NEW YORK – Theater insiders on Tuesday said that Gov. Andrew Cuomo may have been overly optimistic in his full capacity reopening announcement on Monday. Among the industries allowed to reopen at 100% will be museums, restaurants, retail shops, and “theaters and Broadway,” Cuomo said.
“Many of the things he mentioned can and will open safely,” producer Daryl Roth said. “But Broadway is not one of them.”
Roth is a Tony-winning producer who has been behind more than 120 shows on Broadway and Off-Broadway. She said there’s a lot to work out when it comes to bringing actors, staff, and audiences back inside the notoriously cramped venues around Times Square.
“We need everyone to feel safe both in the front of house, in the audience, on stage, and backstage,” Roth said. “They really need the time to put the protocols in place, to figure everything out.”
And the person in charge of those protocols — or at least at the helm of discussions — is Charlotte St. Martin, head of the Broadway League, the industry’s trade group.
“We’re getting very close to the protocols that the unions will accept for our concerns,” St. Martin said, alluding to ongoing discussions she’s had with the industry’s various unions — discussions she said she preferred to keep confidential.
But St. Martin did divulge to FOX 5 NY that sometime in the next couple of weeks we may know more about exactly what protocols may be put in place. One thing still on the table: mandating vaccinations for actors and other employees who work in theaters.
“There are some unions that want us to require vaccinations and others that don’t,” she said.
But in terms of a vaccine mandate for audience members, St. Martin said that isn’t on the table right now.
“That doesn’t mean it won’t get on the table,” she added.
St. Martin acknowledged there has been what she calls “confusion” regarding the governor’s comments. But she and Roth both said they appreciate the eagerness to reopen.
“Everybody wants to get back to theater,” St. Martin said.
However, the target date for curtains to go up remains September.
“So that people coming in feel comfortable, they feel welcome, and they feel safe because they are going to be sitting next to other people,” Roth said. “That’s the reality of it.”
One other factor playing a role in the fact that Broadway still will not reopen for months is the necessary rehearsal time for actors, particularly a show’s dancers, according to Brandon Lorenz, a spokesman for Actors Equity, the union that represents stage actors and stage managers.
“The dancers on Broadway, that is very difficult athletic work,” Lorenz said. “And normally the dancers on Broadway, when they’re actively working on a show, they’re working out, they’re staying in shape, training on a regular basis. All of that is much more difficult due to pandemic.”