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Performing arts groups in Hawaii say shows will go on

Ticket holders for this weekend’s three Hawai‘i Symphony Orchestra concerts at the Tom Moffatt Waikiki Shell needn’t worry: The show will go on.

Same goes for the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival’s final performances of the season outdoors at the Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives.

An executive order issued Tuesday by Gov. David Ige mandates that organizers of professionally sponsored events for more than 50 people obtain county approval to ensure appropriate safe practices will be implemented, among other COVID-19-related rules.

Additionally, the City & County of Honolulu is requiring organizers to submit a mitigation plan at least 10 days prior to the event, although for events taking place between now and Aug. 20, they must do so as soon as possible.

Most performing arts groups already have been observing COVID-19 protocols, so Ige’s latest order isn’t expected to disrupt scheduled events to any great degree.

“Henry IV, Part One,” which opens Friday for a two-weekend run, is the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival’s first in-person production since 2019. The festival’s 2020 season was presented in virtual form, as were the previous two shows of the current season.

“It’s been so wonderful to rehearse a show in person with the actors,” said Hawaii Shakespeare Festival co-founder Tony Pisculli, who is directing the all-female cast of “Henry IV, Part One.”

Cast members are vaccinated and have been rehearsing in masks, Pisculli said, and although they will perform without masks, the actors will wear them when off stage. “Our cast is trying to be as safe and is mitigating as much as we can,” he said.

Hawaiian Mission Houses announced Wednesday that in light of Ige’s mandate, it is reducing the number of tickets available and will check patrons’ temperatures and require masks. Since the venue is outdoors, the seating setup is flexible and groups will be able to separate from one another.

Social distancing and masking is a little trickier for the musicians of the Hawai‘i Symphony Orchestra, which has three “Rhapsody & Rachmaninoff” concerts, with conductor JoAnn Fal­letta and piano soloist Lisa Nakamichi, scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the outdoor venue.

“We’re pivoting and adapting. We’re planning to go ahead with our Starlight (Series) finale here this weekend, but we’ve already made some changes,” said HSO Executive Director Dave Moss. “We’re limiting our capacity to 500 total (per concert). The Waikiki Shell accommodates 8,200, and so there’ll be extreme social distancing.”

Also, concertgoers are required to wear masks and no food or beverages will be sold as in past weeks.

“The orchestra is a little bit less than 90% vaccinated. Those who are not vaccinated are still required to get tested twice a week,” Moss said. “All of our string players are wearing masks, and the woodwinds are only unmasked when they’re playing, and we still have the distancing on stage, since the stage at the Waikiki Shell is quite large. So we’re fortunate to have that and to be outdoors.”

When asked how the woodwind players are handling slipping their masks on and off, Moss replied: “It’s become very natural to them. We’ve been doing it all along.”

When the symphony started performing again in May, audiences were limited to 200 per concert. The largest crowds during the summer were about 2,000 for last weekend’s concerts featuring the music of rock bands Queen and Led Zeppelin. Under Tier 5 rules, they could have gone as high as 4,500.

Moss said HSO was planning 10 community concerts later this month but canceled those events due to the governor’s order. He also is worried that “even after a successful four months of live performances with an in-person audience,” it could be awhile before indoor concerts return.

Neither Diamond Head Theatre nor Manoa Valley Theater have shows scheduled for this month. Both groups require audience members to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination for entry and to wear masks.

MVT’s Kip Wilborn said he is consulting with the mayor’s office but for the moment is proceeding as if the musical comedy “Be More Chill” will open Sept. 2, although that could certainly change.

Deena Dray, executive director at DHT, said that since its policy is that everyone must show proof of vaccination or a negative test result, the theater group will be able to have 100% capacity when “Oliver!” opens Sept. 24.


Star-Advertiser staff writers Steven Mark and John Berger contributed to this report.

Correction: An earlier version of this story omitted the full name of the Tom Moffatt Waikiki Shell.
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