Some suburban theaters prepare to lift mask, vaccination mandates
Aurora's Paramount Theatre, among the first locally to require theatergoers to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination (or a negative COVID test) and wear masks indoors, will drop those requirements on Monday, when the state lifts its indoor masking rule for public places.
"There will be people who are very happy about our announcement and people who will be very anxious about our announcement," said Paramount President and CEO Tim Rater, who informed patrons of the policy shift Friday, indicating the theater will continue to follow Illinois Department of Public Health and Kane County Health Department recommendations and adjust policies as conditions warrant.
Although masks are optional, Rater encourages Paramount and Copley theater patrons to continue wearing them. He said Paramount employees -- including front-of-house and administrative staff, ushers, and stagehands -- will wear masks "for the foreseeable future."
The McAninch Arts Center in Glen Ellyn will lift masking requirements for ticketed events beginning Monday but recommends that patrons wear them. The MAC will require proof of vaccination through March 13.
"It's been a very challenging time with many policies to navigate between the state, the college and theatrical union requirements," MAC Director Diana Martinez said via email. "We have made every decision in the best interest of the arts center, trying to remain open and to provide cultural experiences throughout the pandemic."
Many members of the League of Chicago Theatres coalition that agreed to unified COVID-19 guidelines last fall will keep in place proof of vaccination (or negative test) and masking requirements. Among them are Goodman, Steppenwolf and Broadway in Chicago theaters. League protocols will be will be reviewed regularly and "may be relaxed at any time," according to a league statement.
Marriott Theatre's masking and vaccination protocols will remain in effect at the Lincolnshire theater through March 27 when its current production "West Side Story" concludes, executive producer Terry James said in a statement.
"We anticipate updating those policies by 'The Sound of Music,' which opens April 13, while maintaining our commitment to safety for our artists, staff and audience," said James adding, the theater will inform patrons of changes through email, social media and Marriott's website.
Lyric Opera of Chicago continues to require audience members wear masks and provide photo identification along with proof of two or more vaccine doses -- two doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or a combination of the vaccine and booster doses of Johnson & Johnson. Those protocols will remain in effect through the end of the season.
Among the theaters maintaining mask and vaccination mandates is First Folio Theatre. The policies will continue for the Oak Brook theater's next production, "Emma" (March 23-April 24), regardless of changes in governmental policies.
"We believe it's the best course of action to protect patrons and employees," said David Rice, co-founder and executive director. "Our actors will do 30 performances per run in front of 3,000 people. They're the ones putting themselves at risk performing without masks."
Rice said theatergoers objecting to masking may not be considering the artists' interests. "We believe this is necessary to protect our patrons and our actors," he added.