“Merry Wives” at the Delacorte Theater cancelled its third performance Friday to allow the production more time to rehearse following a positive COVID-19 case in the company.
The outdoor Public Theater production said it learned of a positive case in the company on July 21 and cancelled its performance that evening, as well as on July 22 and July 23. The cancellation of the July 21 performance was to allow for contact tracing and any additional testing that needed to be done, while the subsequent two cancellations were made to allow for further rehearsal for understudies and other team members, according to a spokesperson for the Public.
The production is still in previews, after beginning performances July 6, and therefore understudies had not yet begun rehearsals, according to the spokesperson. The play is scheduled to resume July 24.
“Merry Wives” is one of the early productions to restart live performances in New York following the shutdown of theaters in March 2020. It begins performances as COVID-19 cases across the U.S., particularly among unvaccinated populations, increase due to the highly transmissible Delta variant. This has led to concerns about the fate of the theater season ahead.
In the U.K., where cases have been surging due to the variant, the government has mandated that any individual who comes into contact with someone who has tested positive must self-isolate for 10 days. The requirement has forced many theatrical productions on the West End to cancel performances.
Recent guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control in the U.S. are not as stringent and state that vaccinated individuals who are asymptomatic do not need to quarantine following known exposure to COVID-19. Asked if the “Merry Wives of Windsor” company is fully vaccinated, a spokesperson for the production said they could not share personal medical information about the cast and crew.
The production is employing “frequent testing for everyone present at The Delacorte, mask wearing, and daily health and safety screenings,” and has hired COVID safety staff, according to the spokesperson. “Merry Wives,” adapted by Jocelyn Bioh and directed by Saheem Ali, features a 17-person cast.
Actors’ Equity has not yet released safety guidelines for Broadway or Off-Broadway productions. However, “Pass Over,” the first Broadway play to return, said if a company member tested positive for COVID-19, it would follow CDC guidance for its fully vaccinated company and isolate the positive case. The other members of the company would be immediately tested and then tested again 48 hours later, but could continue performances. An understudy would fill in if a cast member were affected.
The outdoor Delacorte Theater features full-capacity sections for audience members who show proof of vaccination and socially distanced sections for audience members who do not. Masks are required while sitting in the socially distant sections, but not in the full-capacity sections.
“Merry Wives” was originally scheduled to open July 27, but recently announced it would delay opening until Aug. 9, following an injury sustained onstage by Jacob Ming-Trent, who is playing the character of Falstaff.