On Saturday night, downtown Vancouver’s Magenta Theater celebrated its first return to live-on-stage performance with the spontaneous high jinks of its resident comedy-improv troupe.
The audience was asked to bring more than off-the-cuff sketch suggestions: they had to wear face masks during the performance. That’s due to the recent, quick rise of the delta variant of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Face masks last weekend turned out to be only one step toward a tighter admission requirement. In September, patrons will have to provide proof of vaccine, or a negative COVID test, to get into the theater for a performance of Magenta’s main stage offering, William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.”
No concessions will be sold in the lobby during intermission, Magenta board president Tim Neil said in an email. Magenta decided months ago that all actors and volunteers must be fully vaccinated, he added.
The announcement apparently makes Magenta the first entertainment venue in Clark County to require such proof. It followed a wave of recent, local mask requirements by indoor venues like the Kiggins Theatre, FVRLibraries and the Cowlitz Tribe’s ilani — before those were superseded by Gov. Jay Inslee’s reinstatement of an indoor mask mandate for the entire state, which took effect Monday.
“Please be aware of your fellow cinemagoers,” the Kiggins posted last week. “The Kiggins’ auditorium is quite large, so there’s plenty of room to spread out.”
It’s been an anxious time for people who want to go back to entertainment events, even outdoor ones. After reports of virus cases linked to a country music festival at the Gorge Amphitheater in Central Washington in July, the rock band Phish — which is expected to draw tens of thousands of camping concertgoers to a three-concert run this coming weekend — changed its admission policy to start requiring proof of vaccinations or a recent negative test.
And popular stars like Garth Brooks and Nine Inch Nails have canceled concerts or entire tours.
In Portland, a new Performing Arts Vaccine Coalition of approximately 20 local venues and groups — including major names like Portland Center Stage, Portland Ballet and the Oregon Symphony — has adopted common COVID protocols, including requiring proof of vaccination (or a recent negative test), to attend all indoor events. The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra is still working on indoor safety policies for its upcoming, hybrid indoor/streaming concert season, which begins Sept. 25.