sewing Superhero

    The first post-shutdown live performance at New York Theater Workshop is almost a debriefing after the crisis we have endured.Before the lights go down at New York Theater Workshop, Kristina Wong gets up from her Hello Kitty sewing machine, where she’s been making a face mask, to deliver some trigger warnings about the solo performance she’s about to give.Her tone is tongue in cheek — she is, after all, a comedian — but her heads-up to the audience is for real, because she’s wading straight into one of the great divides in live theater right now: between people hungry for drama that examines the last 20 months and people desperate for psychic escape from all that.“This show takes place in the pandemic,” Wong says. “I know. I know! Now you get to find out if watching live theater about the pandemic, during a pandemic, is your thing. And because it’s set in the pandemic, there are mentions of death, illness, poverty, mental health stressors, racism, trauma.” A pause, and then she adds one more possible trigger: “The last U.S. president.”Truth be told, I have not been clamoring for theater about dire recent events. And I confess that, en route to Wong’s show, I was feeling particularly ground down by all the barefaced people I’d seen, once again, on the subway.Yet “Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord” turns out to be a spiky comic tonic for just such gloom. Directed by Chay Yew, it’s the first post-shutdown live performance at New York Theater Workshop, and it’s ideally suited as such: almost a debriefing after the crisis we have endured, even though we haven’t reached its end.Wong’s outfit includes a bandoleer with bright spools of thread, which she slings across her chest, and, strapped to her back, a giant pair of scissors.Sara Krulwich/The New York TimesDon’t be fooled by the bluster in the show’s title. The tale that Wong tells isn’t truly self-aggrandizing. It’s about the Auntie Sewing Squad, a far-flung group of volunteers she assembled from her home in Los Angeles in March 2020 to make face masks, which were desperately needed then and perilously hard to come by. Selflessness and human connection are dominant themes of this narrative.“Sweatshop Overlord” is also about mothers and daughters and heritage — sewing skills passed down from one generation of Asian American women to the next — and how at a time of horrific anti-Asian bigotry and violence in this country, some of those women harnessed perennially undervalued skills for an urgent common good. Amid corrosive cultural discord, as President Trump and others loudly blamed Asians for the coronavirus, they acted with a kind of ferocious grace.Wong, whose Zoom version of the show was part of New York Theater Workshop’s online programming last May, didn’t mean the Auntie Sewing Squad to last more than a few weeks.“There is a rumor that the U.S. post office will be delivering five masks to every address in America,” she tells the audience, one month into the project, “and that will make us obsolete very soon.”Remember that rumor? “Sweatshop Overlord” is full of little memory jolts like that. Those deliveries never happened, of course, and Wong’s group grew to include hundreds of people — including her own mother — who sewed more than 350,000 face masks for vulnerable communities before disbanding in August 2021.“Is America a banana republic disguised as a democracy?” Wong asks more than once, aghast at what she sees as the government’s failure to protect its citizens from the pandemic threat.Alternating dark humor and wry social commentary with anger, sorrow and fear, she tells the story of the Aunties inside the chronology we all lived through. These were ordinary Americans — many Asian, mostly female — enlisting in a fight for the health and well-being of their country. Sort of like a patriotic war movie in which the hostilities involve a lethal virus and belligerent resistance to mask wearing, and where people under fire volley back with the copious fruits of traditional “women’s work.”To immerse herself in this battle, Wong dons a wonderfully playful action-hero costume by the Tony Award winner Linda Cho. The bandoleer that Wong slings across her chest holds bright spools of thread, not bullets; a jumbo pair of scissors is strapped to her back.Junghyun Georgia Lee’s set has an upstage wall made of surgical masks, which becomes an ideal screen for Caite Hevner’s many projections.Sara Krulwich/The New York TimesAs vital as her humor is to the tone of the performance, the production design is just as important. The set, by Junghyun Georgia Lee, has an upstage wall made of about 1,400 surgical masks — an ideal screen for Caite Hevner’s many projections — but the real eye-catcher is the candy-colored sewing room laid out before it.The objects there are built on an Alice in Wonderland scale: tomato-shaped pincushions as big as chairs, a gargantuan seam ripper in royal blue, bobbins a giant could use. It feels heightened and hallucinatory, like the first year of the pandemic, but also safe, like a child’s playroom. Amith Chandrashaker’s saturated lighting aids the shift between those moods.“Sweatshop Overlord” sags a bit in its last third, and one moment meant to be solemn is puzzling instead. But Wong is good company and an accomplished storyteller, and she and Yew have made a show that is both heartening and cathartic. Tripping our collective memories of a strange, scary, isolated time, it asks us to recall them together. Which helps, actually.Back out on the street afterward, we’re lighter — and, thanks to the Aunties, imbued with hope.Kristina Wong, Sweatshop OverlordThrough Nov. 21 at New York Theater Workshop, Manhattan; nytw.org. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. More

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    At the Radio City Christmas Show, Some Workers Worry About Covid Rules

    Employees must all be vaccinated, but some are upset that the upcoming show is not also testing them for the virus, as is done on Broadway and at other major performing venues.Some of the people who put on the Radio City Music Hall Christmas show are expressing concerns about the Covid-19 protocols in place for workers as the show prepares to open on Friday night.All the employees for the “Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes” must be vaccinated. But other aspects of the annual Christmas pageant’s policy are not in line with those put in place by Broadway theaters, the Metropolitan Opera and some other live performance spaces across the city, according to email correspondence and a policy document reviewed by The New York Times.Unlike on Broadway, at the New York Philharmonic and the New York City Ballet, for example, the Madison Square Garden Entertainment company that produces the show and owns the theater is not requiring employees to be tested for the virus. Unions representing some of the employees of the show have raised the matter of testing to the show’s management, according to an email reviewed by The Times.Management at the Music Hall says the protocols it has in place are completely safe, were developed in conjunction with health and safety experts and have been used successfully at a roster of shows in the venue since late summer.“We believe our protocols are more than adequate to protect people in our building,” a spokeswoman for Madison Square Garden Entertainment, Kimberly Kerns, said. “The show has more than 1,000 employees. While there are a vocal few that don’t agree, the vast majority are excited about coming to work.”Under the Music Hall’s policy, masks are recommended but not required for artists, cast and crew members, which differs from the protocol at many performing arts institutions like Carnegie Hall. In addition, at Radio City, not all audience members must wear masks as is the case with all Broadway shows. (The “Christmas Spectacular” is admitting audience members with one dose of a two-dose vaccine, and they will have to wear masks. But fully vaccinated audience members who are 12 or older will not be required to wear a face covering.)Kerns emphasized that Radio City Music Hall is a vastly different kind of venue than a Broadway theater. It is far bigger, with 6,000 seats and more space between the stage and the audience, she said. And, importantly, she said, company officials believe the venue’s air filtration system is “just as good — and most likely better” than any system at any performance venue in the city.The spokeswoman also noted that management does recommend wearing a mask. She said the show has provided information on where and how to get a test off site. And she reiterated that the company is using the same protocols for the “Christmas Spectacular” that it has used effectively for other events at Radio City and other properties the company owns. (Madison Square Garden, another of its venues, has been home to Knicks games and concerts at which vaccinated audience members did not have to wear a mask.)Four unions representing the show’s musicians, stagehands, dressers and its dancers, the Rockettes, did not respond to requests for comment.The “Christmas Spectacular” runs for roughly eight weeks, employs more than 1,000 people, and delights several thousand audience members at each show. On some days during the run, the “Christmas Spectacular” is performed four times in a single day..css-1kpebx{margin:0 auto;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1kpebx{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1gtxqqv{margin-bottom:0;}.css-k59gj9{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;width:100%;}.css-1e2usoh{font-family:inherit;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;border-top:1px solid #ccc;padding:10px 0px 10px 0px;background-color:#fff;}.css-1jz6h6z{font-family:inherit;font-weight:bold;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.5rem;text-align:left;}.css-1t412wb{box-sizing:border-box;margin:8px 15px 0px 15px;cursor:pointer;}.css-hhzar2{-webkit-transition:-webkit-transform ease 0.5s;-webkit-transition:transform ease 0.5s;transition:transform ease 0.5s;}.css-t54hv4{-webkit-transform:rotate(180deg);-ms-transform:rotate(180deg);transform:rotate(180deg);}.css-1r2j9qz{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-e1ipqs{font-size:1rem;line-height:1.5rem;padding:0px 30px 0px 0px;}.css-e1ipqs a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;}.css-e1ipqs a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}.css-1o76pdf{visibility:show;height:100%;padding-bottom:20px;}.css-1sw9s96{visibility:hidden;height:0px;}.css-1in8jot{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;font-family:’nyt-franklin’,arial,helvetica,sans-serif;text-align:left;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1in8jot{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-1in8jot:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1in8jot{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}What to Know About Covid-19 Booster ShotsThe F.D.A. has authorized booster shots for millions of recipients of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Pfizer and Moderna recipients who are eligible for a booster include people 65 and older, and younger adults at high risk of severe Covid-19 because of medical conditions or where they work. Eligible Pfizer and Moderna recipients can get a booster at least six months after their second dose. All Johnson & Johnson recipients will be eligible for a second shot at least two months after the first.Yes. The F.D.A. has updated its authorizations to allow medical providers to boost people with a different vaccine than the one they initially received, a strategy known as “mix and match.” Whether you received Moderna, Johnson & Johnson or Pfizer-BioNTech, you may receive a booster of any other vaccine. Regulators have not recommended any one vaccine over another as a booster. They have also remained silent on whether it is preferable to stick with the same vaccine when possible.The C.D.C. has said the conditions that qualify a person for a booster shot include: hypertension and heart disease; diabetes or obesity; cancer or blood disorders; weakened immune system; chronic lung, kidney or liver disease; dementia and certain disabilities. Pregnant women and current and former smokers are also eligible.The F.D.A. authorized boosters for workers whose jobs put them at high risk of exposure to potentially infectious people. The C.D.C. says that group includes: emergency medical workers; education workers; food and agriculture workers; manufacturing workers; corrections workers; U.S. Postal Service workers; public transit workers; grocery store workers.Yes. The C.D.C. says the Covid vaccine may be administered without regard to the timing of other vaccines, and many pharmacy sites are allowing people to schedule a flu shot at the same time as a booster dose.Several company members, who asked not to be named because they said they were concerned about possible retaliation, said they worried about working in cramped spaces backstage; they also noted that they have family members at home who are at risk.Infectious-disease experts say the best way to protect the health and wellness of theater cast and crew members involves a combination of vaccination, air filtration, frequent testing and mandatory masking backstage.At some other venues, employers are requiring, providing and paying for Covid tests for their vaccinated arts workers. Broadway employees are currently being tested at least twice a week. People who work regularly at the Met Opera are expected to take one weekly test between Saturday and Tuesday and another between Wednesday and Friday. The New York Philharmonic tests members of its orchestra as well as crew and staff members who interact with the orchestra once per week.“Not having people mask in a full theater — I’m not ready for that yet,” said Dr. Danielle Ompad, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at New York University. “For a group of employees who are walking around without masks because that’s part of the performance — I would still want to be able to get tested.”Though transmission has been rare at live performance venues so far this fall season, Broadway productions like “Aladdin” caught positive cases within its company through testing and were able to resume performances in relatively short order. More