Dayton Live revised COVID-19 health policy fuels concern

The arts organization will only require masks beginning Nov. 22.

In the wake of rising COVID-19 cases in Ohio, Dayton Live’s decision to only require masks to attend events at its venues instead of proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test has angered and puzzled longtime patrons.

The organization revised its health and safety policy Nov. 15 and will implement it beginning Nov. 22.

“I was hoping to take one of my grandchildren to see ‘CATS’ because it was one of the first Broadway shows my children saw,” said Cheryl Lewis of Beavercreek, who frequently attends Dayton Philharmonic, Dayton Ballet and Dayton Live productions. “I’m totally in disbelief, especially with COVID numbers going up in Ohio.”

“CATS’' will be performed Nov. 23-28 at the Schuster Center.

Dayton Live’s change of protocol stands in contrast to the policies of their regional cohorts. Cincinnati’s Aronoff Center/Cincinnati Arts Association, currently hosting the national tour of “Wicked,” and Columbus’ Ohio Theatre/Columbus Association for the Performing Arts, currently hosting the national tour of “Hadestown,” retain a more strict policy of vaccination/testing in addition to masks. Cincinnati and Columbus operate under the auspices of Broadway Across America.

On a national scale, according to the Broadway League, Broadway productions will continue to require vaccination/testing for audience members, performers, backstage crew, and theater staff for all performances through Feb. 28, 2022.

“Due to improving health conditions, we will be lifting the proof of vaccination requirement as of Monday, November 22,” said Ty Sutton, Dayton Live president and CEO, in a release Nov. 15. “We appreciate the patience and continued support from our patrons and donors. We’re encouraged that the numbers are improving for Dayton and Montgomery County.”

Dayton Live announced its revised policy two days before a group of county health departments including Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County showed the state two-week case rate increased by 12 percent from Oct. 26 to Nov. 15.

As a fan of Dayton Philharmonic, Dayton Ballet and Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Judy Schwartzman, 74, of Kettering has high praise for the quality of presentations she has seen inside Dayton Live venues over the years, especially Dayton Ballet’s superb 2017 production of “The Great Gatsby.”

“As somebody who goes to a lot of concerts, or certainly before COVID, I am extremely distressed with this policy,” Schwartzman said. “I was interested in seeing ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ and ‘Come From Away’ but if they’re not going to change the policy, I won’t be coming anywhere near there.”

Dayton Live, presently conducting COVID-19 polling among its subscribers, declined to comment beyond Sutton’s statement. Still, organizers advise anyone who has tickets and is no longer comfortable attending shows that there are options including receiving a full refund under its COVID-19 Ticket Guarantee. Contact the Dayton Live ticket office Tuesday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 937-228-3630.

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