Just updated: Manoa Valley Theatre has announced it will open “Be More Chill” on Oct. 14.

Because of surge of COVID-19 cases in Hawaii, Manoa Valley Theatre apparently will shut down its “Be More Chill” season opener, set for Sept. 2. It will be the first casualty of the 2021-22 stage season.

The show, a hit on Broadway, was to have its Hawaii premiere under auspices of MVT, Hawaii’s off-Broadway theater, with Andrew Sakaguchi directing.

But the declaration earlier this week, from Mayor Rick Blangiardi, to heighten rigid pandemic protocols to parties of 10 in restaurants and half-the-house for stage productions, is going to be a headache and an unexpected inconvenience for Hawaii’s theater community.

I checked with Kip Wilborn, executive director of MVT, and asked why the “stop” sign – meaning a shutdown of operations – has not yet been declared on the theater’s website.
“We’re working on it,” he responded, “checking with the mayor’s office for workable solutions.”

Apparently, this newest wrinkle in tweaking the pandemic’s exhaustive and constantly changing requirements lasts at least a month, till mid-September. And MVT is frantically trying to comply without major setbacks — a worrisome issue stretching beyond the theatrical community.

‘Chill’ out

While MVT has told its office staff and cast that “Be More Chill” is shut down till further notice, as the cast was fine-tuning the show, the public has not yet been formally informed, because MVT was still ironing out a Plan B. (Update: MVT now has set Oct. 14 as opening night).

The challenges: MVT for the first time has been selling reserved seats for patrons, and Wilborn said all subscribers will have to be told – via  email or phone calls – about a stall and a new struggle to determine when opening night will be and how to miraculously resolve dates and seats for those already with questionable printed tickets. Subscribers, for the first time, also must present proof of vaccination, and don face masks.  With social distancing, the theater could at best accommodate 60, a skosh more than half a house.

A MVT season brochure, inserted into the Star-Advertiser delivery on Wednesday, also already is obsolete so adds to the confusion.

Breathing space

Diamond Head Theatre, whose season’s opener is the musical “Oliver,” has breathing space for now, since its formal debut won’t be till Sept. 24. Like MVT, DHT has been selling season tickets without open seats for social distancing and face masks, anticipating a full house of 475 and banking that directives do not change, with mask-wearing and proof of vaccine shots sufficient for compliance.

Its website also does not address potential seating issues.

First to the task

First to the task of modification is TAG, The Actors Group, ensconced at the Brad Powell Theatre at Dole Cannery.

Its “Kimberly Akimo” is premiering this evening, Aug. 27, and a live audience will include no more than 10. But the show is being recorded for On Demand viewing (tickets: $20) beginning Sept. 2.

Those ticketed for a live watch should have been reached by now; it’s also possible to change your plans and watch the show virtually, through Sept. 12, according to the TAG website.

Those taking in a live show need to show proof of vaccination.

The televised shows had been on the agenda, before the pandemic rules changed, but TAG also had sold all seats without social distancing; hence, the need to pluck some and switch ‘em to virtual.

A tough hand

Honolulu’s acting community also are being dealt a tough hand; since earlier this year, opening parties have been non-existent or smallish. Meet-and-greet, after performances, have been forbidden, but loyal fans have stayed on after the final curtain to bring lei, floral bouquets or other first-night gifts.

Closing night parties are a thing of the past, too.

Worst of all, the actors in all productions have not been able to flash one vital souvenir of the play-acting and play-going experience: the playbill listing their names, often with their photos, and with a rundown of the show’s techies, too. …

And that’s Show Biz. …

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