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Plaza, Engeman theaters cancel weekend shows after actors test positive for COVID

Actors were masked during rehearsal for Plaza's production

Actors were masked during rehearsal for Plaza's production of "South Pacific" in Elmont. Credit: Corey Sipkin

The curtain came crashing down on two Long Island theaters — Plaza's Broadway Long Island in Elmont and the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport — which were forced to cancel all of their weekend performances after cast members tested positive for COVID-19.

Plaza's Broadway Long Island, Nassau County's first professional theater company which was scheduled to open its doors Saturday night with "South Pacific" informed its patrons on social media earlier in the day that the show was being postponed.

"Although the cast, musicians and entire staff of Plaza's Broadway Long Island are fully vaccinated, during routine testing, one asymptomatic company member received a positive result. Out of an abundance of caution, and with the safety of all in mind, this weekend's performances of South Pacific (October 2-3) have been cancelled. Performances are expected to resume on October 7 and run through October 24."

"I'm devastated, of course. We had the most wonderful dress rehearsal Friday afternoon," Kevin Harrington, Plaza's founder and executive producer, told Newsday.

Harrington added that in compliance with rules set by Actors' Equity Association, every member of the cast, crew and staff must have two COVID tests between now and Monday. If all results are negative, Plaza can open for the Thursday matinee.

He and his staff spent most of Saturday contacting ticket holders for this weekend's shows. "We called hundreds of people and not one audience member gave us a hard time," he said.

Harrington added that all throughout the rehearsal process, actors had been fully masked, washed their hands frequently and had their temperatures checked daily.

At Engeman, Friday's performance of "Smokey Joe's Cafe" was canceled shortly before show time when an actor received positive results after being tested. "At the John W. Engeman Theater, all cast, crew and band members are not only fully vaccinated, but undergo regular Covid antigen testing three times a week. At testing tonight, one of our cast members received a positive result," the theater posted on its social media along with the news that all performances through Sunday would be canceled.

The post also stated that the remaining performances of "Smokey Joe's Cafe" and its children's show, "Rapunzel," will go on as scheduled through Oct. 31 and that refunds and exchanges would be available.

This is not the first time Engeman has dealt with this situation. During rehearsals, two actors tested positive for COVID and understudies went on for them during the opening weekend.

Broadway has not been immune to COVID either. On Wednesday, just one day after reopening, the Broadway hit "Aladdin" had to shut down after a cast member tested positive. After reopening Thursday, producers on Friday announced that all performances through Oct. 12 had been canceled after additional breakthrough COVID-19 cases were detected.

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