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If a theater is at 50% capacity, is it half full or half empty?

As Los Angeles and Orange counties edge closer to the orange tier in California’s COVID-19 restrictions system, companies that stage live performance are cautiously optimistic that the region is poised for a summer of cultural diversion and togetherness— outdoors — after more than a year of pandemic separation.

So many questions, however, lurk in the numbers: the number of performers allowed onstage, the number of guests allowed in the audience. The number of masks and hand sanitizer dispensers that must be purchased, the number of COVID-19 tests that need to be administered. The number of dollars needed for air purification and recirculation systems, the number of days until it gets too cold again for outdoor performances.

Not being able to operate at full capacity, even outdoors, is a huge challenge for pandemic-starved companies, said Independent Shakespeare Company’s co-founder and managing director, David Melville. The company is largely sustained through its annual summer festival in Griffith Park, which can attract up to 1,000 people a night.

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