(Reuters) - Broadway theaters, closed for a year, will start to reopen in April for special events in front of limited indoor audiences, authorities in New York said on Wednesday.
The NY PopsUp program will serve as a test run for the return of live artistic performances in New York City after the coronavirus pandemic shuttered plays, ballet, opera and concerts in the city.
"In April, select Broadway theaters ... will open their doors to audiences for the first time since March 12, 2020, with a series of special NY PopsUp programs," organizers said in a statement.
The initiative will "put in motion safety protocols that will eventually be employed for Broadway’s return."
New York officials said on Wednesday that event spaces could reopen at one-third of their capacity, or 100 people indoors, starting on April 2. Testing, masks and social distancing will be required.
A handful of off-Broadway venues with flexible performance spaces will be also be adapted for socially distanced arts events and start opening in April.
“The reopening of these venues will provide the much needed light at the end of this long, dark tunnel," Sade Lythcott, chief executive of the National Black Theatre, said in a statement.
Thousands of actors, dancers, musicians and backstage crew were thrown out of work when Broadway theaters closed. The target date for reopening is currently June 1, although that date may slip. Some shows, including the hit musicals "Frozen" and "Mean Girls" have said they will not return
Live theater is one of the last sectors to come back after the pandemic because of the challenges of social distancing for actors on stage, for crews backstage, and for audiences in cramped seating in old buildings.
New York City has begun relaxing pandemic restrictions in recent weeks due to a fall in coronavirus cases and an increase in supplies of vaccines.
The NY PopsUp program, launched by show business producers Scott Rudin and Jane Rosenthal, began its rollout in late February featuring short, free outdoor performances around New York state.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; editing by Jonathan Oatis)