Broadway Said ‘Masks Off’ But Not All Theaters or Stars Apparently Got the Memo – or Agree With the Change

‘Put Your Mask Over Your Nose’ Tony Award Winner Patti LuPone Told Audience Member from the Stage

By Kurt Stolz on 24 June 2022
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Masked theatergoers at a recent performance of Meredith Wilson’s “The Music Man”

The Broadway League may have announced earlier in June that all 41 Broadway theaters would drop mask mandates starting July 1 of this year but, as it turned out, the united front that the organization, which represents theater owners, claimed to have was not in fact fully united.

Unlike when the group announced, in the spring, that just some theaters would end the requirement at the end of May to present proof of fully vaccinated status, the announcement last week indicated, falsely, that all 41 theaters were unanimous in the decision.

At least one theater is not comfortable with the plan, nor is the Actors’ Equity Association, the union that represents American actors involved in theatrical performances as well as stage managers.

Equity said that the decision came suddenly and without warning.

“This decision was made unilaterally, without input from your union or any other, and the unions were only given advance notice a couple of hours before the announcement,” the union said in a memorandum sent to members and viewed by Frequent Business Traveler.

Meanwhile the Circle in the Square Theater, home to the play “American Buffalo,” said it will maintain its mask mandate as is, through at least the end of the play’s run.  The move clearly suggests that there is little unanimity among theater operators about coronavirus protocols.

“Buffalo,” which takes place in the only Broadway theater-in-the-round in the city as well as the only independent Broadway house, said in a statement that the decision had been made “due to the close proximity of the audience to the actors as a result of the intimate size of the theater and the staging in the round.”

Dozens of Broadway stars have been sidelined by Covid since theaters reopening last August.  Among them are Tony winner Patti LuPone, who stars in “Company,” Hugh Jackman and Sutton Forster in “The Music Man,” Alex Brightman in “Beetlejuice,” and “Plaza Suite” Stars Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick.

LuPone famously castigated a theatergoer for partially removing her mask while in the audience during a talkback session last month.

“Put your mask over your nose!LuPone shouted in footage posted to social media, chastising the audience members. “That’s why you’re in the theater. That’s the rule. If you don’t want to follow the rules, get the f— out!”

LuPone didn’t stop there.

“Who do you think you are that you do not respect the people that are sitting around you?” she added.

One emboldened member of the audience shouted back a rather cringeworthy, “We pay your salary,” to which LuPone replied “Bull—-.  Chris Harper pays my salary,” a phrase that made its way into LuPone’s acceptance speech for her latest Tony for her appearance in “Company.”

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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