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Syracuse venues taking COVID precautions to bring audiences back this holiday season

Katie Emerson in Disney’s The Little Mermaid during a recent rehearsal at Syracuse Stage.
Syracuse STAGE
Katie Emerson in Disney’s "The Little Mermaid" performs during a rehearsal at Syracuse Stage.

Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving with far fewer COVID restrictions since the pandemic first hit in 2020. But performing arts venues are still taking precautions as they’re working to bring their audiences back up to pre-pandemic numbers.

Syracuse Stage Artistic Director Bob Hupp said the 35 cast members for its current run of Disney’s "Little Mermaid" are following strict prevention strategies.

“Our cast is in a bubble and all the crew is in a bubble where we’re testing continually and doing our best to make sure that our cast is healthy, that our understudies are healthy," Hupp said.

He said the cast is also using face coverings during rehearsals, and the venue which is a part of the Syracuse University campus, will continue to sanitize public areas. It also has a high-quality air filtration in place, established in consultation with experts at the university and Onondaga County.

The Stage is planning to accommodate ticket holders who contract COVID before a performance. Hupp said audience members will be entitled to a refund if they alert the box office of their illness ahead of showtime.

“We don’t want them to come down and make others ill—want to make them feel comfortable to exchange or get a refund," Hupp said. "And likewise for any reason, if we have to close a performance because of a COVID outbreak among our cast, we want them to know that they don’t have to call us and ask for a refund, they’ll automatically see that refund happen.”

Downtown’s Redhouse Arts Center is also working to make audiences more comfortable. A mask-required matinee of “A Christmas Story” is set for Dec. 10. The executive director of CNY Arts Stephen Butler said such precautions are necessary to make audiences feel safe after COVID-19 worries slashed attendance numbers.

“I think a segment of the audience has simply gotten out of the habit of getting out and about and to show and need to be encouraged back," Butler said. "On top of that there are all of the safety and protective steps that need to be taken at a museum or a heritage site or a performance venue to ensure that people are safe when they attend the show.”   

But Butler said this year marks progress. He said CNY Arts is bringing back “Dasher’s Magical Gift,” a ballet geared toward children, for the first time since 2019. Two performances are set for Dec. 10 at the OnCenter. Syracuse Stage’s “The Little Mermaid” begins Friday and runs through Jan. 8.

Editor's note: The Syracuse Stage is a supporter of WAER and promoting its "Little Mermaid" show on the station’s airwaves.

John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.