In an interview with News 12’s John Bathke, SOPAC’s Executive Director Dee Billia discusses the venue’s latest COVID-19 safety policies. Visit for full details and the most up-to-date information.

News 12 Staff
Aug 10, 2021

The surge in COVID-19 cases in New Jersey has prompted changes by one of the state’s performing arts centers.

Anyone who wishes to see a show at the South Orange Performing Arts Center will now have to show proof of having the COVID-19 vaccine or a negative test.

“We’ve only taken this step as sort of a drastic measure. We were hoping we would not have to do this,” says SOPAC Executive Director Dee Billia.

The arts center is a nonprofit theater known for live concerts and comedy shows. Billia says that she wrestled with the decision, but as COVID-19 cases rose because of the delta variant, the restrictions became necessary.

The rules go into effect on September 1 – the day of SOPAC’s first full capacity, indoor show. Audiences must also wear masks inside the theater.

“I think the whole country was hoping this would just all be over, but we have to face the reality that it’s not over,” Billia says.

In New Jersey, COVID-19 policies to attend performances are set by the individual venue, with wide disparities. On Tuesday, Gov. Phil Murphy expressed little interest in changing that, but said the door is open.

“I’m not concerned in this case in terms of certain entities having a stricter set of rules, but that’s something we’re also looking at. Everything is under consideration,” Murphy said.

In New York City, the decision to require vaccination or negative COVID-19 tests for many indoor public activities – including attending Broadway shows – was made by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office. It eliminates varied policies between venues that could confuse ticket buyers.

SOPAC officials say that they will re-evaluate the rules as the pandemic situation changes.