Theatre in the Woods: Frequently Asked Questions

PSP’s socially distanced outdoor staged reading series, Theatre in the Woods, starts this weekend, and our community may understandably have questions about the measures PSP is taking to protect the health and safety of its patrons and performers. 

Q: How are you ensuring physical distancing between people at your event?

A: As part of moving our “theatre” outdoors into the PSP parking lot, we’ve placed clear markings throughout all spaces where individuals might interact with each other to encourage adequate physical distancing of 6 feet or – in many cases – more. All seating areas are 12’x12’, with 4’ wide pathways marked between squares to ensure distancing even during transit between seating areas.

Q: Aren’t we supposed to be avoiding large groups? How is PSP addressing this risk?

A: It’s clear that there’s a higher degree of COVID-19 exposure and transmission risk with any large in-person gathering, since it becomes statistically more likely that someone with an asymptomatic but transmissible infection might attend as the number of people in attendance rises. 

In order to reduce this risk as much as possible – and in order to maximize the amount of space between patrons – ticket sales have been capped at a maximum of 25 individual tickets per performance.

Q: What should I bring to the show? 

A: Bring your favorite face mask, and a chair! Folding chairs, camp chairs, beach chairs, and blankets are all welcome. Seats are unable to be provided by PSP, in order to limit physical contact with shared items. If you forget a seat, you’re more than welcome to sit directly on the ground. 

After checking in at the bottom of the hill and then walking to the upper parking lot, you’ll be greeted by an usher and walked to a clearly marked section of our parking lot that will be yours for the entirety of the performance. You’ll be able to place and leave your seats and blankets there throughout the performance.

You may also want to bring insect repellent (spray or wipes), since mosquitos are frequently found outdoors in Oddstad Park, particularly in the late afternoon and early evening. 

Q: What is your position on face masks? 

A: Wearing face masks that cover both your nose and mouth for the entirety of your time at PSP is absolutely mandatory – with limited exceptions for eating and drinking – and our volunteers will ask you to leave if you refuse to comply with this requirement. 

Please refrain from using face masks with a one-way valve, which fails to protect those around you. If you forget your mask, or bring a mask with a one-way valve, 3-layer cotton masks will be available for purchase at the drive-up check-in table.

Q: Are your performers wearing masks? 

A: Our performers are being asked to wear masks at all times, just like the rest of the attendees, with one exception: while they’re delivering their lines as part of the show. The mechanics of vocal projection across a large space simply don’t work with a face mask in place.

In order to reduce the risk that comes with not wearing a mask for these limited periods of time, performers will remain at fixed and clearly marked positions on stage for the entirety of the performance, and there will be 15’ between the two rows of performers, and between the performers and the front row of audience members. 

Performers will be screened (along with all patrons) for the presence of any known COVID-19 symptoms or exposure, and will additionally have their temperature checked, upon arrival at the theater for their performance, and all rehearsals leading up to the performance are being held remotely over Zoom. Any performers that respond affirmatively to the screening questionnaire or have a measured temperature of > 100F upon arrival will be asked to immediately return home, and PSP will provide an understudy in their place.

Q: How can I help to reduce COVID-19 risk as an audience member?

A: As we’ve all learned, reducing COVID-19 transmission requires us all to work together to stay apart! Most outbreaks occur when people – even with the best of intentions – fail to remember to adhere to the principles of risk reduction consistently, like continually maintaining adequate physical distance from people outside their households. There will be clear markings and assistance from PSP volunteers to help guide your movement through our space in a socially distanced way, but PSP is counting on you – our patrons – to follow these guidelines. 

Entering and exiting the seating area (before the performance, during intermission, and after the show) in an orderly way further helps to support maintaining these physical distancing guidelines. 

Hand sanitizing stations will be placed at multiple prominent locations throughout the parking lot and lobby (and individual bottles are available for sale at our Concessions table); we ask patrons to use hand sanitizer frequently throughout your time at PSP, and in particular after eating/drinking, adjusting your mask, or before/after you need to touch any surface that other people might need to come in contact with.

Please wear your face mask for the entirety of your time at this PSP event. If you choose to eat or drink, please do so only in your seating area, and then replace your face mask as soon as you’ve taken that next bite or sip. 

Q: Will restrooms be available for use at PSP during this event?

A: Yes, our restrooms will be available for patrons and participants to use before, during, and after the show. In order to reduce COVID-19 transmission risk, there will be a building attendant providing guidance to a socially distanced line outside; once you enter the lobby at the top of the stairs, this attendant will provide instructions about how to enter and exit the lobby and each restroom one at a time, in order to maintain physical distancing during transit and restroom use. 

HEPA air filters have been placed in each restroom and in the lobby. Patrons are asked to continue to wear face masks throughout this time on the way to and inside the restrooms. We also ask that all patrons wash their hands thoroughly after restroom use and before reentering the performance area. 

If you’re unable to use the stairs and need to access the restrooms using our ADA accessible entrance at the back of the building, please let our volunteers know, and we will be happy to provide assistance with accessing this entrance.

Q: Isn’t any form of live theater inherently risky during the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: At this point in the pandemic, there are a number of principles that have been clearly shown to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Engaging in activities outdoors over indoors, creating spaces and systems for ensuring consistent physical distancing between people, universal face mask usage, and limiting opportunities for physical contact with shared items all clearly reduce COVID-19 transmission in all settings, whether you’re talking about a restaurant, a retail store, a workplace, or a theater. 

The challenge is in implementing all of these principles in overlapping ways as much as possible, and making it easy and intuitive (and mandatory) for people to adhere to them. 

Unfortunately, there’s a lot about live theater that doesn’t work during a pandemic. We know that musical theater is particularly high risk, both because singing is inherently a high-risk activity due to the associated mechanics of air flow, and because dancing tends to result in deeper breathing and a reduced ability to physically distance from other performers. Theater indoors – on a stage, with a full set, lighting, and other technical elements – is riskier than theater outdoors. Even traditionally blocked plays come with some degree of risk, since whenever multiple people are expected to move frequently on stage, even with the best of intentions it’s easy for performers to end up unintentionally moving in close proximity to others. 

At the same time, PSP recognizes that it’s these individual elements of behavior and planning that are associated with an increased risk of transmission, rather than anything inherent to the art of theater in general. PSP has designed a detailed plan with the goal of implementing as many of these concepts of risk reduction as possible, and asks its participants and patrons for their support in adhering to these guidelines.

Q: I don’t know. This still sounds too risky for me. 

A: PSP acknowledges that there is some degree of risk of COVID-19 transmission any time we venture outside our homes and interact with other humans during the current pandemic, including by attending and participating in TITW. 

PSP has implemented an enormous number of measures to reduce that risk as much as possible. However, at this point in the pandemic, PSP also acknowledges that we’re all individually comfortable with different degrees of and approaches to risk reduction, based both on our personal perspectives and on our personal risk of complications from COVID-19, for ourselves and for those in our households. 

We encourage and support anyone who feels uncomfortable with entering any sort of public space for any type of performance to stay home, and we’re working on finding a way to stream performances in the future to allow patrons to enjoy our performances from home.