(Photo: Joan Marcus)

Actors’ Equity released new guidelines Friday for productions that have fully vaccinated workforces. 

Among the new guidelines is the requirement for a COVID-19 safety officer, weekly COVID-19 testing for cast members, provided provisions, housing and compensation for those who test positive for COVID and daily sanitization of the theater. The guidelines come after the union faced an uproar from some members, as well as producers over a previous set of guidelines that were seen as too restrictive and costly.  

The protocols are intended for productions in which all Equity members, as well as those who interact with them are fully vaccinated. And while the protocols allow for more freedom in testing and in gathering, they do bring continued costs to producers. 

Per the rules, theaters and rehearsal halls must provide adequate ventilation, which must be determined by a certified professional and submitted to the union. 

Cast members and stage managers must be tested on at least a weekly basis, using FDA authorized antigen or molecular PCR tests. The COVID-19 tests must be free to members.

The theater, as well as the rehearsal area, must undergo daily cleaning and cleanings between performances on two-show days. Props, sets, microphones, transmitters, headsets and costumes are required to be cleaned after each use. 

There must be one COVID-19 safety officer per 20 company members. That person cannot be a stage manager or actor that is already employed by the production. The role will include overseeing and enforcing protocols, as well as cleaning and disinfection and contact tracing. 

If there is a positive case among the cast, that member must be isolated and not return to work. If that member lives with others, the producer must pay for or arrange alternative housing. The producer is also required to pay for food, groceries, laundry and medications, as well as pay full compensation during the isolation period. 

If a production is closed due to COVID-19, actors and stage managers must be paid salary and benefits for two weeks.

Everyone in the company must wear a mask except during rehearsals and performances. There will be no communal food and cast members must only eat and drink in designated areas. 

Absent from these protocols are the requirements of private transportation to and from theaters, as well as the need for Plexiglas and 12 feet of distance on stage. Those regulations had been included in the documents for indoor theater productions without a fully vaccinated workforce.

These guidelines are effective from April 1, 2021 through June 30, 2021 and could be further revised after that date, the union notes.

Overall, each producer will have to submit a safety plan to Equity for approval before the first day of employment. 

“Equity shall have the discretion to determine whether a Producer has failed to adhere to and enforce the Safety Plan. If Equity makes such a determination, Equity may withdraw permission for actors and stage managers to perform,” the guidelines read.