,Under existing Covid-19 SOP for the creative arts industry, a 1.5m distance between one audience seat and another is required. – Pic courtesy of Fa Abdul, March 30, 2021.
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LAST week, my team at the Performing Arts Centre of Penang (penangpac) were busy updating our ticketing system to follow the crowd distancing standard operating procedure (SOP). This was done in preparing ourselves for one of our upcoming shows, planned to be staged in two weeks’ time at our black box theatre, penangpac.
For those who are not aware, the seating guidelines for creative industries such as performing arts centres clearly state there must be a 1.5m distance from one audience seat to another.
As a result, the new seating arrangement only allowed 28 seats per show, compared with 114 seats previously (at 100% capacity). We were heartbroken.
The decision to stage shows was made not only to continuously offer theatre experience to our patrons who have been deprived of it throughout the movement-control order (MCO), but also to help us financially by earning from ticket sales.
Unfortunately, no thanks to the SOP, we end up operating at a loss.
For your information, due to the 1.5m social distancing guidelines set by the government, we lose a total of RM12,040 from the 344 unoccupied seats throughout our four scheduled shows.
Even if we manage to put on a full house performance, with only 28 seats to offer per show, we could not even cover our venue cost! At least when theatres were allowed to operate last July, we were able to offer 57 seats by skipping a seat between every occupied seats and managed to breakeven.
As upsetting as it was, nothing could have angered me more than what came next.
As we were contemplating our next strategy to save us from the financial crisis we are currently facing, I received an email requesting me to attend a meeting in Kuala Lumpur. Upon getting my permit to cross border, I booked my online train ticket, and hopped into the electric train service by Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad.
As I entered my coach, I was shocked to see rows of seats without any cross marks on them. I asked an attendant if the social distancing SOP was enforced on the train. However, he simply dismissed my question by asking me to sit according to the seat number printed on my ticket.
I walked on the aisle, searching for my seat, realising all the seats were twin-seaters. Shortly afterwards, a man unloaded his luggages onto the compartment above our heads and sat beside me. His shoulder rubbed against mine, and so did his thigh!
As people continued to occupy the seats, it hit me then I would be spending four hours in the air-conditioned coach, without any social distancing whatsoever!