The Lights are Down on Broadway

On March 12th, NYC mayor Bill De Blasio ordered all Broadway shows to suspend performances for a month due to COVID-19. This event is monumental and unfamiliar to the Broadway community, which is used to staying open even through the worst of times. This limitation also affects thousands of industry professionals who live week to week and sometimes pay check to pay check.  

This event is historic, as it is the longest period of time that the city has ever made Broadway’s lights go dark. After September 11th, 2001, most shows returned after three or four days. But to have every Broadway house close its doors is unfamiliar and haunting. 

“I’ve never seen something like this in my life, we’re living through history,” New York resident and beloved, life-long theatre fan, Annika Krupcyzn said. “It’s so crazy. So many people depend on the theatre and the fact that it’s not there right now is scary.” 

What’s even scarier is the economic fallout of this pandemic. Once this is all over, the country and most businesses will be scrambling for recovery. Among them, the Broadway community.

“So many shows will be forced to close and ones that were going to open, may never see their first bow,” said Jamie Cacciola-Price, Frank Sinatra School of the Arts’ (FSSA) drama teacher.

The biggest downfall is all members of these productions will go without a paycheck for the next month. Most actors are already living week to week. They fight stability, unsure of when the next paycheck or gig might come in. Yet, it doesn’t just affect the actors. Euan Morton, who’s currently playing King George in Hamilton, on Broadway, mentioned the other side of the story. “What I don’t think people are understanding is that it doesn’t just affect us. Each company employs several crew members, bar tenders, ushers, receptionists, and box office personnels. They live week to week just like us. It’s not just the actors.” 

Without the weekly paycheck or unexpected gig/cover position, many people are left without a way to pay bills which are a necessity. Mr. Morton went on to add, “With rent so ridiculously high in New York, so many members are going to be unable to provide. That’s not just the theatre community, but most of the city.” 

The theatre community has never been hit so drastically. Yet, it is working harder than ever to rally back, and provide economic stability to those severely affected.

“I’m still working everyday from home,” added Barry Kolker from Carson/Kolker talent agency. “Each morning I’m in contact with casting directors, writers, and producers. We still have jobs lined up. Because once this is over, we need to come back full force.”

Mr. Kolker also went on to speak about how the professional Theatre Union for Actors and Stage Managers, the Actors Equity Association, is doing their part to help the community in this time of need.

“The union has really stepped up. They have organized several petitions and arguments to bring forth to the government, asking for Government relief,” he said.

While the road ahead is troubling and unforeseen, it is sure that the Broadway community is well prepared, and will fight this and emerge stronger than ever, just as it always has.

– by Aidan Lawrence ’20