Nearly 18 months after live performances came to a grinding halt at the onset of the pandemic, the 2021 Fall Arts Preview shows some true signs of a return to normalcy.

Theater, dancing, intimate concerts, and shows for full orchestras are returning to the area’s venues. Museums are mounting new exhibits and welcoming visitors to mingle with artists and each other.

But it will also be at these venues that signs of a lingering pandemic will be most evident. Audiences at nearly all area venues will be required to show proof of full vaccination — or in some cases a recent negative COVID test — in order to be admitted. And regardless of vaccination statues, masks are a must in most places.

For some venues this entailed making the difficult decision to, for the time being, exclude children from their shows. Princeton University, which welcomes So Percussion for the first live performance in Richardson Auditorium since early 2020 on Saturday, September 18, notes that “all concert attendees are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and to wear a mask whenever indoors. We are unable to allow entry to unvaccinated children.”

Bristol Riverside Theater, in announcing a similar policy for the start of its fall season, is offering a single performance of its opening show, “Murder for Two,” that will be open to the unvaccinated who can provide proof of a recent negative PCR test.

In a note to supporters the theater explained, “Please know that this policy is no way a marker of a flagging commitment to kids. It is yet another difficult and heartbreaking decision after nearly two years of difficult and heartbreaking decisions. We thank you for your patience and understanding and we can’t wait to see you in the theatre.”

Crossroads Theater shared a similar message about balancing healthy and safety with a return to some semblance of normalcy:

“Our home venue, New Brunswick Performing Arts Center (NBPAC), is requiring either proof of vaccination, or a negative COVID test within 72 hours, from everyone attending our shows. Masks will be required for all patrons at all times. Additionally, we are providing distanced seating sections for those who wish that. In essence, everything we can do, we will do, to ensure that you will be able to enjoy our shows again and have fun and feel good without feeling so worried.

“COVID 19 is part of the new reality for us all, and will be for some time to come. As a society, we need to look out for each other with that in mind, and find ways to co-exist with this new reality without it paralyzing our lives. Broadway shows have already begun to re-open, but with strict protocols in place. And so is Crossroads. We are proud of NBPAC, our home, for their strict adherence to public health guidelines for patrons, artists, staff, and production teams alike. So while we are feeling safe here, it is our goal that you will feel the same way.”

Another sign of the times is that venues have delayed making final decisions on fall plans. If your organization has fall shows not reflected in this issue, email arts editor Dan Aubrey at dan@princetoninfocom. As always, full upcoming event information is online at www.princetoninfo.com/events.

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