When Will the Zeiterion Theatre Re-Open?
Before COVID-19 struck us here on the SouthCoast, the Zeiterion Theatre would host what they called Stage Door Live! shows. These were smaller, more intimate performances that would bring the crowd up close and personal with the artists. Instead of putting the Zeiterion's 1,100-plus capacity up for sale, only a small number of tickets were sold. Some of those tickets were located on the actual stage.
Obviously, closer does not mean better at this particular time in history, but smaller crowds are more desirable. In fact, Governor Charlie Baker advanced the state's reopening this week to allow 50 percent of an indoor theater's capacity (not to exceed 250 people), the one caveat being that the establishment needs to be located in a community that is not in the red color category for COVID.
Unfortunately, New Bedford continues to be one of the roughly 20-25 communities that fall within the red, which means that the average daily case rate is nine or more people per 100,000. According to Mayor Jon Mitchell, New Bedford has leveled off at roughly 9.5 cases per day for the past five weeks, with positive tests coming back at about 3.9 percent. St. Luke's Hospital has seen admissions tick up just a bit, ranging from about five to 12 hospitalizations on any given day.
What this means is that until New Bedford leaves the red zone, opening the Zeiterion Theatre is off the table. What happens if New Bedford's numbers fall down into the yellow? The mayor remains unconvinced.
"I'm not sure that's such a good idea. You want a super spreader event? Put people together indoors," he said. "Look, the Zeiterion is taking it on the chin. They're not going to go out of business, but they are definitely hurting. But the idea that we're going to open up a place to 250 people, I just don't see that happening."
Even if government officials approved the re-opening of the Zeiterion Theatre, the production staff would have its own host of problems. Artists are usually booked months in advance, meaning if the Z was green-lit today, you'd be looking at a minimum of several weeks to months before a performance.
Penny Pimentel, a spokesperson for the theater, told Fun 107 that "it’s our mission to bring people together, but we need to do it in the safest way – for audience, staff and artists."