At a time when gathering inside theaters is not possible, the A.R.T. and the Healthy Buildings Program are considering designing alternative experiences that are responsive to public health concerns in both their content and form. The ultimate goal is a full return to theater; in the meantime, however, we are imagining new models and a phased approach to reopening. These projects may include outdoor experiences, hybrid modes of performance, drive-in events, and digital delivery. This roadmap will expand to include more information about these models in forthcoming editions.
Theaters may want to consider investigating what elements of a traditional administrative and creative process could take place online. The A.R.T. has recently held a series of online workshops via Zoom, and has compiled tips and strategies for virtual workshops.
The Arnold Arboretum
It is a scientific fact that the occasional contemplation of natural scenes of an impressive character, particularly if this contemplation occurs with relief from ordinary cares, change of air, and change of habits, is favorable to health and vigor.
Frederick Law OLMSTED
As a first step in pivoting to different models of performance, the A.R.T. is exploring the possibility of creating an outdoor experience at the Arnold Arboretum, a 281-acre landscape in the Jamaica Plain and Roslindale neighborhoods of the City of Boston. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted with a guiding set of principles that included a strong belief in the essential benefits of parkland to urban health and democracy, the Arboretum has remained open to the public throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, providing a space to safely and responsibly be outdoors and connect with the natural world.
A collaboration with the Arnold Arboretum and the Healthy Buildings Program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, this project would be created specifically in and for the time we find ourselves living through. Rather than gathering audience members in one space, we are considering a promenade experience that takes advantage of the vast landscape of the Arboretum in order to respect social distancing guidelines.
Building on past collaborations between the A.R.T. and the Arnold Arboretum that most recently included Diana Oh’s Clairvoyance: The Tree Planting Ceremony, this project would also be designed to promote public health by encouraging audiences to spend time outdoors and explore the Arboretum. As William Friedman (Director of the Arnold Arboretum), Joseph Allen (Director of the Healthy Buildings Program) and Marc Lipsitch (Director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics) co-wrote in a recent Washington Post article: “Study after study has shown that time spent in contact with nature has important and positive psychological, indeed neurological, effects on the mind.”
As we move forward with this collaboration, we will be sharing our process of preparing and executing this project.
This roadmap is provided for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended as a set of directions. Please see About the Use of This Resource for further explanation.
Above, Diana Oh and audience at Clairvoyance Closing: The Tree Planting Ceremony: Natasha Moustache.