Broadway closed its doors on March 12, 2020 and has just announced those doors will not be opening again until the earliest of May 2021. This is due to the COVID-19 pandemic, where New York City especially has been hit hard.
Seven months into the shut down and COVID-19 cases are beginning to spike once again. Broadway actors, producers and fans wonder when they will be able to open the curtains again.
Last year alone, Broadway earned a total of $1.8 billion dollars and seated a record breaking 15 million people. Popular shows including “Hamilton” and “The Lion King” earned millions of dollars every week and now everything has been put on pause.
Piper Byrne, sophomore marketing major, has been performing in Cabrini’s theater productions since her freshman year. With her show being cancelled this past spring, she can’t imagine how that must feel for those who do this for a living. Byrne said, “Actors and actresses will now officially be out of a job for over a year and they don’t make that much as it is.” She feels that the decision to close Broadway for another seven months was made too early.
Taylor Agnew, junior English and secondary education major, added, “I can’t imagine spending my entire life training for this one very specific profession that doesn’t really translate to a lot of other professions and you’re suddenly out of a job for over a year.”
Broadway actors typically rely on their acting jobs as their main source of income to be able to afford living in New York City. Actors also often have part time jobs serving at a local bar or restaurant and with lockdown, this may also not be an option.
Broadway staff has struggled with the question of when it will be safe to open and what opening a production during or after a nationwide pandemic would look like.
A majority of theaters in New York City are over 100 years old, which means small rooms, tiny bathrooms, skinny isles and seats that are very close together. All of these are obviously red flags in a pandemic.
Broadway is one of the largest draws of New York City tourism and 65 percent of Broadway tickets are sold to tourists. With that on pause, Byrne wonders how long it will take for families to travel back to New York City and let alone see a Broadway production. She said, “It will start off as locals before people are traveling across the country or internationally.”
Long running productions including “Wicked” and “Phantom of the Opera” worry that this decline in tourism will hurt them. Byrne said, “A majority of locals have seen the old shows will most likely choose to see ones they have not seen when Broadway opens back up.”
Agnew added, “The longer running shows many people have seen and the newer shows haven’t had the time to garner the audience to support them.” She imagines a large amount of closures in the coming months.
Agnew believes “reopening Broadway anytime before May 2021 would definitely be a risk and probably a nightmare for all involved.” She added, “Finding a way for the actors to be socially distant and be with each other on stage without a mask on can be possible but would require a lot of precautions.”
Agnew has been seeing Broadway shows for several years and has noticed the decline of interest in younger generations. She stated that this is a good time for Broadway “to get themselves into the digital age which they have been struggling a lot with recently.” Agnew added “A way to do this is for producers to film and sell professional recordings of the productions, which can help them make money back and also get the younger generations involved without paying the expensive ticket prices they cannot afford.”
Productions have closed and thousands of jobs have been lost, but Broadway will be back. It is unknown when that will be or how it will be done but live theater will make a return. Thousands of fans and actors are waiting for that day.