It’s been a month since Broadway shut down. Today, April 13th, was the day Broadway was supposed to return, remember? Even the Broadway League realized that was unrealistic, on April 8th extending the shutdown to June 7 – to which New York Governor Andrew Cuomo replied: Not so fast. “I wouldn’t use what Broadway thinks as a barometer of anything, unless they’re in the public health business.” (Details in my Broadway and the Coronavirus: Updated Questions and Answers)
Everything has changed, including the annual New York theater awards, which usually take place from April to June. Some are going ahead though online, some have changed the nature of their ceremonies, some have postponed indefinitely, some are uncertain what they’re going to do.
In the meantime, the daily drumbeat of COVID-19 statistics in New York City has grown too shocking for many to take in. Theater lovers have been seeking distraction by “attending” the suddenly abundant online offerings (my updated Where To Get Your Theater Fix Online). We’ve also been contemplating the past and the future of theater.
In a piece I wrote his past week for HowlRound, I talk about a pandemic theater aesthetic, comparing it to the art that emerged from previous times of terror:
“It may be too grand—or at least premature—to proclaim a new theatre aesthetic for the 2020 pandemic. But just like the AIDS and 9/11 crises were accompanied by clear visual aesthetics, which came out of the need and urgency of those posters and missing notices, so too I sense a theatrical aesthetic emerging from the need and urgency that confronts us because of the pandemic.”
It’s an at-home aesthetic that’s happening on television too — witness the first-ever Saturday Night Live at Home over the weekend.
There has been much contemplation of what the pandemic will mean to the future of theater. The headlines make it look grim, with just a touch of hope:
But I’ve been spending time on the past, too, searching through YouTube and the theater collection of the New York Public Library to produce my daily Alphabet of Broadway Stars. I’m up to E.
The Week in Online Theater Reviews
In the Washington Post, Peter Marks knocks online theater, in In the midst of the virus, theater migrates to the web. The results are spotty.
“As margarine is to butter, theater online comes across as an artificial substitute, with less flavor. It’s not the way these productions were meant to be seen and heard and felt.”
Playwright Jeremy O. Harris responds Twitter.
I think the beating of this drum by certain people in the theatre community without any deep criticality outside of “its better the normal way” is wasting a lot of the great time we can be thinking about evolving our medium.
“Theatre” has evolved and will continue. (Cont) https://t.co/FM8DnDFzTv
— Former Broadway Playwright Jeremy O. Harris (@jeremyoharris) April 10, 2020
I respond at length in the comments section, beginning:
This article misses how much is going on, how many choices there are, and how exciting some of it is. There’s just too much on offer now, and too much variety, to generalize so dismissively.