In our previous post (Performing Outdoors Part 1: Technical Considerations), we discussed technical concerns that may arise when selecting a venue to perform outdoors. Today we’re tackling safety considerations. These may have already come up in discussions with your students when talking about the differences between indoor and outdoor theatre, or if you’re planning to perform outdoors. The purpose of discussing safety concerns is not to scare, deter, or make students worry about all the “what-ifs,” but to make students aware of their surroundings.
If you’re erecting a stage, tent, or backdrops outdoors, you need to ensure that all the pieces are level, sturdy for students to stand on or near, and won’t fly away if a strong wind comes by. You may need some sandbags or tent pegs to anchor items to the ground.
Inspect the perimeter of the playing space and audience area. Look for uneven terrain and tripping hazards. Is the space accessible for wheelchair or walker users? Ensure that the area is adequately lit as well, both for students to be seen by the audience, and for actors and crew to see where they’re going.
Is there a private area for students to change? Will you need to purchase a portable changing tent or similar item? Where is the nearest bathroom facility? Where will students keep their personal items so they don’t go missing? Is there a place to go if students suddenly feel ill? As well, make or purchase a simple first aid kit to have handy if someone does get sick or injured.
When performing outdoors, you’re always at the mercy of the weather report. If it suddenly rains or thunderstorms, or is super hot, you need to ensure there is a safe location for students and audiences to go. Alternatively, if the weather is already inclement before the performance, will you postpone or cancel? Do you have a rain date policy or an alternate venue available?
Have plenty of water available if you’re performing outdoors in the summer or in a hot climate, and avoid costumes and wigs that may overheat students. Make sure students are applying sunscreen as well!
When performing outside, anyone could be in the area. Are you performing in a place where students could get shouted at, catcalled, or interrupted by passers-by? Is there a risk of a strange person trying to get involved in some way? What security measures can you put in place to protect your students and staff?
COVID-19 measures will vary depending on your city/province/state, and they can change at any time. Contact your local health unit to devise a plan for your particular area and school. Be prepared to be flexible and have backup plans ready (such as streaming or performing on Zoom) as cases increase or decrease.
You may want to consider having a small cast and crew so there are fewer opportunities for transmission. Many schools normally wish for as many students as possible to participate in productions, but right now you’ll likely want to limit the number of students involved.
You may also consider things like limiting the number of audience members at a given performance, distanced audience seating (indicated by flags, benches, etc.), pre-screening procedures, temperature checks for students and audience members, and sanitizing props and high-touch items or areas between scenes. In terms of costumes, you may want to look into getting themed masks that go with the actors’ costumes, masks matching the skin tone of the actors, or branded masks for your school/theatre company.