The Coronavirus and Theater. #Stageworthy News of the Week

March 18 Update: This post was put together on March 3rd. Much has happened since then concerning COVID-19 and the effort to curb it, including the shutting down of all theaters.. In this rapidly evolving crisis, much of what’s below is now dangerously out-of-date.

Check out the more recent Broadway and the Coronavirus: Questions and Answers,  which is periodically updated.

With the first reported case of COVID-19 in Manhattan, there is increased concern about the virus among New Yorkers, and that includes theaters, theatergoers and theatermakers.

New York Governor Cuomo said yesterday that it was “inevitable” the outbreak would spread. But New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said “the facts are reassuring,” that the information so far “should give us more reason to stay calm and go about our lives.”

What Theaters Should Do

TCG will offer a free webinar on Friday, March 6 from 1 to 2 p.m. Coronavirus Preparedness for Theatres, sharing “immediate operational steps theatres can take.”

Update: Link to the video of the webinar

In a blog post, Theatre Communication Group’s executive director Teresa Eyring lists resources geared to theaters preparing for the impact of the Coronavirus.


Coronavirus in New York: The Latest

From the New York Times: The section most relevant to theatergoing:
“NYC & Company, which monitors tourism in the city, has projected 285,000 fewer visitors this year from China. That would be a decline of more than 25 percent from the 1.1 million Chinese visitors last year.
China is the second-biggest source of international tourists to the city, behind Britain.
Through last weekend, restaurants, museums and Broadway shows were largely unaffected…”

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

This page created by the Centers for Disease Control is the most reliable source of health information about the virus

What you can do personally

Wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds, and keep them away from your face. Think Lady Macbeth.

(More on hand washing from the CDC)

Keep your distance from sick people.

If you have tickets to the theater, but feel sick, stay home.

What can we expect

From Juliana Grant, preventive medicine physician and infectious disease epidemiologist: “Daily life will be impacted in important ways. Travel is likely to be limited and public gatherings will probably be canceled. Schools will probably be closed. Expect health departments to start issuing these orders in the near future, especially on the West Coast. The acute pandemic will probably last at least for several months and quite possibly for a year or two.”

Would the threat of coronavirus put you off going to the theatre?

That’s the poll question in The Stage in the UK. So far, 52 percent  have said no, 48 percent yes. (Thursday update: Now 54 percent say yes.)

In a survey of 2,200 U.S. adults from February 28 to March 1 by Morning Consult, 31 percent said they are less likely to go to a  theater performance because of the coronavirus; that figure jumped to 62 percent when asked “if the coronavirus were to spread to your community.”

Movie theaters and/or legitimate theaters already have been shut down in cities as varied as Tokyo, Seoul, Venice, Milan and Palo Alto

Statements from The Broadway League and Actors Equity:

“The Broadway League is closely monitoring this evolving situation on behalf of the Broadway community. The safety and security of our theatregoers and employees is our highest priority. We are following the lead of our city, state and federally elected officials, as well as implementing strategies recommended by public health authorities in all of our theatres and offices.  We remain vigilant, and we are prepared to make decisions based on current needs, as well as in response to changing conditions.”

Actors Equity: “We have shared guidance with staff, posted resources for members and are having the appropriate internal conversations about maintaining business continuity if an outbreak becomes more severe. We have also initiated conversations with major Equity employers and other labor leaders around maintaining a safe and healthy workplace. We will continue to monitor the situation, seek guidance and best practices from the appropriate health authorities and share additional information as warranted.”

March theater openings

February New York theater quiz

The Week in New York Theater Reviews

Video projection of Dharon E. Jones as Riff and Amar Ramasar as Bernardo, as the actual actors confront each other on stage.

West Side Story
What’s most remarkable about Ivo van Hove’s shake-up of West Side Story is, for all the Belgian director’s ruinous choices – chief among them, an overabundance of distracting video projections – he doesn’t completely ruin what’s most thrilling about this 63-year-old musical updating of Romeo and Juliet. Leonard Bernstein’s music remains a miracle of melody and mood, rendered glorious by a 25-piece orchestra with orchestrations by the legendary 81-year-old Jonathan Tunick. If much of the singing doesn’t especially stand out in this production, Isaac Powell and Shereen Pimentel as the star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria give us what we need: They offer powerful evidence why the songs they sing — “Maria,” “Tonight,” “One Hand/One Heart” and “Somewhere” – are not just universally beloved; they can still make you cry.

For aficionados of West Side Story, there are many other, less salutary reasons to get emotional.


Beth Malone and David Aron Damane

The Unsinkable Molly Brown
Molly Brown, a socialite, social activist and survivor of the Titanic disaster in real life — turned into a Tony-winning Tammy Grimes on stage and Debbie Reynolds at her pluckiest on screen — has been meticulously transformed once again, into…Elizabeth Warren.

Kevin Ramessar, Debbie Christine Tjong, Janelle McDermoth,

We’re Gonna Die

We’re all in pain – because of loneliness or loss, betrayal or illness – and playwright Young Jean Lee wants to offer us some comfort. This might not be immediately apparent, given the title of her unusual show, and its format: Performer Janelle McDermoth sings a half-dozen tuneful, hard-charging rock songs interspersed with anecdotes of sorrow and trauma that range from funny-sad to tragic to horrid, lifted from Lee’s actual life and that of her friends and family.

Natalie Portman is Keyonna’s imaginary friend, and also her crush. The 16-year-old has other crushes – all white actresses, pictures of whom she has cut out of magazines and pasted into a collage on her “dream board.” But she only plays with Natalie – performing in scenes with her from some half-dozen of the movies in which the Academy Award winning actress has appeared, from The Empire Strikes Back to The Professional.
Keyonna does this, we realize from the beginning of C.A. Johnson’s sweet if largely familiar coming-of-age play, to find some moments of manufactured joy in a life burdened by a dead father, a drunk and sometimes disappearing mother, and a brother who is trying his best but is only two years older, so that the family is one rent day away from homeless, and one meal away from hungry.

All The Natalie Portmans

Cambodian Rock Band

How do you put genocide on stage? Lauren Yee starts with a rock band, which is playing so loudly when we enter that the theater management offers ear plugs for any who request it. A rock concert may seem an odd, even inappropriate, way for a play about genocide to begin, but what comes next is even more jarring in this disorienting, genre-bending show that shifts tone and time and focus — and may arguably be the best way, perhaps the only way, Yee could have told the story she wanted to tell.

The Week in New York Theater News

To Kill A Mockingbird plays to 18,000 students at Madison Square Garden

Greg Kinnear will make his Broadway debut succeeding Ed Harris as Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird, starting April 21.

Rush tickets and lotteries

Company $43 digital lottery and rush
Diana  $40 digital lottery
The Minutes $35 digital lottery and rush
Hangmen – $39 rush

Airport Sushi skit on SNL spoofs The Phantom of the Opera,” “West Side Story,” “Annie,” “Wicked,” “Little Shop of Horrors” a


Rest in Peace

James Lipton, 93, theater educator, Broadway producer, book writer & lyricist, but best-known as host of Inside the Actors Studio, talk show about CRAFT of acting
“Anybody’s craft is fascinating. A taxi driver talking about taxi driving is going to very interesting.”

Negro Ensemble Company founders, left to right: Robert Hooks,Douglas Turner Ward and Gerald Krone

Gerald Krone, 86, a founder of Negro Ensemble Company

Claudette Nevins, 82, TV regular, four-time Broadway veteran (Plaza Suite) and on tour (The Great White Hope)

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

1 thought on “The Coronavirus and Theater. #Stageworthy News of the Week

  1. I have a compromised immune system I cannot get a refund on my tickets to Radio City’s Riverdance. Even though we purchased insurance. Parade is cancelled, Marathon is cancelled the Jacob Javits Ctr cancelled their events. All colleges closed but no I think it’s disgraceful the theaters are staying open. No concern for health just $.

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