Sondheim in the Bathroom at Rosie’s Party! Support for Artists. When Will Broadway Reopen? #Stageworthy News of the Week

On his 90th birthday, Stephen Sondheim sang Happy Birthday to Andrew Lloyd Webber…while washing his hands for 20 seconds in his bathroom sink — a playful gesture that is an instantly iconic moment for this new era.

It was Andrew Lloyd Webber’s birthday as well; he turned 72, and the younger composer had more straightforwardly wished Sondheim a happy birthday from his piano room.

They both did this live on the one-night only resurrected Rosie O’Donnell Show (watch here), a fundraiser for The Actors Fund that lasted three and a half hours on Sunday night and featured dozens of Broadway stars, performing from their home via home cam. It was all a reflection of an emerging aesthetic in theater, in the face of the stay-at-home mandate to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Call it the theatrical equivalent of home cooking.

Some of Rosie’s guests had messages meant to inspire. “We lived through a Plague before,” Judith Light said, referring to AIDS. “We were together then, and we’ll be together now.”
Click on the photographs of other guests for the captions.

Sondheim Birthday Celebrations

rewatching the videos of some terrific performances of his songs, several from his 80th birthday concerts, and rereading some of his best lyrics.
“Everybody rise!”
Stephen Sondheim’s greatest roles and the actors who played them

New Theater and the Emerging Pandemic Aesthetic

The Rosie O’Donnell Show was meant to be a one-time affair. So was 24 Hour Plays’ “Viral Monologues” — 20 scripted monologues by established playwrights for well-known performers. Similar “home cooking” hybrid theater shows have sprouted up in the last few days aiming to be regular series — including the twice daily Stars in the House, with hosts with hosts Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley, and the daily National Yiddish Theater’s Folksbiene Live, as well as La Mama’s weekly Downtown Variety — the first of which I reviewed, Downtown Variety #1,

There are also plays that had been slated for the stage that are experimenting with online runs, some free, some charging admission. Launching today (March 23) are Ren Dara Santiago’s “The Siblings Play” at Rattlestick Playwright Theater in New York, and Lauren Gunderson’s “I and You” from the Hampstead Theater in the UK. There will be more such online runs, given Actors’ Equity’s new, temporary contracts that allow select producers to record and then release performances online to ticket buyers. (The agreements do not apply to Broadway, which already include rules for “media capture.”)

For details on these and other online theater, including a roundup of theater-oriented online streaming services and Broadway fare on Amazon Prime and Netflix, check out my post: Where To Get Your Theater Fix Online, Old Favorites and New Experiments (Plus Lin-Manuel Miranda & Joshua Henry) #DontScreamLiveStream


Time Out for Humor, Uplift, and Advice

Artist and Theater Support

The Broadway League and the 14 Broadway unions hammered out an “emergency relief” agreement that, for a few weeks anyway, will support the Broadway cast and crew now without employment, and continue their health insurance.

Financial Fallout of the Coronavirus
New York’s performing-arts scene has taken hits before—after 9/11, during the recession that began in 2007, after Hurricane Sandy—but its elimination for an indefinite period of time is unprecedented….“All theatre people, except the ones who have institutional jobs—we’re gig people,” Daniel Goldstein, co-writer of “Unknown Soldier” whose day job, as an associate director on the Broadway show “Come From Away” is also now gone, said. “We’re no different than a handyman. When the theatres closed we were literally all unemployed. Everyone I know is unemployed.”

“The New York Community Trust has announced that it’s administering the NYC COVID-19 Response and Impact Fund, a massive system of grants and interest-free loans from what we hope is a bottomless bucket of money. A consortium of more than a dozen funders — including the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund — have pooled around $75 million in funds to relieve social services, arts, and cultural institutions.”

From the COVID-19 Fund’s page:

“Your organization is eligible to apply for a loan if you:

Are a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization
Are based in New York City
Have annual non-governmental revenue of $20 million or less
Receive New York City or New York State government funding
Have a track record of delivering effective programs and services equitably for New York resident”


5 Ways to Help Theatres and Artists During the COVID-19 Crisis


Grim Coronavirus News

New York has now become the epicenter of the coronavirus in the United States, as the Atlantic Magazine coronavirus tracker makes clear. New York State has about half of all the cases in the U.S., and the vast majority of the cases in the state are in the New York City region.

Coronavirus in N.Y.C.: Region Is Now an Epicenter of the Pandemic
“Three weeks after its first coronavirus infection was discovered, the New York City region reached an alarming milestone on Sunday: It now accounts for roughly 5 percent of the world’s confirmed cases, making it an epicenter of the pandemic and increasing pressure on officials to take more drastic measures….As of 8 p.m. on Sunday, all nonessential businesses were ordered closed… Residents were told to stay inside except for necessities like food, medicine and short bouts of exercise.”

When Will Broadway Reopen?

Given the exponential spread of the coronavirus, and the ever-more drastic measures promised to try to curb it, the initial goal of reopening Broadway on April 12th is looking increasingly unrealistic.


Since the shut-down of Broadway on March 12th and of all New York City theaters on March 15th, there has been such a steady stream of news reports, e-mails and Tweets announcing cancellations, that it’s easier to point to what is actually staying open or still scheduled – nothing, really, except what’s happening online.

But several cancellations in particular sting.

Show Score, the critic aggregation site that had already cut back, is shutting down — they hope temporarily.


On the day of the news of the “emergency relief” agreement guaranteeing payment for those working on scheduled Broadway shows, both “Hangmen” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,”  shows that had been scheduled to open this season, announced that they would not return when Broadway resumes.

Rest in Peace

Gerald Freedman, 92, renowned director, artistic director, and educator whose students included Robin Williams and Mandy Patinkin, was a 21-time Broadway veteran, beginning as a directorial assistant to Jerome Robbins on the original Broadway production of “West Side Story.”  Among the dozens of shows he directed Off Broadway was the original production of the musical “Hair” at the Public Theater. He went on to become for 21 years the dean of the School of Drama at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, which named its theater after him.

Julia Miles, 90, founded the Women’s Project Theater in 1978, to address the conspicuous underrepresentation of women artists working in the American theater. She also founded the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Remembering our founder, Julia Miles

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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