As virus cases decline and vaccination rates rise, Broadway shows are practically tripping over each other in announcing their return.
The latest in a series of reopening notices is Exhibit Passes over, a first Rialto by Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu, who is also one of her producers. Performances begin August 4, earlier than any other show on the schedule – nearly a month before the previous pack leader Hadestown (September 2), and far ahead of the big three in the industry: The Lion King, Hamilton, and Mean (September 14).
“This has always been our target date,” said lead producer Matt Ross. “We just had to make sure it was safe and that we had enough time to put the play on. Fortunately the trajectory is only improving. We have more and more the impression that people are ready.
On May 19, Governor Cuomo lifted capacity restrictions on most indoor businesses. Guidelines on vaccination warrants are still unclear, but Broadway shows could technically open at any time this summer. However, they all need time to rehearse, re-market and renegotiate security protocols with the fourteen unions that operate their theaters.
Go over is well suited to a post-pandemic landscape and could be an indicator for more shows down the line. The room only has three cast members, which means costs are kept to a minimum (full capitalization is only $ 2.7 million), and all of the Covid-related security protocols will be easier to manage. than on a 30-person musical. It also only runs 85 minutes with no intermission, so concerns about crowded halls and bathrooms are mostly moot.
Go overThe s timeline also indicates confidence in ongoing collective bargaining in the industry. While wage concessions and health coverage are the order of the day, the most immediate concern for the return of production is internal security.
“Regardless of the safety standard, especially given the scale of this game, we are more than capable of meeting it,” says Ross. “It’s not viable for everyone, maybe, but we could meet the criteria.”
So far, there has been no public word on the negotiations, whether from the unions, producers or theater operators. Talks have been underway for weeks, with firm reopening dates increasing the pressure to reach consensus before productions begin rehearsals – which for Go over means early July.
The subject of the play couldn’t be more timely either. It focuses on two black men trapped on a street corner, paralyzed in part by their fear of being killed by a police officer. The Broadway debut will feature new material, including a modified ending. (He received an Off Broadway series in 2018 and a film adaptation directed by Spike Lee).
Like the rest of the country, the theater industry has its racial history after the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and many other black Americans last year. Efforts to address systemic inequalities are underway, including major funding and hiring initiatives for workers of color, anti-racism workshops for shows and businesses, and galvanizing protest marches.
There is also strong pressure to have more writers, directors and producers of color represented on Broadway, given the imbalanced demographics before the pandemic, not to mention the many studies that indicate that racially homogeneous industries hamper their own. finances. Notably, a new score by a black composer has not been produced since 2008. Audience development is also a priority for industry leaders, given the multibillion dollar purchasing power of non-Americans. white. (White people buy 76% of Broadway tickets.)
Ross likens the two efforts – awareness and product diversity – to a streaming service.
“People don’t subscribe to Netflix for just one TV show. If we really want to welcome people as an industry, we have to say there is a bigger effort. It’s not about “we come to you once every two years when we think you are interested in something. “
Go over is one of many upcoming shows poised to move forward on both fronts, showcasing creative teams of color and reaching traditionally underrated consumers. Keenan Scott IIThoughts of a colored man premieres in October, and the solo show Blues Lackawanna (by Ruben Santiago-Hudson) will open even earlier on September 14. Skeleton crew (Dominique Morisseau), Problem in mind (Alice Child), and Clyde (Lynn Nottage) have all planned for arcs later in the season.
Go over will also mark the first time that a new play by a black writer has been staged in the August Wilson Theater since 2005, when it was renamed in honor of the Black Pulitzer winner.
“I know not everyone will be ready on day one,” Ross admits of returning to indoor entertainment. “Fortunately, we don’t just play one performance. If you don’t want to be there the first night back, come join us in September or October. As soon as you are ready. “