Performing arts leader on dispersing theater public: No ideal solution

Russian Theater's director Margus Allikmaa.
Russian Theater's director Margus Allikmaa. Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

On Tuesday, February 16, the Association of Performing Arts (Etendusastuste liit) made an appeal to the public asking for cooperation and an understanding attitude in taking up seats in theatre and concert halls in a dispersed manner. Member of the association's board, Margus Allikmaa, said it is difficult to achieve fully-dispersed sitting in the halls, however, and this mainly adds to the theater staff workloads.

"As theatre managers, we are worried, because we can see that it is very hard to achieve dispersed public in the theatre halls. When people see that there are free seats up front, they tend to move forward, this is one matter. The other is that when selling tickets, it is difficult to keep track of whether all people are maintaining distance," Allikmaa said. "In January, we didn't have any performances, in December we had just a few; those people who didn't sell back their tickets [after performance postponements] - and it's good they didn't - are now coming to see plays, but then people happen to sit next to each other."

"The aim of our appeal is firstly to thank the public, because they have been very good in terms of wearing masks and keeping distance in aisles etc. and during breaks," Allikmaa added.

Allikmaa, a former chief of public broadcaster ERR, said that the main goal is the culture to keep operating and theaters to be open and to avoid establishing new and stricter restrictions. "When restrictions reach 25 percent occupancy for example, then it's not worth putting on theater, because the expenses will outstrip income," he said.

Theaters themselves can also help with dispersing in the halls. "Often a mother, father and child come and they don't want to sit apart from each other. There have been disputes as a result, and these situations are difficult to solve; they should be understood," he said.

There are also those theaters that, if possible, host fewer seats, if these are not fixed in place. "For example, the City Theater in its new chamber halls on Salme Street does this, as does the Russian Theater, in its small hall," Allikmaa said. "It can be done in those venues where it is easy to take the chairs out. For example, in the main auditoria at the Drama Theater or the Estonia Theater, we cannot do that."

Allikmaa says he acknowledges that there is no ideal solution to the situation. "[Online ticket brokers] Piletilevi and Piletimaailm sell tickets to one seat, or sell them in pairs. Such regulations are in place, but they are more forward-looking. Currently, repurchase/refund situations still need to be resolved in a sensible way."


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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