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Gateway plans to open with smaller shows, bigger musicals to come this summer

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The Gateway curtain will rise again this year, but with smaller shows before the full-scale musicals debut in July, said Gateway Executive Artistic Director Paul Allan.

Good news came Wednesday, March 3 when Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that arts, entertainment and event venues can begin in New York on April 2 with a limit of up to 100 people indoors or 200 people outdoors with health specifics. 

The amount might increase to 150 indoors, 500 outdoors if venues can test attendees.

“Because we know we can do something for a smaller audience we may want to put in smaller shows prior to the large full-scale musical season,” Allan explained. “We still have the large musicals lined up and our plan is to produce as much as possible.” Currently season offerings are “Evita,” “Next to Normal,” A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” “Matilda,” “Newsies.” Also “Holiday Spectacular on Ice.”

While welcome, Allan cautioned the announcement leaves theatre heads somewhat in the dark. “ The ruling we got says that everyone needs to wear a mask, so that means performers,” he said. “We don’t have a full text. There’s still a lot information we don’t know yet. What is social distancing? Are there zones and specific filtration systems? Will they tell us what seats we can use? This is very good news, but we’re still trying to figure out what it all means, so it’s not as simple as just opening.”

Cuomo’s edict states all attendees must wear masks and be socially distanced;

It represents a 33 percent capacity.

“We have to learn about what live performance on stage means,” Allan said. “While it’s still exciting there’s a lot more we need to learn before we announce an official schedule. Depending on what we’re allowed, we may have to shuffle things around.”

May has always been the season premiere month for Gateway shows, but with the Broadway-scale musicals aimed for a July debut, Allan said, its roster ultimately will ultimately span into the fall.

 “It’s to everyone’s advantage if we delay the start date to a time when everyone is more comfortable,” Allan said. “We want to make sure the audience feels safe before we invite them back to the theater.”

Gateway theater lovers were hanging in; Allan said 75 percent of season ticket holders for the 2020 season dented by Covid, are still committed.

 “They’ve purchased the tickets and left them on hold,” he said. “That’s definitely helped us financially.”  Also, the recent Shining Star Matching Grant initiative raised $140,000.

“The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, that’s supposed to be the lifeline for the entertainment industry and we don’t know when they’ll start the process,” Paul said of the $15 billion bill, signed into law the end of December 2020 (administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Disaster Assistance). “We were hoping we’d have the money by now.” 

Allan sent out a recent letter to season ticket holders outlining protocols that will be put in place including reduced seating capacity, increased cleaning frequency, and enhanced temperature checks and screening when the theater opens.

The Gateway Acting School has been robustly active and summer sessions will be announced soon. Drive-in movies on the weekend will start in April.

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