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Let's get physical: Actors seek break from no-touch rules to get back on stage

Culture

Actors will call for special social-distancing exemptions similar to sports like rugby league and AFL so artists across Queensland can commence training and rehearsals ahead of the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions.

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The plan that includes theatre production bubbles and exemptions from social distancing for actors, acrobats, dancers and other artists will be submitted to the State Government for approval.

Queensland Theatre artistic director, Lee Lewis, said the move would enable the rebooting of the arts sector, just as exemptions were essential to restarting some sports.

“If we can’t do this, we can’t make work to open theatres with,” Lewis said.

“We can’t actually stand on stage if we can’t touch.  I can’t actually remember the last artwork I’ve seen on stage where there wasn’t some form of touching, even if it’s just a hand-hold.”

CEO of Home of the Arts (HOTA) on the Gold Coast, Criena Gehrke, said the exemptions were important to the sector and to enable audiences to return to theatre and live performances.

“You can talk about rebooting your theatres but you need product to put onstage and at the moment artists are still bound by those social distancing regulations,” Gehrke said.

“The sector is thinking about how you can have an exemption so creative content can continue to be developed.”

Queensland Theatre Artistic Director Lee Lewis. (Supplied)

On 2 May the Broncos, Cowboys and Titans were granted exemptions for group training after Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk backed the NRL’s proposed May 28 restart date.

Full-scale contact training for AFL clubs returned this week ahead of the premiership season resuming on June 11.

Lewis said the plan for artists would draw on the dispensations given to the professional football codes as well as the Australian Institute of Sport guidelines for the return to elite and community sport.

The exemptions were especially significant for oganisations such as Circa, the Brisbane-based Australian contemporary circus, so artists could start training again ahead of a potential return to performances, she said.

Arts Minister Leeanne Enoch said as restrictions began to be lifted, Arts Queensland had been holding consultation forums to support the sector’s development of protocols to ensure COVID-safe workplaces and practices.

“As outlined in Queensland’s roadmap to recovery, it is the role of peak industry bodies to lead the development of COVID-safe plans for industries that are seeking variations from the outlined staged reopening and social distancing practices.

“The Government, through Arts Queensland, is committed to working with the sector to navigate these uncertain times, and accordingly, is working with the relevant industry bodies to support the development of their COVID-safe plans,” Enoch said.

This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas

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