The shutdown of Broadway’s 41 theaters will continue at least until Jan. 3, the industry’s leading trade group announced Monday. The action further extends the darkening of Broadway’s marquees that began March 12, as the covid-19 pandemic spread in hard-hit New York.
Though some new productions have revealed plans for April and May 2021 openings – including revivals of Neil Simon’s “Plaza Suite” with Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick and “The Music Man” with Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster – few details have been made available about safety precautions that would make these events possible. In May, Actors’ Equity, the union for 51,000 professional actors and stage managers, said it is advising its members not to return to the stage until a variety of its own health and safety guidelines are met.
The Broadway League, which represents theater owners and producers, said on Monday that it was working with the theatrical unions and “key experts and some of the greatest minds inside and outside of the industry” on protocols that might aid the reopening effort.
“The Broadway experience can be deeply personal but it is also, crucially, communal,” Thomas Schumacher, president and producer of Disney Theatrical Productions and chairman of the Broadway League, said in a statement. “The alchemy of 1,000 strangers bonding into a single audience, fueling each performer on stage and behind the scenes, will be possible again when Broadway theaters can safely host full houses.”
The reference to safely hosting “full houses” is an indication of the current thinking on Broadway, that social distancing measures reducing the number of patrons is probably not applicable to Broadway economics. The majority of shows are created by commercial producers, and these require for profitability something on the order of 90 percent of tickets to be sold in 1,000 to 2,000-seat theaters.
Four nonprofit companies – Roundabout Theatre, Lincoln Center Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club and Second Stage Theatre – also maintain Broadway houses. While they, too remain shuttered, they may have slightly more flexibility about audience size, given that part of their income comes from private donors.
The announcement means anyone holdings tickets to shows up to and including Jan. 3, 2021, will be entitled to a refund or exchange for a later date. According to the League, ticket holders will be receiving an email from “their point of purchase” with additional information. Anyone who does not receive an email by July 13 is advised to contact the ticket provider, the League added.
(c) 2020, The Washington Post · Peter Marks