Count Basie Center for the Arts to reopen historic theater


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RED BANK – The Count Basie Center for the Arts has announced the reopening of the Hackensack Meridian Health Theatre, employing an elevated flooring platform which will allow patrons to sit at seated, socially distant tables and enjoy performances in the center’s 94-year old historic venue.

The venue’s new pop-up stage configuration extends the length of the theater stage nearly halfway across the room, providing the space necessary to seat up to 150 patrons at cabaret style tables, according to a press release.

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Like the Basie Center’s new performance space, The Vogel, pop-up stage performances will be presented with strict COVID-19 safety measures in place:

• Shows will be seated with tables sold in Table For Two, Table For Four and Table For Six configurations only;

• Tables will be positioned 6 feet apart, with the front row of tables 12 feet from the performers. Only 150 seats will be available for performances at this time;

• Drinks and concessions will be sold table-side; i.e., no lining up at bars;

• Patrons must wear a mask at all times while inside the theater, except when actively eating or drinking;

• Patrons are expected to abide by social distancing norms;

• Temperature will be taken at the door. Patrons with a body temperature of 100.4 or higher will not be permitted to enter. A refund will be issued;

• Fans must remain seated at their purchased table, unless using the restroom or exiting.
There is no re-entry;

• For nights with two shows, entry for the second show will begin once the previous crowd is cleared and the venue is cleaned/sanitized;

• For late shows, New Jersey mandates bar service must cease at 10 p.m. Last call will be 9:45 p.m.;

• Tables will not be permitted to be split and resold. Patrons holding resold tickets will be denied entry and refunds will not be offered;

• Patrons will be required to remain seated unless getting up to leave or use restrooms.
Restrooms will be limited to two patrons at a time;

• These events will use Ticketmaster’s touch-less, mobile entry system. No paper tickets will be accepted;

• Venue security will enforce ground rules, which will follow current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state guidelines for indoor events.

“When Gov. (Phil) Murphy announced in October that performance venues could reopen, we immediately started to think of the safest, most economical way to present performances in our historic theater,” said Adam Philipson, president and CEO of the Count Basie Center for the Arts.

“The pop-up stage configuration is a cool and unique set-up we have used at galas, but more importantly, it allows us to achieve the distancing measures we have found to be key in the success of presenting shows next door at The Vogel,” he said.

The Basie Center debuted The Vogel, its second performance space, in October. Both venues, as well as the Basie’s Academy of the Arts, the Monmouth Conservatory of Music and the Basie Center Cinemas facilities operate under the organization’s COVID-19 operations guide, which has been endorsed by Hackensack Meridian Health’s Keeping America Safe Program, according to the press release.

“The Count Basie Center for the Arts has lost in excess of $8 million since the onset of the pandemic,” Philipson said. “Producing these performances, as well as holding safe and socially distant onsite classes and films at Basie Center Cinemas, is crucial to our survival.

“But none of this is possible without safety being at the forefront of everything we do. We are as dedicated to creating and maintaining safe environments as we are in our mission to inspire, educate and entertain through the arts.”

The first performance in the pop-up stage configuration will be local artist Chris Pinnella on Dec. 19. Tickets go on sale Dec. 11 at 10 a.m. through Pop-up stage performances at the Basie’s Hackensack Meridian Health Theatre are made possible by the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders, according to the press release.

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