Broadway musicals are making the reopening feel real, with tickets back on sale and specific opening dates announced: Chicago, Sept 14. Six, Sept 17. Come From Away, Sept 21. Aint Too Proud, Oct 16. Jagged Little Pill, Oct 21. Phantom of the Opera, Oct 22, Mrs. Doubtfire Dec 5. Diana Dec 16. Company Jan 9, 2022. (These are the opening dates; several of the shows will have earlier preview performances. Company, for example, starts previews on December 20, 2021.)
And new shows were announced for Broadway this past week, although without specific dates:
“Pass Over” the 2018 play about two Black men by Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu, inspired by “Waiting for Godot,” will reopen Broadway’s August Wilson Theater, (“exact dates to be announced shortly”), a the first Black-themed drama in the theater since it was renamed in 2005 after one of the foremost Black playwrights of the twentieth century.
“Clydes,” by Lynn Nottage, about a truck stop sandwich shop offers its formerly incarcerated kitchen staff a shot at reclaiming their lives, at The Hayes, “Fall 2021,” announced as part of Second Stage Theater’s 42nd season.
But there is no universal, unambivalent embrace of Broadway’s reopening. There remain some disconnects between the announcements and reality (See: Broadway Reopening September 14, 2021: Truth, Tease or Torture?) And there are fears.
The fears fit in with a more general fear of life post pandemic “The ambivalence many of us have about the lifting of lockdowns is more psychological than epidemiological,” theater critic Charles McNulty writes in the L.A. times. “We’re simply not ready.” Although he diagnoses “an epidemic of stage fright,” he is speaking metaphorically; his essay is not about the specific reaction to the resumption of live, in-person theater.
But others are more specific: “I’m afraid that all the calls for change with casting representation, pay equity, creating safe spaces for BIPOC artists, etc, will have fallen on deaf ears by the powers-that-be,” said Chris Peterson of On Stage Blog. “The insane ticket prices already being announced still in a pandemic make me fear the worst. Nothing will change. The great white way will keep being for the white privileged,” said theater artist and professor Billy Flood. “It doesn’t bode well for the behavior of producers either.”
Another specific fear: What will happen to all the forward movement made over the last year in digital theater?
The Young Vic’s artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah told The Guardian that his theater will livestream all future productions. that the pandemic had changed theatre forever, with the livestreaming of plays becoming “hard baked” into how the industry operates. Watching on a laptop will never beat the live experience “nor should we attempt to,” he said. “But each generation can think about how we define liveness versus access.”
“Will online theatre thrive post-pandemic?” Hugh Linehan asks in The Irish Times. “Perhaps, but the ultimate arbiters of that will be the audience….”
Maybe not: Kathryn Garcia, the former sanitation commissioner who is running for mayor of New York City, wants to livestream Broadway and Off Broadway shows to make theater more accessible.
The Week in Theater Reviews
The Week in Theater News
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the creation of City Artists Corp, a new program, modeled on the Federal Theatre Project of the 1930s, that plans to spend $25 million employing more than 1,500 NYC artists to create public art, performances, pop-up shows, murals & other community art projects. Details to come.
A new survey of 7,163 people helped by the Actors Fund through February 28, 2021 found that 76 percent of respondents lost income and 40 percent reported reduced food security. Some 28 percent fell behind in rent or mortgage and 20 percent were forced to change housing. Ten percent of respondents had to sell a large asset, such as a house or a car. (Associated Press)
As of May 3rd at noon, applicants for the shuttered-venue subsidy program had submitted requests for $9.95 billion, according to a Small Business Administration report that the Broadway League distributed to its members, Broadway Journal reports. That leaves $6 billion remaining after its first week accepting applications. “The grants, up to $10 million each, are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis and can be used for payroll, rent, utilities, mortgage and debt payments, advertising, insurance payments and for independent contractors who earn up to $100,000 annually
Rest in Peace
Jacques D’Amboise, 86, a pioneering dancer…and lifelong New Yorker. Asked in 2018 where he would like his ashes scattered, he responded, “Spread me in Times Square or the Belasco Theater.”