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Boston’s performance venues are reopening for live, in-person audiences as many theater goers have waited on the edge of their seats after a year of virtual applause.
The Wilbur Theatre sold out all 21 shows in an hour for John Mulaney’s stand-up comedy tour this August, beating a record once held by Bill Burr.
“The fact that he can sell that many tickets in an hour is just remarkable,” Shawn Robidoux, marketing coordinator for The Wilbur, told Boston.com. “We expected him to sell extremely well. But when that happened, we were blown away especially with it being one of our first shows back. It was very big for us, and for him.”
The Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s free outdoor productions of “The Tempest,” on the Boston Common through Aug. 8, have been reaching its 2,500 audience capacity. Nael Nacer, who plays Caliban, said he appreciates performing in person so much more now than he did before the pandemic.
“I was able to do some work during the pandemic, but not in front of an audience. And that’s why this return with ‘The Tempest’ has really been amazing because of the relationship and the connection to the live audience,” Nacer said. “That is something that I don’t think I quite understood how much I missed until this show.”
We asked Boston.com readers if they plan on attending live productions in person again, and of the nearly 200 readers who responded, the majority (44 percent) said they can’t wait to be back. About 28 percent said they can’t imagine being in a larger crowd again, and eight percent said they will be in attendance only if the production is outdoors.
“There’s something really special about being outdoors,” Nacer said. “‘The Tempest’ is amazing because the play’s scenes are mostly taking place outdoors to begin with on this island. It’s kind of a way of reconnecting with this art form that’s been absent for the past year and a half.”
Many readers who voted “Other” said they would enjoy a live production in person if audience members were required to show proof of vaccination before entering the theater.
The new highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 has caused a new rollout of mask guidelines after a recent surge of cases in Massachusetts. Robidoux said The Wilbur will continue to follow state and local guidelines, but much of this year’s theater season could still be up in the air.
“For the moment, obviously, no one knows what’s going to happen. But we’re staying positive and the show goes on,” Robidoux said. “If we do have to ever go back to virtual shows, we know we can do it. We just don’t feel like at this moment we’re going to have to do that. But, who knows.”
Ahead, find a sampling of how readers responded to Boston.com’s survey.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
“I’m a huge theater buff! I’m attending Shakespeare on the Common and purchased subscriptions already for Central Square Theater and Huntington Theater, plus some rescheduled shows from last year,” one reader wrote.
“I have already been to the movies to see ‘In the Heights’ and I will be attending a performance at the Rockwell in Davis Square next week. Looking forward to more live theatre in the fall!” wrote Anabel.
“Someone asked me what’s the first thing I would want to do after COVID and I said live performances, live music, and live theater!” Patricia Montano wrote. “Theater provides the audience the opportunity to immerse ourselves into another world that can move us in oh so many expected ways. It can even be transformational at times. I very deeply missed that during shut down.”
“I would love to, but with the Delta variant, I can’t risk it,” wrote Vanessa from South Boston.
“I won’t be going to the theatre unless they plan on requiring proof of vaccination to attend,” one reader wrote.
“I am a season ticket holder for Broadway in Boston and love taking my daughter to shows. We are very excited to get back to the theater but only if venues require proof of vaccination for all attendees. The unvaccinated need to understand there are consequences to not wanting to protect others and be vaccinated,” Paul from Canton wrote.
“I have a subscription to Broadway on Boston and the first show is in November at the Opera House. Depending on the COVID stats, I may be attending,” one reader wrote.
“I am excited to return to shows, but only if I am sure they are safe. The Delta variant has me pretty nervous, so I will be going to hear master linguist Justin Trudel perform a live reading of ‘Sidelined: Sports, Culture, and Being a Woman in America’ by Julie DiCaro at the Topsfield Drive-In. I won’t be able to hear the first part of the reading, but I am still very excited to get out again and to do so in a safe way!” Ann wrote.
“I badly want to attend live theater and have missed going to shows and community theater. I almost bought tickets recently until I thought of the tourists from other states who might attend. I just couldn’t see myself going to a theater advertising they were free of masks and social distancing,” one reader wrote.
Boston.com occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinion.
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