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COVID-19 seating guidelines stand in way of musicals

“Rebecca” (EMK Musical Company)
“Rebecca” (EMK Musical Company)


Some musical productions are finding it difficult to reopen as performance venues comply strictly with government guidelines requiring a seat between audience members to be left vacant so that they can be seated in a zigzag configuration.

This seating arrangement was emphasized after the government on April 19 announced guidelines for relaxed social distancing.

Although such a seating configuration is only recommended, performing arts centers, including Seoul Arts Center in southern Seoul, Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in central Seoul, Gyeonggi Arts Center in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, and Seongnam Arts Center in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, are complying strictly with the guidelines.

“Rebecca” was the first musical forced to cancel. The decision to cancel the show, which was slated to go on stage May 8-10 at Seongnam Arts Center, was made by the center on May 4 after the local distributor of the musical said it was impossible to follow the government’s zigzag seating guidelines.

While EMK Musical Company is producing “Rebecca,” several small companies hold the rights to distribute the show in different regions of Korea.

The musical’s Seongnam Arts Center distributor claims that it declined to comply with the guidelines because tickets were sold out in February.

“We do not have the right to choose which audience members can and cannot attend the performance,” an official of the musical distributor added.

The National Changgeuk Company of Korea also had to ask those who had bought tickets for its traditional musical play “Chunhyang,” which will resume from May 14-24, to cancel and make a reservation again to comply with the seating guidelines.

Meanwhile, some musicals being held at privately owned venues have resumed performances. While government guidelines on seating are not observed, all theatergoers are required to wear masks at all times and have their temperatures checked before entering the facility.

“The Phantom of the Opera,” whose run had been suspended in April, after two of its cast members tested positive for the new coronavirus, resumed its run on April 23 at Blue Square Interpark Hall in central Seoul.

The musical “Dracula” also resumed its run from April 21, after 20 days of suspension, at Charlotte Theatre in eastern Seoul.

By Song Seung-hyun (ssh@heraldcorp.com)
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