Disparities in COVID-19 restrictions troubling the performing arts community

Regina Sung, Photo Editor

As the University eases COVID-19 restrictions on track teams, some members of Yale’s performing arts groups have expressed frustration with regulations that continue to restrict in-person performances.

Currently, performance arts – including theater, a cappella, dance and comedy groups – face austerity COVID-19 restrictions. Yale requires that masks be worn for all indoor performances and rehearsals. Indoor performances can only take place in theaters at 75 percent of their capacity, and the production crew and audience together cannot exceed 50 people. External visitors cannot attend the performances. When groups perform outdoors, many restrictions are lifted, but singing groups are required to maintain a distance of 12 feet between members if they wish to perform without a mask. In contrast, student-athletes are not required to wear masks when playing or training.

“The safety of the Yale community and the surrounding community of New Haven is always the first consideration,” Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd wrote in a statement to the News.

At the end of September, the University lifted certain restrictions on all enrolled student groups, including performing arts groups. Before these restrictions were lifted, students could not meet in groups of more than 20, and performing arts groups were required to wear masks indoors and outdoors.

According to Boyd, the university’s ability to ease restrictions on extracurricular activities depends on the availability of vaccines and the increasingly high undergraduate vaccination rate. The most recent data available shows that 99.5% of undergraduates are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. High vaccination rates have kept cases low, with 24 cases at Yale last week. Still, Yale College dean Marvin Chun explained that the Delta variant featured heavily in the university’s planning, which led to the “start of semester.”[ing] very different from what we expected.

Cassandra Hsiao ’22, a major in theater and performance studies currently producing her master thesis performance, has expressed frustration with the lingering uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 restrictions.

“All this uncertainty for the [theater and performance studies] the elderly in particular have strained our nerves, ”Hsiao said. “How are seniors supposed to prepare for a thesis production when there is so much on the table and Yale seems slower to respond to our requests and concerns? Much of our energy is spent researching logistics instead of focusing on creation. “

Bibiana Torres ’22, president of the Yale Dramatic Association, explained that COVID-19 restrictions affect every element of theatrical production.

Not only must the performances be obscured and limited in size, but the size of the cast and crew must be reduced so that rehearsals can take place in person, and the Dramatic Association is unable to hold meetings of the board of directors, Torres said.

“For some people, the arts are like their refuge,” Torres said. “This is how they take care of their mental health. For some people, going to see our performances is a really valuable part of their experience and something that is essentially missing when it is not allowed.

On September 2, the a cappella group Spizzwinks (?) Wrote a letter to Boyd – which members of the Alley Cats, Mixed Company, New Blue, Out of the Blue, Baker’s Dozen, Red Hot ‘n Blue, Something Extra and Doox signed – arguing that the University’s a cappella restrictions were inconsistent with other public health policies.

But not all performing arts students challenge the regulations.

The Yale Symphony Orchestra, whose annual Halloween show typically fills Woolsey Hall to capacity, will again take place in Woolsey this year, Chun said, but not at full capacity. Interim planning will allow a small audience in person in the theater itself, while additional watch nights will take place around campus.

“The restrictions imposed on us during rehearsals are fair; we are a large group that plays indoors, and some of us literally play instruments while blowing air, so it is only reasonable that we take precautions with our masks, ”said the president YSO student, Supriya Weiss ’24. “Hopefully we’ll be allowed to have some sort of live audience with us at Woolsey Hall, but after spending a whole year without even rehearsing in person, I’m thankful that Yale has approved of us playing together. “

Still, Hsiao told the News that she sees the University’s restrictions on the performing arts as problematic compared to the relatively relaxed constraints of athletics.

Non-Yalies are currently not allowed to attend theatrical performances, according to Hsiao, but sports players and coaches are allowed to invite up to four non-Yale guests to sporting events. Hsiao suggested that non-Yalies be allowed to attend the performances with proof of vaccination.

There is no readily available list of COVID-19 restrictions on the Yale Athletics website. Mike Gambardella, associate athletic director for strategic communications, told The News that the department “follows Yale University [COVID Review Team] approved policy for all fixed-seat sites. Gambardella outlined the application of these policies in an interview with News in September.

The personalization of public health precautions for individual operations across the University has been “critical,” Boyd wrote. According to Boyd, there has been a “useful synergy” between the arts and athletics, as both are aerosolization activities.

“Both areas were able to open up to co-presented audiences, with careful advice and restrictions; experiences from these events will also help refine these and other policies, ”Boyd wrote.

In a joint statement from chairman of the Chelsea Kung ’23 Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and Yale Athletics Communications team, the athletics leadership at Yale affirmed the safety of their COVID-19 regulations and their enthusiasm to return to the game in person.

Kung added that all the track teams were excited to represent Yale across and beyond the Ivy League.

“Yale Athletics and Yale as a whole have done everything in their power to bring back safe extracurricular activities, including sports and competition,” the statement said. “While things are different from previous years due to COVID, the essence is the same and the competition between student-athletes is met with a fierce desire to represent ourselves and Yale.”

Likewise, Boyd expressed his appreciation for the extracurricular activities being able to continue in person.

“We have sorely missed these activities and the hope is that more and more activities will be possible during the year,” Boyd wrote.
The University’s Complete COVID-19 Policies Regarding Enrolled Student Groups Available in line.


Lucy Hodgman covers student life. She previously covered the Yale College Council for the News. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, she is in her second year at Grace Hopper majoring in English.


Olivia Tucker covers politics and student affairs at Yale College. Previously, she was Associate Editor of Yale Daily News Magazine and covered gender equity and diversity as a reporter. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she is a second year student at Davenport College majoring in English.

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