Governor Andrew Cuomo is giving Broadway the green light to reopen on May 19 — but that doesn’t mean everyone is ready to open the floodgates just yet.
In a COVID-19 briefing on May 3, Cuomo announced that the reopening of stages in New York would coincide with the easing of capacity restrictions in retail stores, food services, gyms, fitness centers, amusement, family entertainment, and hair salons. Patrons must adhere to social distancing guidelines and wear masks at the venues.
The announcement comes weeks after a gradual early April reopening in which some Broadway theaters hosted pop-up theater performances. Still, shows are suspended through at least May 30, according to Broadway League, and governor acknowledged that plays would not likely resume immediately.
“They have to produce a play before they can sell the play,” he said. “So there’s a schedule for them, but from a capacity point of view they can all reopen on May 19th.”
On May 5, Cuomo announced that “full capacity” performances would return September 14.
“Broadway is at the core of our New York identity, and a big part of our economy which employs countless performers and show creators, and beginning this September, the show will go on,” Cuomo said during a press conference. “Visitors from all around the world have come to New York to experience the arts and culture and see iconic performances on Broadway, and sadly, the pandemic put this unique New York experience on pause. Thankfully, as we continue to monitor the data and reopen our economy, we are now on track to allow full capacity performances on Broadway to resume in September, bringing back this beloved world-famous attraction.”
Sandy Sahar Gooen, a member of Local 802, a union for musicians, and the Dramatists Guild, a professional association for theater workers, told Gay City News that the governor’s initial announcement on May 3 seemed rushed and, to the governor’s point, Gooen said rehearsals — not performances — are more likely to make a return this month. But even that seems risky, Gooen said.
“When Broadway wanted to reopen earlier, Cuomo was saying, ‘I wouldn’t trust what Broadway is saying,’ And now he’s actually going against what the Broadway League and just a lot of theaters have decided,” said Gooen, who is also a production assistant for on and off Broadway shows and has performed at the Metropolitan Opera House, Carnegie Hall, and more. “They’re like, ‘mhmm I don’t know that we agree with Cuomo.’ They want everyone, or as many people as possible, working to be vaccinated.”
Gooen further stressed that the fall would be a better target date.
The reopening of Broadway may also be stalled by growing calls to make the industry more inclusive and diverse of people of color, individuals with disabilities, and queer, trans, and non-binary performers.
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Considering that Broadway performances often bring people together in close proximity, there are also elevated COVID-19 risks.
“Full capacity is not necessarily a great idea because audience members’ safety is also important,” Gooen said. “There are people moving around and singing and dancing.”
Broadway has been closed since last March and is experiencing severe economic woes, which have totaled millions in losses.
“Financially, it makes sense. I think a lot of people’s priority is money, but safety-wise I’m not too sure,” Gooen said.
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