Park Avenue Armory—a cavernous NYC performance space that has remained largely shuttered during the coronavirus pandemic—will welcome back in-person audiences as soon as this month. The East Side venue will present Bill T. Jones' Afterwardsness beginning March 24.
Most New York venues that, like the Armory, can adapt its audience configuration to accommodate social distancing will be able to open beginning April 2 under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s previously announced “Flex Venue” program. The Armory’s 55,000-square-foot drill hall got a Department of Health-approved head start after a review of the organization’s protocols during a filming of Afterwardsness that took place in the fall (for future release), which featured audience members as part of its cast.
Performed by nine dancers from the Bill. T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, Afterwardsness explores the ramifications of isolation and trauma while weathering the COVID-19 pandemic and systemic racism against Black individuals. The piece, featuring music by Holland Andrews, Paulin Kim, and Olivier Messiaen, will run through March 31.
The Armory has two additional programs lined up, with dates to come. First is SOCIAL! The social distance dance club, an experience conceived by choreographer Steven Hoggett, set designer Christine Jones, and American Utopia musician David Byrne. Later, Oscar-nominated composer Jason Moran and Grammy winner Laurie Anderson will present Party in the Bardo, a collaborative soundscape featuring contributions by multiple visiting musicians over the course of the run.
With news of the reopening, Park Avenue Armory detailed its various health and safety protocols, which include operating at 10 percent of its normal capacity, mask requirements, physical distancing, electronic ticketing, and on-site rapid testing. Under state guidelines, indoor audiences are not to exceed 100 individuals (150 if theatregoers test negatively prior).
Artistic Director Pierre Audi calls the programming a lineup that doesn’t “merely function despite the limitations imposed by COVID-19 but because of them—innovation sparked by challenges.” He continued, “The difficult circumstances and isolation did not hinder this brilliant group of artists’ creativity; rather, it provided a canvas for them to create work of astounding beauty and depth, utilizing the Drill Hall’s unconventional, wide open space as a vast canvas.”