SINGAPORE - When Pangdemonium stages The Glass Menagerie at the Victoria Theatre in March, each of the venue's 614 seats could be filled - something that has not been possible for two years.
Tennessee Williams' four-hander play, which runs from March 11 to 27, will be the first time the theatre company is staging a show at full capacity since Covid-19 restrictions hit Singapore's performing arts scene in 2020.
From March 4, live performances will no longer be subjected to seating capacity restrictions, so long as there are not more than 1,000 audience members.
This move, which performing arts groups - hard hit by Covid-19 social distancing measures - had long been clamouring for, is part of the Ministry of Health's latest set of measures issued on Feb 16.
In March 2020, theatres had to close - and would remain shut for more than six months.
When live performances were allowed to resume, groups reckoned with measures such as limits on the number of performers allowed on stage and backstage, and "bubble-wrap" seating where seats in front, behind and to the left and right of patrons were left empty for social distancing purposes.
"This is news we've been waiting for for the last two years," says Adrian Pang, 56, co-founder of Pangdemonium. Their staging of Florian Zeller's The Son in February 2020 was the last time they did a show at full capacity.
Pang says they had planned to run The Glass Menagerie at 35 per cent capacity to allow for safe distancing. But the easing of measures "changes the game".
"All of a sudden, we have another 65 per cent more tickets to sell. We've only gone into full-capacity sales today, so we shall see. Hopefully, sales will get a boost. We are very grateful and relieved by this significant step."
Under the revised rules, live performances that have more than 1,000 audience members and are "mask-on" events will have a capacity limit of 50 per cent.
Since Jan 25, some performing groups have also applied for a pilot scheme that would lift restrictions on audience, performer and crew numbers - if they are fully vaccinated and have a negative antigen rapid test (ART). Performances under the pilot scheme can have a full capacity audience.
The scheme, known as the VDS (vaccination-differentiated safe management measures) +Test pilot, would apply to live performances at Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay, Victoria Theatre & Victoria Concert Hall, Singapore Conference Hall, Wild Rice @ Funan, the Singapore Repertory Theatre, and Sands Theatre at Marina Bay Sands.
One such event is Disney In Concert - Magical Music From The Movies at the Esplanade Theatre on Feb 26 and 27.
The Singapore Chinese Orchestra, meanwhile, has a concerto concert at the Singapore Conference Hall on March 26 - its first concert with a full orchestra in two years.
Pangdemonium, too, has applied for a VDS+Test pilot to relax social distancing restrictions on its cast and production team.
While groups have welcomed the easing of measures, how the public responds remains to be seen.
"We've been so conditioned, now, to expect safe distancing in certain places that we spend any kind of time in," Pang notes.
But he adds: "I am cautiously optimistic that there are enough of the theatre-going public out there who will welcome this , embrace it and hopefully show up in solidarity with the theatre companies to say - this is the day we've been waiting for."