The Reopening of Virginia

Here is critical and important information/guidance with respect to the reopening of Virginia.

American Shakespeare Company Talks About Presenting Live Performances Again

Managing Director of the American Shakespeare Center Amy Wratchford – another theater company that is leading the way toward live performances beginning again. Wratchford talked about their experience in reopening, changes they had to make to remain socially distanced, lessons learned, and much more. Listen to the call here:

Barrington Stage Company Artistic Producer Branden Huldeen Advises About Restarting Live Performances and Events

As part of the Embracing Arlington Arts biweekly ZOOM call series, the Artistic Producer of Barrington Stage Company in Massachusetts Branden Huldeen talked about that theater’s reopening experiences. From obtaining proper sanitizing equipment to building upgrades to social distancing to providing safe working environment for actors and staffs, Branden offered much insight, best practices and sound guidance to the call participants who peppered him with numerous questions. Listen to the call here .

Updated Shugoll Survey Results on Patrons Returning to Live Performances/Theaters

As coronavirus numbers continue to rise in most U.S. states, the willingness of theatre patrons to return to their old theatregoing habits has plummeted, two tracking surveys show. In April, Shugoll Research, a national marketing research company in Bethesda, Md., conducted their first online survey with 743 D.C.-area theatregoers on their intent to return to the theatre when it reopens after the coronavirus pandemic, and found that just a quarter percent of respondents would attend “right away” whenever theatres reopen, and that only around half of respondents said they’d wait a few months before returning.

Those numbers were sobering then, but how do they look now? A new follow-up survey from Shugoll delivers the news: not good. Just 16 percent of respondents said they would consider rushing back to reopened theatres, down from 25 percent earlier, and a full 75 percent plan to wait a few months before returning, up from 49 percent in April. The earliest date most theatregoers say they’d be comfortable returning, according to the Shugoll report? May or June of 2021.

Meanwhile, Colleen Dilenschneider of IMPACTS Research & Development, who tracks “intent to visit” across regions and types of cultural institutions, and has begun to break this data into one-week, one-month, and three-month horizons, sees distinct depression in willingness to visit cultural institutions, with positive respondents in every region and timeline rarely or barely breaking above 25 percent.

ALSO, for this iteration of the survey, Shugoll added questions about respondents’ views of systemic racism in area theatres, and found that 50 percent of respondents agree that there is systemic racism in D.C.-area theatres, and 70 percent support the idea that area theatres must respond to the concerns expressed by artists who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). The same percentage (70 percent) strongly feel theatres must take specific steps to fight racism through actionable change in their industry and beyond.

Survey Results Here.

Survey Results about Patrons Returning to Live Performances:

To help regional event organizers plan for the possibility of holding events later this year, InsideNova sent a survey in late May to the more than 7,000 customers who’ve bought tickets through InsideNoVaTix over the past two years. Over 560 customers responded – and here are some highlights:
  • With Virginia’s “stay-at-home” order now lifted, over a third of respondents are ready to begin attending small events and going to restaurants. Another 25% will be ready to do so in July.
  • About 60% will be ready to attend large events (more than 50 people) by September.
  • Once bars and nightclubs reopen, 20% will be ready to go to them immediately, and another 25% will be ready to go within two months.
  • More than 57% will be extremely or somewhat likely to attend large public gatherings once they are allowed to resume.
They also asked the ticket-buyers for suggestions to event organizers about what would make them feel more comfortable. We received nearly 250 responses, with most centered on the concepts of enforcing social distancing and the wearing of masks, along with providing hand-sanitizing stations and minimizing crowd size when necessary.

Article on Arts Organizations Adapting Post-COVID World:

Aimed at helping arts and cultural organizations consider key questions and variables as they plan for reopening and a post-COVID-19 future, this SMU Data Arts report estimates the pandemic’s effect on the nonprofit arts sector and identifies three critical propositions and four prompting questions for consideration.

Input Provided to Governor’s Reopening Task Force from NoVA Arts Organizations:

Embracing Arlington Arts was asked by a member of Governor Northam’s “Reopening Task Force” to provide input and insight into how the state’s performing arts industry will be able to safely open when the COVID-19 case numbers decline enough. Here is an Executive Summary of the responses:

Overall, visual arts venues/galleries are looking to reopen in the fall, although without their usual opening receptions. They would follow CDC and regional guidelines for visitors to the gallery and require social distancing, masks and have sanitizer available.

Performing arts/theater responses tended to break down by budget size and whether they had their own venue. Larger organizations with their own venues anticipate not reopening until January/February/March 2021, or when a vaccine and/or effective treatment is available.

Mid-sized theater organizations with their own venues offered mixed responses, with some hopeful that they could open in the fall, but others saying not until a vaccine was available. They all are anticipating social distancing, limited seating, masks, etc. Others are researching other options and replanning their production schedule and types of performance.

The smaller theater organizations who perform out of rented venues are more hopeful that they can begin productions in the fall. However, they all state that the ultimate decision is up to the venue.

Every organization submitting responses have ramped up their online content, are keeping in close contact with their patrons and supporters through email, social media and telephone calls, and are making plans for even more live streaming events and programming.

Governor Northam’s Phase Two Guidelines:

Governor Northam has released the guidelines for the Phase 2 reopening of Virginia.

Click to access Virginia-Forward-Phase-Two-Guidelines.pdf

How Are Arlington’s Numbers?

Criteria for moving to Phase I Reopening are: Declines in hospitalizations and new cases for 14 days; sufficient testing and contact tracing; sufficient hospital capacity; and sufficient Personal Protective Equipment. Unfortunately, the state and Northern Virginia especially are achieving only the last two criteria (hospital capacity and PPE supplies) as of May 17, 2020. In Arlington and Northern Virginia, we are experiencing considerably worse trends in hospitalizations and positive cases than the state in general, which itself is not yet near that 14 day benchmark. You can see our data on our dashboard here:

IMPORTANT Data to Consider When Reopening Arts Venues and Events

Shugoll Research created a widely released report on Washington DC area theatergoers. The survey examined the likelihood of theatergoers to return immediately to attend theater and the factors and concerns that would make audiences more or less likely to attend again. They have also done a national survey. Here are the links.

Executive Summary Shugoll Research DC

Coronavirus Theater Report

National Report_Shugoll Research

NEW, NEW POSTING – Safety Guides:

In response, the Event Safety Alliance today released The Event Safety Alliance Reopening Guide.

ESA Reopening Guide.png

The Reopening Guide addresses health and sanitary issues that event and venue professionals need to consider in order to protect both patrons and workers.  Since there is still insufficient testing, no contact tracing, and no vaccine against COVID-19, this guidance is particularly detailed.  The first edition is tailored to be especially useful for event professionals reopening the smallest events with the fewest resources available to mitigate their risks, since in every municipal reopening plan these will be allowed to reopen first.


Performing Arts Center Consortium released a guide for venues. Our primary goal is to provide information and resources to assist performing arts centers that accommodate 6,000 people or less in implementing a phased approach to returningto normal operations while simultaneously protecting the health and safety of our staff, guests, and artists. We assume that for the foreseeable future, “normal operations” will require venues to adopt reasonable measures that respond to the evolving circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Click to access PACC%20Reopening%20Advisory%20%20Draft%20%20%20%20%20%20%20Ver%204.0.pdf

Governor’s Announcements:

Most recently, the Governor’s Task Force released a very specific guideline for Phase I reopening criteria. It covers numerous establishment types, as well as specific actions that need to be implemented before reopening.


The Governor of Virginia Ralph Northam has announced an initial plan for reopening the state with specific phases for businesses to reopen. Here is a link to all the guidance.

Here are the metrics to determine moving from one phase to the next:

Here is a copy of the Governor’s power point presentation with more details about reopening:

Sample Criteria for Reopening Arlington:

For an illustration of what those criteria for reopening Virginia are likely to look like, here a handout from Arlington’s Public Health Director Dr. Reuben Varghese to the Metro Washington Council of Governments. (NOTE: These are not formally adopted criteria yet.)

Re-Opening Criteria _ Handout from MWCOG.

Best Practices for Reopening Arts Organizations:

Overall, here is a good article written by Sangfroid Strategy outlining 5 things artists and arts organizations can do right now to combat the effects of COVID-19, including a wealth of resources you can use and inspiring examples of how other organizations are making sustainable choices that will help them survive AND thrive!

The National Council on Nonprofits posted a guide about planning the return to work. A lot of the information is generic, but beginning on page 36 there is specific guidance on best practices for reopening arts venues and museums.

Oklahoma Reopening Guidance

State of the Arts in Arlington Survey

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