Coronavirus Update: Responding Theatrically. #Stageworthy News of the Week.

As local news of the spread of the coronavirus grows more alarming (with Governor Cuomo having declared a state of emergency in New York over the weekend), the theater community has been responding seriously, but also theatrically.

Much of the theatrical response, official and otherwise, has to do with….cleaning. The Broadway League updated its statement on its website:

“….all productions continue to play as scheduled. We have significantly increased the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting in all public and backstage areas beyond the standard daily schedule, and we have added alcohol-based sanitizer dispensers for public use in the lobby of every theatre. We invite patrons to make use of soap, paper towels, and tissues available in all restrooms.”

As a preventive measure against disease in general, the Centers for Disease Control long has recommended washing your hands, and has suggested singing Happy Birthday twice, to make sure your hand washing lasts 20 seconds. The Charles R. Wood Theater in Glen Falls, N.Y. has a better idea:

Singing while washing hands

A theatrical duo called Fossilheads modified a step-by-step World Health Organization illustration about hand washing with Lady Macbeth’s monologue about the same activity (albeit in a different context) to drive it home among theater fans:

This is the flyer posted in the lobby of every theater I’ve attended this past week, from Broadway to Off-Off Broadway, issued by the NYC Department of Health, which offers a useful coronavirus page. The poster was often not far from the newly ubiquitous hand sanitizer

“…I’m certain that theatre will survive whatever happens,” declares critic Lyn Gardner in The Stage of the UK> “Theatre has survived the plague in 1606…the uncertainties following both 9/11 and the 2008 financial crash and also several heightened alerts around terrorism.” Yes, theaters were shut down in 1606. “The closure of theatres in 1606 eventually ushered in a new era with the creation of the indoor playhouse. It is possible the Covid-19 virus may play a similar role in shaping the theatre of the future.”

How Theaters Can Prepare for Coronavirus: A TCG Webinar

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


The Week in New York Theater Reviews

I Am Nobody

A man in a hazmat suit came on stage, to give us the usual spiel about the location of the exits and turning off our cell phones, and I thought: Ok, yes, the governor has declared a state of emergency in New York, but isn’t this carrying coronavirus precautions a bit too far? As it turns out, though, this box office manager making the announcements was being playful, wearing one of the costumes from ‘I Am Nobody,’ the latest quirky musical by Greg Kotis, who won two Tonys twenty years ago as the book writer and lyricist of “Urinetown,” the satirical musical about a future dystopian society in which citizens had to pay to pee. “I Am Nobody,” for which Kotis wrote the music as well as the words, takes place in a different dystopian society – our own, with its “supernatural contraptions” and social media and smart phones and the Internet.

Girl From The North Country

Girl from the North Country” is largely the same slow, sad, elliptical and occasionally exquisite theater piece I saw Off-Broadway. But my reaction to it has changed, for better and for worse. There are still a good number of tuneful melodies sung gloriously by an exceptional 17-member cast accompanied by fiddle and piano, and I appreciated new aspects of the show. But 150 minutes of dreary lives didn’t wear as well this time around.

Aaron Yoo

The Headlands

The first of the many surprises in “The Headlands,” the latest, cleverly crafted play in New York by trickster San Francisco playwright Christopher Chen, comes after Henry (Aaron Yoo) introduces himself to us as a Google engineer, a film noir buff, and an “amateur sleuth” who’s been looking into the unsolved murder of one George Wong, a kitchen contractor….”Oh, I’m [his] son.Sorry for not telling you earlier…”

Anatomy of a Suicide

It’s been a battering couple of weeks, what with abandonment, abduction, desperation, murder, genocide, and pandemic – all but the last one happening on New York stages…. “Anatomy of a Suicide,” is without question an exercise in virtuosity for both playwright Alice Birch and director Lileana Blain-Cruz, with a cast that deserves kudos. But it was a show that made me wonder whether I needed a break from theatergoing.

Bob Avian, Hal Prince and Michael Bennett watching a rehearsal in Boston of “Company”

Book: Dancing Man: A Broadway Choreographer’s Journey
a fun and easy read that offers a light, slight overview of the six-decade career of an accomplished and well-connected theater artist…If much of “Dancing Man” is of the “And then we worked on this,” it can’t help but offer a large, sweet slice of theater history. At the age of 82, Avian, the NYC-born son of working class Armenian immigrants, is old enough to have seen the original production of “Oklahoma!” – his first musical on Broadway. He was eight years old at the time…and largely unimpressed:

The Week in New York Theater News

Digital lotteries and rush:

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf $39 tickets

Lehman Trilogy $40

Company: Standing room for $32

Mrs. Doubtfire: Digital rush tickets on TodayTix for $35.

Plaza Suite: Digital lottery on TodayTix for $39


The 65th annual Drama Desk Award has a newly designed statuette. Nominations will be announced April 21, and the ceremony will be held on May 31 at Town Hall.

Michael Urie will reprise his role in Jonathan Tolins’ Buyer & Cellar for two performances at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater April 10–11

Qui Nguyen

MTC’s production of Qui Nguyen’s “Poor Yella Rednecks,” at City Center May 12 to June 28, will feature Samantha Quan and Paco Tolson, who both appeared in the MTC 2016 production of Nguyen’s “Vietgone,” in a cast that also includes Tim Chiou, Maureen Sebastian and Eugene Young.
Told from a mother’s perspective, the play is the story of a young family’s attempt to put down roots in Arkansas, a place as different from Vietnam as it gets.

“Once Upon A One More Time,” the Broadway-aiming musical using the music of Britney Spears, will perform at Chicago’s James M. Nederlander Theater this spring with a cast that includes Justin Guarini as Prince Charming and Briga Heelan as Cinderella, along with Simon Callow as the narrator, Emily Skinner as the stepmother, and Aisha Jackson as Snow White.

Clubbed Thumbs Summerworks Festival at The Wild Project, May 15 – July 1

Spindle Shuttle Needle by Gab Reisman, directed by Tamilla Woodard
May 15-27
In a cottage surrounded by endless siege, at the dawn of Modern Capitalism, a motley group of women tell tales, pick nits, and stretch out the last bits of sustenance til the Market reopens.

Bodies They Ritual, by Angele Hanks, directed by Knud Adams
June 2-13

A Santa Fe sweat lodge lets loose what’s bottled up in a group of Texan ladies who have gathered for a birthday celebration. Will any of them taste that deep, deep spirituality only to be found in the American Southwest?

The Woman’s Party, by Rinne Groff, directed by Tara Ahmadinejad
June 19-July 1

1947 is the year that the savvy politicos of the National Woman’s Party finally get the ERA passed— once they quash that insurgency. Or oust the old guard. Failure is Impossible.

Rest in Peace

Mart Crowley, 84, pioneering playwright of The Boys in the Band, which had a triumphant Broadway debut on its 50th anniversary in 2018.

Author: New York Theater

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

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