The world of live theater is a significant portion of the art community and in some places, an economic engine like all of the arts. When it will open back up however is anyone’s guess.
Last week we talked about art museums that were cautiously opening, and the attitudes and procedures adopted by places like the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. For the rest of the art world, questions about reopening are just as vivid and urgent, and arts backers around the country are rightly concerned about all the factors involved, from safety to finances to jobs. For live theater in NYC, the date you hear
most these days is no performances until Labor Day at the earliest. Others are saying that it’s more likely that the show won’t go on until January.
Charlotte St. Martin, the President of the Broadway League, said that “while all Broadway shows would love to resume performances as soon as possible, we need to ensure the health and well-being of everyone who comes to the theatre – behind the curtain and in front of it – before shows can return.” Her organization is working with theatrical unions, government officials, and health experts to determine the safest ways to restart live performances.
The NYT recently noted that Broadway will probably be one of the last of the art venues to open back up because, as the paper put it, “its finances depend on assembling large crowds in confined spaces,” and its “workplaces, onstage and backstage, place cast and crew in close proximity” to one another.
A recent poll indicated that theater-goers themselves, as much as they’re looking forward to being back in a seat, are most worried about other patrons not following the rules, something I think we all can relate to.
Meanwhile, theaters are putting previous productions on-line and in many cases making them free to watch. This month Lincoln Center has begun a series called “Broadway Fridays” in which every Friday a new play or musical will be available via the Center’s website or its YouTube channel. Its June offerings include the great Nathan Lane starring in The Nance, Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical Carousel, and starting on June 19, the Tony-nominated stage adaptation of Moss Hart’s vastly enjoyable biography Act One. I’m looking forward to that one. Other prestigious theaters are doing similar things. The National Theater, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, London’s Old Vic, all have their own YouTube channels and all are posting great performances from the past.
The managers of Stage West up in Fort Worth, one of the best theater companies in this area put it this way. “One day the stage lights will rise again for artists and audiences alike to assemble in honor and exploration of the human spirit and an art form which has been around for over 2,500 years. That day is eagerly awaited by all at Stage West.” Well put. We are all eager for that day.