Arts update: plays, comedy fest postponed; Chorus' center funding
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It's one step forward and two steps back in the local arts scene as theater companies close their doors yet again, a comedy festival is postponed, and the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus gets funding from Amazon.
San Francisco's LGBTQ-focused New Conservatory Theatre Center announced Wednesday "with a heavy heart" that it was temporarily shutting down due to the latest surge in COVID cases prompted by the Omicron variant.
"We have canceled the remaining performances of Martin Sherman's Gently Down the Stream and postponed the upcoming run of Getting There by Dipika Guha," the company's press release stated. "It has brought us so much joy to reopen our doors and share the love of theater with the NCTC community, but unfortunately the current Omicron surge is disrupting our ability to assure all audiences, artists and staff can be completely safe and protected."
In Berkeley, Aurora Theatre Company has postponed the world premiere of John Spencer's play, This Much I Know.
"As excited as we were to begin rehearsals last week coming back from a restful holiday vacation, we quickly realized that the health and safety of our community needed to be our top priority," the company wrote in a Facebook post. "We are excited about this world premiere and sharing it with you. To that end, we will produce This Much I Know live and in-person later this year in September 2022."
Also, beginning February 1, venues like the Palace of Fine Arts are now requiring additional proof of vaccinations and a booster shot.
"In accordance with the San Francisco Department of Public Health, [we're] requiring all ticket holders over age five to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and to wear a mask at all times while inside the building," the theater's management wrote in a press statement. "This means that for most patrons, booster shots are required. Our goal is to provide the safest space possible for patrons, performers, crew and staff as we open our doors."
Cal Performances at UC Berkeley also announced the booster policy, effective Feb. 1. The venue also strongly recommends that patrons wear N95, KN95, KF94, or FFP2 masks or, if these masks are not available, double masking at all performances.
To enter the theaters, patrons should bring a photo ID and proof of vaccination, either a physical vaccination card, a picture of a vaccination card, or a digital vaccination record. All California residents may request a digital vaccination record at MyVaccineRecord.cdph.ca.gov.
Those under five who are not fully vaccinated must present the negative test results of a COVID PCR test taken within 72 hours of scheduled performance or a negative COVID antigen test taken within six hours of the performance start time. The same requirements are in effect for the 'Art of Banksy' exhibit in the venue's gallery space.
While many other venues continue to remain open for performances, and nightlife venues continue to require mask policies, larger events like SF Sketchfest, originally scheduled to run January 7-23, have been postponed.
"The safety of our artists, staff and audiences is our number one priority," said festival co-founders Cole Stratton, David Owen and Janet Varney in a press statement. "Over the past week we have had many artists reach out to us to express concern about traveling and performing at a time when the COVID Omicron variant is causing increased positive cases and breakthrough infections around the country. We have also had some artists and staff members test positive for COVID. Faced with multiple artist, show, and flight cancellations, we have made the tough decision to postpone the festival to a later date, which will be announced in the coming weeks. Our goal is to keep as much of the original lineup intact as possible."
In nightlife, Polyglamorous, the queer-friendly dance event, has canceled its January 16th Martin Luther King weekend party at Public Works.
Chorus arts center funding
In good news, the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus received a healthy dose of funding from Amazon.com to support The Chan National Queer Arts Center, the chorus' new home and the first-ever community space for LGBTQ artists and arts organizations. The donation, totaling $250,000, will allow SFGMC to increase accessibility and equity at the Center through several infrastructure improvements, including the installation of an ADA-compliant ramp in the lobby, accessible restroom upgrades, and aesthetic improvements throughout the first floor.
"We are deeply appreciative to Amazon for their investment in our local community and commitment to making the arts more equitable and accessible to queer youth, LGBTQ+ seniors, people with disabilities, and more," said SFGMC Executive Director Chris Verdugo. "This extraordinary gift will support forward-thinking initiatives that will enhance the everyday lives of the diverse communities we serve."
SFGMC purchased the Chan National Queer Arts Center at 170 Valencia Street, in April 2019.
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