On March 12, Broadway closed its doors due to an unforeseen spike in COVID-19 cases all around New York. The pandemic has left performers, technicians, and theater-goers all wondering when the shows we love so much will return to the stage. Will Elphaba ever defy gravity again? Will Evan Hansen keep waving through a window? Will Regina George ever get her revenge with the infamous Burn Book? Will Hamilton throw away his shot?
The tenacity of what was once musical theatre was suddenly ripped out of our lives, tearing a hole in the heart of New York City. Theaters that once held hundreds of people, beautiful symphonies, and talented actors are now silent with only a ghost light to be found on stage. Even the streets of Broadway look like a ghost town. So how are Broadway’s creatives managing this painful loss, and what are Broadway’s plans for reopening to get their artists back to doing what they love?
Everyone is facing much uncertainty right now, but let us give the spotlight specifically to Broadway’s actors. To put matters in perspective, consider the case of one particular actress named NaTonia Monét, who worked her way to the top and finally got her Broadway debut.
She was cast as Alline in “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical,” but then the pandemic surged through the country putting her dreams to a halt. In an interview with Zoe Jones from CBS News, she says, “I’m hurt. I worked so hard for this, like my other fellow artists, and it was snatched away. I feel like we artists were cast out by our administration.” She is coping by offering online acting lessons for children and taking virtual master classes to improve her craft.
Monét is just one of many Broadway actors that have found themselves in a similar, troubling predicament. With his first Broadway debut last year, Arturo Luís Soria was sure he secured himself more opportunities in the 2020 season, but unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned. As a way to alleviate the temporary loss of his career, he started teaching acting classes via Zoom and is taking an endless road trip through the country, camping at national parks.
Actors are not the only ones facing so much uncertainty in their careers. Technicians, designers, stagehands, composers, ushers, dancers, and choreographers — just to name a few — are going through the worst of it.
Broadway supported approximately 96,900 local jobs within its industry. The takeaway is not that we have lost the arts, but that the country is failing to assist entire industries of people in dire need. When you take into consideration how much money Broadway makes in revenue, it changes your perspective of the entire industry.
However, it is not solely Broadway that contributes to the high number of revenue brought from the arts, but other theaters around the country as well. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Arts and Culture make $877 billion in revenue, making up 4.5 percent of the American economy. How is it that an industry that encompasses so much is given little to no help during this global pandemic? When and how theaters will open again is a question that keeps changing.
Broadway remains dark, with COVID-19 cases rising and more expected to come with this holiday season. The only light in the darkness amidst all of this are the ghost lights in the middle of what is now the ghost town of Times Square. Although Broadway has postponed their opening for May of next year, we still cannot be too sure of this; however, we can be hopeful. Broadway actor Abby Mueller gave her community some words of encouragement: “I love the Broadway community and believe we have the opportunity (and the responsibility) to come back stronger, more inclusive, compassionate, and equitable.”