national music theater conference

Alexander Gemignani, Artistic Director

The National Music Theater Conference proudly supports the development of all styles and genres of music theater, including musicals, song cycles, operas, and hybrid works. In keeping with the ethos of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, the National Music Theater Conference strives to create a supportive, collaborative environment in which emerging and established artists alike are welcome to explore, experiment, and take risks with their work-in-progress.

Questions? Contact our Literary Office at or (860) 443-5378 ext. 227.



  1. PPE inspections: Prior to reopening to the public and recommencing routesetting, gyms should review their PPE inspection logs and catch up on any items therein that are out of date or that lapsed while the gym was closed.
  2. Take extra care to review items that may have been stored improperly during gym closures (ex - helmets stored compressed), as well as items that may have been exposed to cleaning chemicals that may have been employed during any COVID sanitization efforts.
  1. Common Hazards
    • Review existing Job Hazard Assessments and add or update new JHAs according to any new COVID-19 related risks. (See below for a sample JHA)
    • Normal routesetting, stripping, and cleaning should be considered a medium risk exposure according to OSHA guidelines, defined as "Routine cleaning and housekeeping in spaces frequented by staff and/or members of the general public."
    • The recommended PPE for medium risk exposure is not dissimilar to normal PPE a routesetter might wear. Gloves, respirators or masks, and gowns, aprons, or protective suits can all be considered appropriate PPE depending on your JHA and the cleaning task.
  2. Other Hazards
    • A Job Hazard Assessment of each routesetting job or task should be undertaken and documented.
    • Some tasks that a routesetter might perform may elevate to high-risk exposure and may require additional PPE.
  3. Cohorting
    • Keeping small setting teams together in “Quaranteams” can help track any potential exposure, contain any spread to smaller groups, and more quickly track changes in health.
    • Likewise, routesetting teams maybe separated from other staff groups. Routesetters often have less exposure to the general public and separating staff physically, or by time, may help mitigate transmission risks in the workplace.


  1. Community tools include any routesetting tools that are shared amongst a routesetting crew.
    • This includes but is not limited to:
      • T-handles, Angle Grinders, Bolt Carts, Tap-Screws, Specialty, Drill-Bits, Setting Buckets, Work-at-Heights PPE, bolts, screws, washers
  2. Mitigate risk of disease spread
    • Tools and Equipment
      • Clean your hands: Consider supplying hand sanitizing or cleaning solutions on the bolt cart or in the hold room for easy access and use.
      • Cover your hands: Wearing gloves while touching community tools is another method that may prevent exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
        • Keep in mind that the external surface of work gloves can still transfer contaminants.
        • Do not touch the face while wearing gloves and wash hands before and after wearing gloves.
      • Clean the tools: You may also disinfect tools before or after each use.
        • Check manufacturers’ recommendations before using any disinfectant on tools or equipment.
    • Work-at-Height PPE
      • If your gym shares work-at-height equipment, consider limiting shared equipment between routesetters.
      • If certain equipment must be shared establish clear policies and procedures for use and cleaning.
        • Use manufacturer, government, and industry resources to develop your policies
          • Check the manufacturers recommendations before using any disinfectant on equipment.


  1. Setting habits and physical performance: Due to extended gym closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely that routesetters will have varying diminished levels of fitness upon their return to work. It is recommended that gyms take these possibly reduced levels of fitness into account when restarting their routesetting programs.
    • Routesetting program administrators (Head Routesetters, Directors of Routesetting, etc.) should consider scaling workloads and/or work assignments to accommodate for this.
  2. Practicing access skills: It’s likely that routesetters will not have used the rope access or rigging skills that they normally would have while setting for quite some time.
    • Consider developing a review system for routesetting staff to reacquaint them with relevant at-height skills prior to setting.
    • Include training on any new PPE requirements or processes.
  3. Climbing performance: Routesetters will likely have experienced an extended period of either inactivity or lack of climbing due to the worldwide gym closures. Setters' climbing performance will likely have decreased during the pandemic as a result.
    • Routesetting program administrators should take this into account and adjust as needed to workloads / assignments when reinstituting their programs.
      • Due to diminished climbing fitness levels, forerunning loads that were previously sustainable by routesetting staff may need to be adjusted accordingly.
      • Use alternate training and recovery methods: While setters’ bodies reacclimate to the rigors of both setting and forerunning, consider exploring / implementing alternate or non-climbing training methods to increase overall fitness levels.


  1. Refer to national guidelines, CWA Work-at-Height, and established facility safety procedures when reviewing and revising your Job Hazard Assessment for stripping holds.
    • Ensure that you are not introducing additional risks when adding new COVID-19 related protocols.
  2. Designate appropriate PPE.
    • PPE may include but isn’t limited to gloves, safety googles, and masks.
  3. Consider stripping below shoulder height to help reduce chalk/dirt from entering eyes, nose, and mouth, even when wearing designated PPE.
  4. Wash and disinfect hands before and after stripping.
  5. Clean or disinfect PPE and other equipment as outlined in your Job Hazard Assessment.
    • Check the manufacturers recommendations before using any disinfectant on equipment.


  1. Anyone washing holds should be trained in new PPE requirements and usage, policies, and procedures as outlined in your Job Hazard Assessment.
    • Consider limiting the maximum exposure time for staff when cleaning holds.
  2. Mitigate risks when washing holds. Options:
    • Chemical disinfection prior to washing
      • Holds may be disinfected prior to power or hand washing to avoid aerosolizing of potential COVID-19 virus.
      • According to the CDC: a recommended disinfectant solution of 5 tablespoons of bleach to 1 gallon of water for 1 minute will deactivate the COVID-19 virus.
      • Review the EPA list of approved disinfectants for any other chemicals you may be considering or already are using to clean holds.
      • Designate appropriate PPE and procedures in a Job Hazard Assessment.
        • PPE may include but isn’t limited to gloves, safety googles, and masks.
    • Quarantining of holds prior to washing
      • Holds can be quarantined on the wall prior to stripping. Close off areas prior to stripping to ensure no one touches any holds during the quarantine period.
        • Make sure that these areas are communicated to everyone in the gym and are clearly demarcated.
      • Or, after stripping holds from the wall, quarantine the holds in an isolated storage area prior to washing.
      • Designate appropriate PPE and procedures in a Job Hazard Assessment for handling holds.
    • Hold washing
      • Washing may aerosolize contaminants and should be done only after a chemical disinfection or quarantine period.
      • Wash holds in an area with sufficient airflow or outdoors if possible.
      • Designate appropriate PPE and procedures in a Job Hazard Assessment for washing holds.


  1. Review existing Job Hazard Assessments and add or update according to any new COVID-19 related risks.
  2. Maintain physical distancing while forerunning and adjusting problems.
  3. Consider providing high alcohol liquid chalk and cleaning hands between different routes and tasks.
  4. Ensure that routesetters are trained on new gym policies and are physically ready to return to forerunning.


This Job Hazard Analysis covers the way a gym might approach the task of hold strripping. The individual recomendations are not universal, but should give you an idea of how to fill out a form like this, and what areas to consider. See the sample here You can learn more about JHAs from OSHA, or your national health and safety organization.

Funding for the National Music Theater Conference provided by: The Shubert Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, Time Warner Foundation, The Jerome Robbins Foundation, The Frederick Loewe Foundation, The Rodgers & Hammerstein Foundation, and O'Neill Annual Fund donors 

learn more from literary manager lexy leuszler

Superhero (2017)
GIRL Shakes Loose (2016)
Home Street Home (2017)
The Rose Barn


Eugene O'Neill Theater Center

305 Great Neck Road

Waterford, CT 06385

Administrative Offices: (860) 443-5378



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GIRL Shakes Loose (2016)

Laiona Michelle belts a note during a staged reading of GIRL Shakes Loose by Zakiyyah Alexander and Imani Uzuri.