The shutdown of Broadway in March of 2020 was the first time that Broadway went dark due to a public health crisis.
After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, Broadway shut down for two days. The barriers to attendance at that time were mostly transportation issues. Theatre was a welcome escape from current events.
Unlike this century, the flu pandemic from 1918-1919 did not close Broadway. Other historical closures were due to union strikes, and were measured in weeks rather than months and years.
Theatres all over Manhattan have sat dark for over a year. Now, one at a time, they are turning their lights back on.
The impact of the shutdown will be with us forever. It is changing how we think about theatre and what it does. It is also changing the way we do theatre. Professionals in every aspect of theatre are discussing how we schedule rehearsals, technical rehearsals, previews, and shows. The pause has allowed the industry time to take a good look at itself, what it does, and what it wants to be.
Springsteen on Broadway • Pass Over • Hadestown • Waitress • Hamilton • Wicked • The Lion King • Chicago • Lackawanna Blues • Six • David Byrne’s American Utopia • Come From Away • Chicken & Biscuits • Moulin Rouge! • The Musical • Is This A Room • The Lehman Trilogy • Aladdin • Thoughts of A Colored Man • Dana H. • To Kill A Mockingbird • Freestyle Love Supreme • Tina-The Tina Turner Musical • Caroline, or Change • Girl From the North Country • Ain’t Too Proud-The Life and Times of The Temptations • Jagged Little Pill • Mrs. Doubtfire • The Phantom of the Opera • Trouble in Mind • Diana • Clyde’s • The Book of Mormon • Flying Over Sunset • Company • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child • MJ The Musical • Dear Evan Hansen • The Music Man • Skeleton Crew • Paradise Square • Plaza Suite • Take Me Out • Birthday Candles • How I Learned To Drive • The Minutes
We will be discussing the effects of the pause for years to come.
In the meantime, here is a complete timeline of every show with a scheduled opening as of this writing, in order, with a countdown. Broadway is coming back. This is the time to ask: What has it become?
In the university where I teach theatre, we had a student who would not follow safety protocols. She ignored safety signs and almost every rule that was mandated in the performance space.
With a lot of nagging, we managed to get her to pay better attention and follow most of the rules by the end of her first year, but then right at the beginning of her second year, she walked right through some caution tape and fell through an open trap in the deck.
We almost banned her from the theatre, but then we realized that she was just going through a stage.
The Players (or the Players Club) is a private social club. It was founded in 1888 in New York City by actor Edwin Booth. Booth was often regarded as the greatest actor of his time. It was created in response to a perception that the theatre suffered due to a lack of interaction with the wider world of culture, literature, and art.
Our methods of producing spectacle evolve across the decades. New technology is not necessarily more miraculous than the older methods. Every era has its own special stage magic. 17th century Europe enjoyed theaters equipped with wing-and-drop scenery combined with the pole-and-chariot system.
Český Krumlov is in the southern Czech Republic. There, The Castle Theatre sits behind the moat near one wing of the castle. A Baroque theatre space with fully functioning machinery survives there today.
Sarah Siddons was born in Wales in 1755. She became one of the most prominent actresses of the 18th century, famous in particular for playing Lady Macbeth. She remains notable and memorable even today. The Sarah Siddons Society in Chicago presents theatre scholarships in her name annually.
Siddons made her first appearance in Dublin in 1784. An Irish newspaper, apparently, felt that the hype surrounding her over in London was out of control.
What follows is their writeup, as documented a century later in English As She Is Wrote, which was itself published well over a hundred years ago, in 1883.
Dear Madam, you have seen this play;
I never saw it till today.
You know the details of the plot,
But, let me tell you, I do not.
The author seeks to keep from me
The murderer’s identity,
And you are not a friend of his
If you keep shouting who it is.
The actors in their funny way
Have several funny things to say,
But they do not amuse me more
If you have said them just before;
The merit of the drama lies,
I understand, in some surprise;
But the surprise must now be small
Since you have just foretold it all.
The lady you have brought with you
Is, I infer, a half-wit too,
But I can understand the piece
Without assistance from your niece.
In short, foul woman, it would suit
Me just as well if you were mute;
In fact, to make my meaning plain,
I trust you will not speak again.
And – may I add one human touch? –
Don’t breathe upon my neck so much.